Photo by Frederick M. Brown - © 2014 Getty Images - Image courtesy

Following the release of the final season of The Good Place, Jonathan Compo reflects on showrunner Michael Schur’s career. 

Michael Schur’s trilogy—The Office (US), Parks and Recreation, and The Good Place—are an attempt to recuperate New Sincerity. This is bad.

To understand why this is bad, we need to make a deal: I’ll give you the definitions of recuperation and New Sincerity, as I understand them, and you will entertain for a moment, regardless of what you believe I.R.L., that capitalism is a gigantic, blood-sucking squid, and television one of that squid’s many blood-sucking tentacles. Deal? O.K.

1: Recuperation: “the process by which politically radical ideas and images are twisted, co-opted, annexed and commodified within media culture and thus become neutralized.” It’s pretty straightforward.

2: New Sincerity, according to David Foster Wallace’s essay, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction:” 

The new rebels

The next real literary “rebels” in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat of plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue …

The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh how banal.” To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law. Who knows.

The idea is that in response to too-much “metafictional and self-conscious irony in contemporary” media, a new literary movement would arise and embrace a “new sincerity.” 

The David Foster Wallace essay is important for two reasons. One, Michael Schur is obsessed with the guy. This lends credibility to a connection between the writer’s ethos and the showrunner’s. I can practically guarantee you that Michael Schur has read “E Unibus Pluram.” The second important thing is the essay’s subtitle: “Television and U.S. Fiction.” “E Unibus Pluram,” which kicked off the New Sincerity movement, is an essay about how books could respond to the threat posed by television. 

Okay, so here’s the thesis: Michael Schur, a sucker on the televisual arm of late capitalism, has taken an ethos designed to help fiction fight TV, and recuperated it. His shows, expanding from a single office to a local government to the entire cosmos, present New Sincerity as the only way to survive our soul-murdering capitalist reality. Sincerity, in Schur’s vision, exists not as an escape hatch from this reality, or as a hammer with which to break it apart, but as a feature of it. It offers sentimentality as a participation trophy to the revolution’s losers. Being nice won’t get you anywhere, Schur’s shows say, but boy, isn’t it still awful nice? 

The rest of this essay will explain precisely how Schur’s shows go about recuperating New Sincerity, how this action expands with each new show, and what exactly is lost when the TV gets sincere. 

Read also: Abstracts of Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write 1: John Green’s Fear 

more from the pavlovic today

Full Text: Biden State Of the Union 2023 Speech Transcript

Mr. Speaker. Madam Vice President. Our First Lady and Second Gentleman. Members of Congress and the Cabinet. Leaders of our military. Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices, and retired Justices of the Supreme Court. And you, my fellow Americans. I start tonight by congratulating the members of the 118th Congress and the new Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy. Mr. Speaker,…

Keep reading

WATCH LIVE: Biden Delivers 2023 State Of The Union Address

On Tuesday, 9 pm EST, President Biden will deliver 2023 State of the Union address. The story of America is a story of progress and resilience…We are the only country that has emerged from every crisis stronger than when we entered it. That is what we are doing again. Two years ago our economy was…

Keep reading

2023 State Of The Union Early Excerpts: My Republican Friends

The Pavlovic Today has received excerpts from President Biden’s Tuesday evening State of the Union address. The Biden team made excerpts available more than two hours before the speech. Read them below: Excerpts from President Biden’s State of the Union Address as Prepared for Delivery The story of America is a story of progress and…

Keep reading

Whitehall Shake-Up: What we know about Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet reshuffle

In Whitehall on Tuesday, government departments are being rewired and rebadged. Four new departments have been created out of three old ones. The shape of Rishi Sunak’s reshuffled government is starting to emerge.  Greg Hands was named the new Conservative Party Chairman after Nadhim Zahawi was fired last month over tax affair. His main task will…

Keep reading

Jonathan Compo

Jonathan is a Generation Z voice at the Pavlovic Today. He is studying Theatre and Biology at Georgetown University. His interests include healthcare, arts, culture and the environment.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *