Micheal Hall, Javicia Leslie |
and Violett Beane (Jonathan Wenk/CBS)
Creating a TV series based on religious themes is always risky. Sometimes they work very well, like how the miniseries, The Bible did on the History channel in 2013 and not so well like how the sequel A.D.: The Bible Continues, did not on NBC two years later. Of course, the biggest and best received religious drama to date has been CBS’ Touched by an Angel which ran on the network from 1994 to 2003. Since then it has been difficult for any network to find a show that resonates in the same way, but they keep trying. ABC was very earnest last fall with the comedy/drama, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, which was pretty good except that the show focused too much on fantasy and less on biblical text. This year, two shows are reaching out for the spiritually hungry audience in the form of Manifest (NBC) and God Friended Me (CBS) featuring everyday people hearing from unknown forces so that they can do good for others. It’s unlikely that either will be the next Touched By an Angel, but you never know.
Like Kevin, God Friended Me centers on a male character who doesn’t believe in God but is appointed to work for Him in His behalf anyway. In this story though, Miles Finer (Brandon Hall) is the son of a preacher man who grew up in the church and used to have faith in God and then lost it somewhere down the road. Today, his father is celebrating 25 years of serving at Harlem’s Trinity Church and the Reverend Arthur Finer would very much like his son to attend the ceremony, but he and Miles haven’t spoken to each other for some time. Miles’ sister Ali (Javicia Leslie) wants the two to make up, but she doesn’t get very far.
Miles takes out his anger on the non-existent God through his own podcast which he is hoping will be picked up by Sirius FM. He thinks he is helping people by exposing how God isn’t real. And then he receives a friend request from God on Facebook. Miles is convinced that it is a joke of some sort, but the requests keep pestering him until he finally accepts. Then God makes friend recommendations for Miles as well. Like John Dove who attempts to jump out in front of subway car, but Miles stops him. He thinks that the whole thing is a huge coincidence, but then “God” sends another friend suggestion: Cara Bloom (Violett Beane), an online journalist who has a serious case of writer’s block. Convinced that he is being catfished by Bloom, Miles tracks her down but she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. However, needing a story, she agrees to help Miles figure out who the person is behind the God account and what they want and voila – we’ve got a show!
For the most part, this is a pretty clever show that is fun to watch. It has a very “CBS” vibe to it and seems very similar to CBS’ Instinct. The pilot episode focuses mostly on the personal relationships of Miles and Cara while also trying to set up the show, which is a lot to cram in one episode. The ending of the show featured some redeeming themes similar to Touched By an Angel, and that made the show worth seeing for me. I’m looking forward to seeing the second episode to get a better feel for how the show will play out.
Despite the theme, God Friended Me doesn’t feel all that religious and perhaps that is by design in hopes that stronger biblical messages can be presented later on or perhaps the creators do not believe in God and the who show is a just one big fantasy story to them. I’m hoping that the latter is not true. Touched By an Angel presented a God that allowed bad things to happen to good people for mysterious reasons, which made the show authentic. This show does the same thing, but without Monica the angel sharing how God loves them.
As many other Christians out there, I still believe that God speaks to his followers, but I’m not convinced that we are always listening. Maybe it will take Him talking through an atheist in order for Him to get our attention. And why not? Throughout history God chose to speak through a burning bush and a talking donkey, so why not an atheist radio show host?
God Friended Me airs on Sundays at 8:00 p.m. on CBS and if you missed the first episode, you can catch it this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. for an encore showing.