‘BoJack Horseman’ and ‘The Good Place’ Took Us to Hell and Back

‘BoJack Horseman’ and ‘The Good Place’ Took Us to Hell and Back

So Eleanor sets out to fix it, with the expertise of Chidi (William Jackson Harper), a student of moral philosophy; Tahani (Jameela Jamil), a self-absorbed socialite; and Jason, (Manny Jacinto) a small-time Florida criminal and Molotov cocktail enthusiast. Each alone is a Goofus. Put together — and abetted by a renegade demon (Ted Danson) and a hypercompetent A.I. assistant (D’Arcy Carden) — they may make enough of a Gallant to fix the universe.

It’s that “together” that connects “The Good Place” to Schur’s other communitarian comedies. A lot of TV series are about what it means to be good — even “Breaking Bad” was, albeit using a negative example. What distinguishes this one is that it’s ultimately about our obligation to help other people to be good, to tutor and challenge one another, to learn and to pass lessons along.

As its trial-and-comedy-of-errors shows, you can push yourself, work the program and accrue the points, but it’s nigh impossible to do it alone. An entirely individual morality, in its vision, is a kind of solipsism doomed to fail. Making a better world — or even one better person — has to be a team effort. (One Season 4 episode had the sunny-Sartre title, “Help Is Other People.”)

“The Good Place,” charitably, blames our circumstances, not ourselves, for this situation. Modern life, it argues, has become so complicated, the effects of our actions so far-reaching and unpredictable, that it’s impossible to live a good life on the first blundering try. (One small but resonant example is Chidi’s love of almond milk, the virtuous-seeming beverage with the giant water-usage footprint.)

In “BoJack,” created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the flaws are in the hearts of humans (and horses, and dogs, and cats…). BoJack has spent six seasons betraying friends, victimizing women and diving into a bottle whenever his latest self-improvement kick proves too difficult.

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