On our latest episode, Devin and I try very hard not to spoil The Good Place (0:00-4:50)…and then they just give up and spoil it, because life’s too short (4:50-End).
After you listen, check out TV critic Alison Herman’s interview about the show with her philosopher father.
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Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: praise for a TV creator who’s doing all the right things.
Michael Schur earned an express pass to the TV Pantheon on the strength of Parks and Recreation, the NBC sitcom he created with Greg Daniels of The Office. But his subsequent efforts have only strengthened his claim to the title of one of the century’s most influential, successful and inventive creators.
Disney’s Frozen has all of the signifiers of another tired princess retread. A gorgeous young woman sets off an epic quest that hinges on the pursuit of true love’s kiss. She’s joined by a cadre of wacky sidekicks – in this case, a gruff iceman, a friendly snowman and a terse reindeer. Along the way, she encounters unfamiliar creatures, battles the forces of evil and eventually (spoiler alert, though not really) saves the world and restores the kingdom to peace and prosperity. Oh, and true love’s kiss and stuff.
But look closely at the beating heart of Frozen, and you’ll find just enough intriguing subversions of the formula to justify a return to these tropes. Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) rarely fulfills the role of damsel in distress, especially once she’s gotten used to interacting with actual human beings after years secluded in a cavernous castle. The forces of evil aren’t misunderstood monsters hungry for power, but the internal confusions of a young woman struggling with powers she doesn’t fully understand. True love’s kiss comes in many forms, romance ultimately proving to be insufficient. And in the end, it’s not the valiant prince that saves the day, but the power of well-established familial connections.