The Good Place is finally back, and with it, more chances for the demons who run the Bad Place to reveal their favorite ways to torture humans. That’s unfortunate news for ‘80s pop-rock star Richard Marx, though, since we can officially add “Right Here Waiting” to the list after the NBC sitcom’s season-three premiere.
In “Everything Is Bonzer!”, Bad Place bigwig Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) grows impatient with his minions’ inability to hack into the judge’s system — where he could see if Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason had started becoming better people on Earth — and he announces that no demon will get a break until the task is done. Playing music might help, one of them suggests. “Good idea,” Shawn responds. “Choose something deeply terrible to inspire us.”
Cue “Right Here Waiting,” Marx’s most beloved ballad, which spent three weeks at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the summer of 1989.
Why exactly did The Good Place creator Michael Schur, who co-wrote the season opener with Jen Statsky, choose that particular song? He sent Vulture three reasons:
1. It seemed really funny to tee up “what songs would demons play to inspire them to uncharted depths of evil?” and then play that one.
2. We knew that Richard Marx had a great sense of humor and would probably see why it was funny when many others would not.
3. I love that song.
Schur is right about Marx’s sense of humor, though not everyone in the singer’s camp initially laughed about the joke. Via email, Marx explains that while he’s never seen The Good Place, he has made multiple mental notes to check it out because he’s always liked star Ted Danson. So when the show contacted his team and pitched the scenario in which “Right Here Waiting” would be used as a punchline, he read the scene before making his decision.
“I emailed back the guy who handles the clearances for my songs and said, ‘Go for it.’ A few minutes later my manager, Diarmuid [Quinn], called me. ‘Dude, what the fuck?! You can’t let them use your song that way!!!’ We went back and forth and I said, ‘Look, this song will be 30 years old next year. Tens of millions of people have bought it, sung it, learned to play it on the piano… I’ve had widows of soldiers tell me it was ‘Their Song’ between them and their deceased husband, and on and on. Do you really think some fictional character on a TV show making a joke about it affects that?’”
Marx went on to write, “I have a huge sense of humor about myself, so I thought, Fuck it. Maybe some kid watching this show will hear it and go look it up on YouTube and end up loving it. That song is immensely bigger than a 10-second gag on a sitcom.”
To that kid, we offer the below YouTube video. And to all Marx fans, a reminder that he’s touring this fall.