Ted Danson returns for the final season of "The Good Place," Thursdays at 9 p.m. on NBC. Photo by Christine Chew/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- The Good Place creator Mike Schur announced this summer that the upcoming fourth season would be the show's last. Fifty episodes over those seasons might seem like a short run, but Schur said making the most out of limited time always was inherent to the show, which returns Thursday at 9 p.m. EDT on NBC.
"From the moment I pitched the show to Universal and NBC, baked into it was we're going to move really fast," Schur said on a Television Critics Association panel about the final season.
Schur compared The Good Place's four seasons to Breaking Bad's five.
"It felt like Breaking Bad had been on for 15 years because it was such a part of all of our lives, but it was 60 episodes or something like that," Schur said.
Schur said it was clear the show wouldn't be 22 to 24 episodes per season.
"We knew that in the seventh episode of the first season Eleanor was going to confess and blow up the entire premise that we started with," he said. "You can't do things like that and stick to them if you're trying to stick around as long as possible."
Television veteran Ted Danson, who plays Michael, a reformed Bad Place architect, has said goodbye to many shows, some on their own terms like Cheers and Becker, and others without the chance to do so.
"What's different about the ending of this show is we knew it was coming and we knew it was right to end," Danson said. "Usually, you are informed by the network the show's over or there's some turmoil around it, so it feels like something's been taken away from you."
Danson said he feels included in The Good Place offering its viewers the gift of a complete story.
"I hope that doesn't sound pompous, but here's the gift of this show and we're all part of it," Danson said. "We all were part of the decision. Here, this is us and ours and please enjoy. You don't usually get that kind of opportunity."
Kristen Bell, who plays Eleanor Shellstrop, suspected Schur's plan and orchestrated a new deal for herself before she could mentally prepare to hear the news about The Good Place.
"I had a sixth sense about what he was about to say because he said, 'Hey, we need to talk,'" Bell said. "I said, 'Before you say anything else, you have to promise me that you'll write me a show after this one, and that's the only way I'm not going to hang up on you.' And he said, 'OK.' So I think it's legal."
Schur told Bell he could bring The Good Place to a proper conclusion in only one more season, and Bell put her faith in him.
"He said, 'I have done a lot of thinking about it, haven't made this decision haphazardly, but I have found an ending that this story needs,'" Bell said. "I have always made it my mission to trust Mike, and it has never backfired."
Fans of The Good Place have learned they never really know what to expect. They thought they were watching a show about heaven, and it turned out all of Season 1 the characters were in The Bad Place. It was a trick by Michael.
Season 2 saw the gang try to teach Michael good morals. By Season 3, they were back on Earth. Whatever Season 4 has in store, Bell trusted Schur to reinvent the show again in a short time.
"We knew that the end of the first season would be this reveal that we were in The Bad Place, but beyond that, we didn't know anything," Bell said. "As much as we trust Mike and everyone, all six of us [in the cast] were like, 'Where are they going to go with this? This is crazy.' Very quickly, you just learn to trust."
She added, "One thing I'll say about Mike and all the people around him, he empowers people so well. He makes you feel like you belong there. He sets the tone that makes everything work in this joyful manner because everyone feels included."
Eleanor might be learning to be a person worthy of The Good Place, but the most drastic character arc could be Michael's.
He began the series as an inept manager of The Good Place, which the show revealed was a ruse he had planned so he could to mess with Eleanor, Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil) and Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto). Now Michael is trying to help them renovate the whole afterlife system.
"The thing that I think makes me and everybody in this cast show up after four years [is that] you can have personalities," Danson said. "You can have life. Our focus when we drive through the gates is to live up to the material. I think that was kind of our guiding principle, really. Please, don't let me mess this amazing thing up."
Once fans caught on that there was no predictable formula to The Good Place, they started trying to guess where Schur was going. They'll only have a few more chances to guess and then they'll have all the answers.
"I'll be honest, I've tried to avoid most fan theories, largely because I was afraid that someone who come up with a better idea than what I had," Schur said.
"The funniest thing that I did see was that someone, I think on a Reddit thread after the third episode aired in the first season, say, 'Hey, I got a theory. I'll bet it's not really the Good Place. I'll bet it's the Bad Place.'"
Schur said that no one paid attention to the theory at first, but then it was found.
"They were like, 'Hey, man. You were right.' And the guy was like, 'Oh, yeah. I forgot I said that.'"