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Warning: Spoilers below if you aren’t caught up on NBC’s “The Good Place.”
When it came to the big reveal on NBC comedy “The Good Place,” creator Michael Schur was determined not to do what the audience expected.
“The mission statement of the show is don’t ever get to the point where people are bored and waiting for you do the thing that you’re going to do,” Schur, the man behind beloved sitcoms “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” recently told Business Insider.
“The Good Place,” which airs its hourlong season finale Thursday at 8 p.m., centers on Eleanor (Kristen Bell), an inconsiderate and badly behaved woman who suddenly dies and finds herself in the heaven-like Good Place. As forces conspire to reveal that she doesn’t belong there, she confides in her assigned soulmate, the kind Chidi (William Jackson Harper), to help keep her secret from the other residents of the Good Place and its creator, Michael (Ted Danson).
The interesting thing about “The Good Place” is that it doesn’t ride Eleanor’s secret throughout the first season, as most TV shows would do for their big story reveal. That’s what Schur hoped to avoid.
“We’re so deep into TV storytelling tradition. It’s like 80 years,” Schur said. “‘I Love Lucy’ did half of the available plots that you have at your disposal 60 years ago. The second you reveal the premise, the audience will say, ‘Oh, I get it. In the last episode of the season, we’ll find out that she’s supposed to be in the bad place.'”
So instead of the the expected, the show revealed Eleanor’s secret about midway through its first season.
“I felt like the second people saw the pilot, they were going to immediately know at some fundamental DNA level that the last episode of the season was when she was going to be found out,” the producer explained. “The only way to fight that is to short-circuit the whole thing.”
In fact, Schur hoped to do it an episode earlier.
“Originally, Eleanor confessed during episode six,” he told us. “The idea was that if she ever confessed it’s because she felt bad for making Chidi’s life so miserable. So we inserted an episode where there was a lockdown and they had to spend time together.”
There was some surprise among fans and media that the show had a short first season, just 13 episodes. But Schur said he planned for the show to be heavily plotted, a tougher thing to do with a traditional 22-episode order. But the fewer episodes make more sense at the pace Schur told us he’ll be unfurling the show.
“If the obvious idea in a 13-episode season is to have her found out in episode 13, then we’re going to cut it in half,” Schur said. “And then we’ll take what would have been in the old days all of season two and we’ll crunch that into the second half [of the first season]. If we go forward, we’re going to take all of what would be season three and make that the first half of season two and all of season four will be like the rest of that season. If you want people to be surprised and not feel like they’re ahead of you, you don’t have a choice. You just have to do that.”