tek's rating: ½
Miracle Workers, on TBS
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streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; YouTube
This 7-episode, 2019 limited series is based on the 2012 book "What in God's Name," which I haven't read, but has long been on my list of books I want to read. Anyway, in the show, Heaven is run like a corporation ("Heaven, Inc.") with countless departments that are each in charge of some very specific aspect of everything on Earth. An angel named Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan) goes to AR (angel resources) to request a transfer out of the Department of Dirt, because she believes she could have more to offer in some more important department. She gets reassigned to the Department of Answered Prayers, which currently has only one angel working there: Craig (Daniel Radcliffe), who is very timid. He doesn't want to tackle any prayer that would be too difficult, focusing instead only on very minor prayers. And even those he uses excessive caution in answering. But Eliza is more bold, and wants to answer more important prayers (those deemed impossible). Before long, she realizes it's something that God (Steve Buscemi) should be handling himself. So she goes to his office to show him how terrible things have gotten on Earth. But instead of trying to fix it, God decides to blow up the planet. Eliza doesn't want that to happen, so she makes a bet with God for him not to destroy the Earth if she and Craig can successfully answer one impossible prayer. God gives her two weeks to do so.
Down on Earth, two socially awkward, extremely shy people named Laura (Sasha Compère) and Sam (Jon Bass) have recently met, and really liked each other. So they both pray for the same thing: that the other person will like them. But they're both too shy to tell each other how they feel. So Eliza decides to focus on getting them together. To win the bet, Sam and Laura will have to kiss before the two week deadline. Meanwhile, God spends most of his time watching TV, and... sort of casually obsessing over minor annoyances. (I find it interesting how he can seem simultaneously overly sensitive and totally nonchalant about the same thing.) And there's an executive angel named Sanjay (Karan Soni), whom God always calls on to talk about the things that are bothering him. And somehow he makes it seem like his own terrible ideas on how to deal with the issues were actually Sanjay's ideas. So... Sanjay has to do things he really doesn't want to do. Eventually, Sanjay gets fed up with this, and joins Craig and Eliza in trying to get Laura and Sam together. So, God turns to his other executive angel, Rosie (Lolly Adefope), to pester with all the things Sanjay used to deal with. At first, Rosie is looking forward to the destruction of the Earth, so she can take a job at another Heaven-like company that's responsible for some other planet. But eventually she changes her mind, and starts helping the miracle workers try to save the Earth, too. And they need all the help they can get, because there are constant obstacles to Sam and Laura getting together.
I must say, God was a hard character to truly peg. From the start, it was hard to believe this guy could have created a whole planet and all the life on it. Although at first, it seemed like he was just burned out and no longer up to the demands of godhood. But as the series goes on, he seems more and more incompetent. (The question arises of whether he even knows how to read.) And we never actually see him do anything miraculous (though the angels still seem to think he has the power to do so, if he wants to). Speaking of the "angels," we eventually learn they're actually just people who once lived on Earth, and after they died, they had to get jobs in Heaven. There don't seem to be any actual angels in the show. And of course we learn that God didn't create the universe, and the only planet he's responsible for is Earth. So, while there are other inhabited worlds in the universe, there are also other beings like God, and he's not even important or special, compared to others of his kind. (We do meet his family, but I don't want to spoil any details about that.) And... considering that God seems to have no idea how any of the machinery works that the employees of Heaven, Inc. use to keep the world functioning, I'm left wondering how the hell anything got done before Heaven had any employees other than God himself. And for much of the series, he's working on a plan for his next project after Earth is destroyed, a restaurant called "Lazy Susan" (or "Lazy Susan's," I forget which), which seems incredibly simplistic, compared to Earth, but also incredibly ill-conceived. (But at least he's passionate about it, in a way he hasn't been about Earth in a long time.)
Anyway, it's a truly weird, redonkulous show, but really funny. And it has a lot of interesting concepts. And honestly, I think it explains a lot about the state of the world. (At one point during the series, I said to myself, "Yeah, he seems like about the kind of God we'd get.") As for whether the world is ultimately saved or not, I'm not going to spoil that. But I will say the miracle workers' efforts to save the world sure did cause a lot of death and destruction, as collateral damage. But it's okay, because... well, I just really liked all the characters, and as I said, it's all really funny.