NBC Universal
By Eliana Dockterman
July 22, 2016

The upcoming NBC comedy The Good Place starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson is a major departure in premise for creator Mike Schur, the man behind the American version of The Office, Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

In the pilot, which screened at Comic-Con on Thursday, Kristen Bell’s character discovers that she has died and gone to “the good place,” an idyllic neighborhood with shops like “Everything Fits” and “Lunches With Dragons” designed by Ted Danson’s character. Except it’s all a huge clerical error: She was a bad person in life and should have wound up in “the bad place.”

The show is much more premise-based and sci-fi-esque than the affable office comedies Schur has created before—the pilot involves giant, flying ladybugs and shrimp. The writer said at a panel after the screening that each episode “will have a huge, twisty cliffhanger after it,” which is why he consulted with Lost creator Damon Lindelof before creating the show.

“It was an ‘Is this anything?’ lunch,” Schur recalled. “This was the idea he got most excited about. He was very encouraging, and he was the one reason that I got Drew Goddard to direct the pilot.” (Goddard helmed The Martian and Cabin in the Woods.)

The result is a show with the humor of the office but the feel of a fantasy drama a la Lindelof. Schur said that the idea for the pilot came when he was driving his child to school every day.

“It came largely from being at an intersection in my car and the light turning green and then people going the other way turning left through their yellow light to go back the other way from where I was going,” he explained to press after the panel. “In my opinion, two cars are allowed to do that. And sometimes there’s a third car, and I would get a little annoyed. But I would give them the benefit of the doubt and say, ‘Maybe your kid is sick and you have to get home and see your kid.’ And then sometimes there’s a fourth car and I’m like, ‘You’re a bad person. You’re putting your need to go left above the needs of all of these people to go straight and that’s not okay.’ So I started imagining that person.”

Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com.

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