EXCLUSIVE: 'The Good Place' Boss on 'Groundhog Day' Opening and That Romantic Surprise

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Photo: NBC

Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you haven’t watched Thursday’s episode of The Good Place. If you have, you may proceed…

The Good Place went a little reboot crazy -- and it was forkin’ amazing.

On Thursday’s episode, titled “Dance Dance Resolution,” Michael’s (Ted Danson) attempts to successfully create a faux-”Good Place” for Eleanor and crew reached astronomical levels -- 802 attempts, to be exact -- thanks to them figuring every time that they were actually in the Bad Place. In the end, Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), Janet (D'Arcy Carden) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) confront Michael about his ruse, which sets The Good Place gang on a new trajectory for the rest of the season.

“Once we knew that the second [reboot] was going to go sideways and [Michael] was going to try again, then it became a very simple comedy premise,” creator Mike Schur tells ET of the unique eight-minute Groundhog Day-inspired opening. “In the world of Groundhog Day, it kept happening because [Bill Murray] had something he had to fix about his life. In our world, it keeps happening because the guy who’s doing it isn’t satisfied with how it’s going, because the people keep figuring out that he’s doing it. It was a fun reverse-Groundhog Day [sequence].”

Schur revealed that the original cut of the opening sequence included 15 minutes worth of Michael’s failed reboots, nearly double the amount of time that ultimately made it to air. 

“What we decided was, we were going to do Groundhog Day for one act. It was going to be seven or eight minutes to get out the idea that Michael could not make this work, that he felt like he was close. He keeps tinkering and saying, ‘If I can do it one more time...’ He keeps lying to his boss. He has breakdowns. Things go wrong. He accidentally leaves the door open and Eleanor just walks in right before it even starts,” Schur shares. 

“It’s almost like a gambler, who’s like, ‘If I can just win one big bet on roulette, I could get my life savings back,’ and he just keeps digging himself a deeper and deeper hole.,” he continues. “That was endlessly fun. How many different things can Janet yell when Michael’s about to kill her?”

One eyebrow-raising development from the episode dealt with Eleanor and Chidi’s possible romantic past during one of Michael’s failed reboots. In an impromptu visit to Mindy’s house, the two are shown a videotape of them after they’ve slept together, in which Eleanor and Chidi say they love each other.

“We thought it would be cool and shocking,” Schur says. “There is a certain way that romances on TV play themselves out. You get certain story beats in a certain order almost every time. We thought it would be shocking based on the premise that we had set up, that they had rebooted 800 times, if Eleanor could get a glimpse from a moment of a thing she did not remember at all, where she gets to witness herself in a moment of complete and utter sincerity, honesty and openness, expressing her feelings for Chidi in a moment of true intimacy.”  

But if viewers believe that this moment signals a romantic future for Eleanor and Chidi, Schur warns not so fast.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that that the two of them are destined to be together or that they’re going to end up together or that they’re gonna have a continuing, ongoing romance or anything. It just means that the two are bonded in some emotional way and that Eleanor knows the truth of that and for the time being, Chidi doesn’t.”

The Good Place airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.