The Good Place, which follows in the cheerful, often optimistic tracks laid by Schur’s previous shows Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, debuted in 2016 and introduced audiences to Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), who is greeted by Michael (Ted Danson) with a mixed bag of information. On the downside, she’s dead — and her manner of death, which involves a bottle of “Lonely Girl Margarita Mix For One” and a line of shopping carts, is particularly embarrassing. However, the good news from Michael is that Eleanor has made it into the “Good Place” rather than the “Bad Place,” beating all human odds to live among the best of the best.
However, Eleanor knows right off the bat that something is up, and she clues the audience in pretty quickly; after meeting her assigned “soulmate,” Chidi (William Jackson Harper), she confesses that none of the memories from her human life that Michael showed her are actually hers, and that she’s obviously in the Good Place by mistake. As the two try to conceal Eleanor’s accidental inclusion in the neighborhood, they form bonds with Janet (D’Arcy Carden), a sort of human-shaped Alexa database, Jianyu (Manny Jacinto), a silent Buddhist monk, and his “soulmate,” Tahani (Jameela Jamil), a highbrow British socialite with a penchant for name-dropping.
Of course, that’s not the only twist in The Good Place‘s first season. Not only is Jianyu actually Jason, a skeevy Florida DJ who’s also in the Good Place by mistake, but Eleanor eventually figures out that the entire thing is a sham. As it turns out, the four humans and Janet have been in the Bad Place the whole time, in a ruse engineered by Michael — a high-ranking Bad Place demon — to torture them with each other for all of eternity.
Michael simply wipes the minds of the foursome as the first season ends, but after the humans repeatedly figure out the demon’s machinations, he realizes he has to give up on the experiment and teams up with them instead. As a unit over three seasons, Michael and the humans eventually discover that nobody has made it into the real Good Place in countless years, partly thanks to interference from the Bad Place, and partly because being a human is just so complicated — even if you buy flowers for your grandmother, you run the risk of those flowers being farmed and picked by underpaid workers, and so on.
As the fourth season draws to a close, Eleanor, Michael, Jason, and Tahani close out an experiment with three new humans — as well as Chidi, who volunteered to wipe his memory and start fresh at the end of the third season — to see if they can help each other grow into better people. But when they win their case, the all-knowing Judge (Maya Rudolph) declares that Earth is “canceled,” and all of the humans will cease to exist as the universe will simply start over. As they try to hold the Judge off, the team restores the memories of Chidi, who may very well be the last hope for humanity.