I have a proposal that I think will make Philosophy 101 more palatable for all college freshman: replace the course with a binge watch of The Good Place. Now, I do understand that there are people who enjoy deep philosophical arguments. I do get that. But, by and large, those people are already collegiate philosophy professors and are, in this context, the problem. Michael Schur, the brilliant creator of both Parks & Recreation and The Good Place, is the rare example of a person who finds philosophy fascinating and not terribly serious. The Good Place disguises is with humor and an afterlife landscape that seems like the sort of thing Douglas Adams would come up with after drinking a lot of off-label cough syrup, but the show is sneakily giving its viewers a more effective philosophical education than they’re likely to find anywhere in higher education. A perfect example of this is season two’s exploration of the trolley problem.
You see a runaway trolley moving toward five tied-up (or otherwise incapacitated) people lying on the tracks. You are standing next to a lever that controls a switch. If you pull the lever, the trolley will be redirected onto a side track, and the five people on the main track will be saved. However, there is a single person lying on the side track. You have two options:
Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.
Which is the more ethical option?
One of the pillars of The Good Place’s own philosophy is that anyone can change for the better. Season two, in large part, follows the journey of demon Michael (Ted Danson) as he learns more about what makes humans tick. The most hysterical example of this is when Michael plops the terminally indecisive Chidi into the middle of a real-life trolley problem and…ups the stakes. The Good Place isn’t just a good time. As it nears the end of its third season, The Good Place has become the best comedy of the decade and arguably the best show on television.
Recently I finished my umpteenth re-watch of the misadventures of the waffle-loving, mini-horse worshipping civil servants that make up the cast of Parks & Recreation. The more I think it over, the more certain I am that Parks & Rec mastermind Michael Schur (who now brings us the equally brilliant The Good Place) created the best sitcom of the last decade. Parks & Rec started off as a spiritual spin-off of The Office, borrowing that show’s fake documentary format and, like The Office, the first season is short and underwhelming. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve urged to try Parks & Rec who have flamed out after a few episodes, so if you want to start (and you should), start with season two when the show found its own voice and the brilliant ensemble began to run at full tilt.
In the times in which we currently live, there’s something unbelievably cathartic about a show heralding the positive impact the government can make in the lives of citizens. Even if you should loathe the government, the show provides the greatest comedic Libertarian ever forged in the mustachioed Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). The show is earnest and heartfelt; self-aware and smart, and nearly always hysterically goofy. I’ve written before about the show’s third season (peerless) which contains my favorite moment in the series in the brilliant “Ron’s Swivel Desk”. I have to revisit that season because it also contains my favorite running absurdity of the series: Pawnee’s rabid celeb crush on local mini-horse: Lil’ Sebastian. I can’t decide which moment in the episode is better: the tiny equine’s introduction and Adam Scott’s utter bafflement at his co-worker’s excitement or Chris Pratt’s “5,000 Candles in the Wind” tribute at the Harvest Festival so I am including both. In the dead of winter, if you need a laugh to warm your heart, you can’t go wrong revisiting Parks & Recreation.
One of the biggest and most surprising announcements out of San Diego Comic-Con this year was the return of Star Wars: The Clone Wars for a seventh and final season. The Clone Wars was canceled in 2013 after five seasons (a sixth abbreviated season was released on Netflix after cancellation). The Clone Wars animated series was arguably the biggest thing to happen in the Star Wars Universe between the prequel and sequel trilogies. It did a lot of expansion of the roles and stories introduced and left unexplained in the prequel trilogy and probably helped to salvage (or mitigate the damage of) those movies for a large portion of the fanbase. While many of SWCW’s plotlines continued into Star Wars: Rebels, many of the series most important questions were left unanswered. Now that Rebels has finished, SW animation guru Dave Filoni will have the chance to go back and properly finish out Clone Wars. Disney will be premiering a new streaming service next year and 12 final episodes of The Clone Wars are expected to premiere there sometime in 2019.
Comic-Con 2018 has come and gone, and while we got some good trailers out of it, the convention is probably more remarkable for who wasn’t there. For a San Diego Comic-Con, this is the lightest news and trailer weekend of any in recent memory. Warner Brothers and DC Comics pretty much had the weekend to themselves, though the biggest news of the weekend, arguably, came out of Marvel & Disney as Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was fired right before his scheduled appearance in light of offensive tweets from the filmmaker’s past. The DCEU was rebranded “The Worlds of DC” and the first trailers for Shazam and Aquaman debuted as well as new trailers for DC’s six live-action TV series. I thought the best trailers of the weekend were Glass and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I was really excited to hear that Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be returning for a proper send-off (finally!). I think my favorite story out of SDCC 2018 though was Marvel running a grief counseling booth for people still traumatized by the end of Avengers: Infinity War (you can read more here). The convention was also lighter on posters and promo art than years past, but I’ve put together a gallery of the best below. See you next year, San Diego! Continue reading Comic-Con 2018: Recap Plus Pictures and Posters From The Convention!!!→
DC has premiered the trailers for its six live-action fall shows. Arrow, Black Lightning, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, and Supergirl return to The CW this fall. DC’s future plans for TV are centered around their DCU Streaming Service. The new service was unveiled at Comic-Con and the trailer for the service’s first show, Titans, was unveiled. DC plans to add live-action Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol, and Stargirl shows next year as well as animated series featuring Young Justice and Harley Quinn. The only DC show that wasn’t trailer-ready for Comic-Con was SyFy’s Krypton. The Superman prequel show announced it would be returning in early 2019 and that season two’s big bad would be intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo.
Arrow Season Seven (The CW, Returns 10/15/18)
Black Lightning Season Two (The CW, Returns 10/9/18)
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season Four (The CW, Returns 10/22/18)
The Flash Season Five (The CW, Returns 10/9/18)
Supergirl Season Four (The CW, Returns 10/14/18)
Titans Season One (DC Streaming Service – Fall 2018)