REVIEW: “Miracle Workers”

101AMiracle Workers is the newest quirky sitcom from TBS. In a similar vein as my beloved People of EarthMiracle Workers tells the story of several angels in Heaven trying to save the world from being destroyed by an apathetic God (Steve Buscemi). The way they can save the earth? Get two specific humans to kiss each other. I reviewed the book the series is based on, What in God’s Name, a few weeks ago, so I’ve been excited to see how the series adapts the source material. Thankfully, it does a pretty stellar job at translating a very enjoyable book into a very enjoyable TV series.

Based on Simon Rich’s book, What in God’s Name, this seven-episode limited series turns the perception of heaven on its head while also making the case that humans are worth saving.

Radcliffe and Buscemi executive produce and star alongside Karan Soni (Deadpool) and Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers). Radcliffe plays Craig, a low-level angel responsible for handling all of humanity’s prayers. Buscemi plays Craig’s boss, God, who has pretty much checked out to focus on petty hobbies. To prevent Earth’s destruction, Craig and fellow angel Eliza (Viswanathan) must answer a seemingly impossible prayer: help two humans, Laura and Sam (played by Sasha Compere and Jon Bass), fall in love.

102AMiracle Workers has everything I love in a TV comedy: great characters, a great premise, and great jokes. The show lives and breathes off of its characters and every one of them is fully-rounded and ripe for lots of development. Buscemi’s God is this wonderful mix of terrifying and completely pathetic; he has grown extremely apathetic to Earth over the years and longs to just destroy it and start a new business venture. Craig (Daniel Radcliffe) is a super anxious angel who works in the Department of Answered Prayers; he is content with answering his five or six prayers a day and trucking along like that in perpetuity. In comes Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan), an ambitious angel with hopes of making a difference in the world; she shakes up Craig’s pattern in the department and, ultimately, accidentally convinces God to destroy the Earth in the first place. To make up for that, she makes a bet with God that if she and Craig can answer one of the “impossible prayers” in 14 days, God won’t destroy the Earth. Then there’s Sanjay (Karan Soni), an Executive Arch-Angel who used to work in the Department of Answered Prayers; Sanjay is your standard higher-executive who has an inflated ego and it shows. Lastly, there are the two humans that Craig and Eliza must make kiss: Sam (Jon Bass) and Laura (Sasha Compère); these two are the very definition of awkward. They like each other a lot, but each is far too scared to make a real move which makes for a fascinating and hilarious task for our two angels to overcome. Each actor is perfectly cast in their roles, with Radcliffe, Viswanathan, and Buscemi being particular standouts. These characters already feel so fully-formed and it’s a joy to join them each week.

Miracle Workers  Ep 103  01/23/2018    ph: Curtis BakerI love the premise of the show. I love any show that plays around with the mythology of Heaven and Hell, and Miracle Workers has a delightfully interesting take on Heaven. Run like a corporate nightmare, Heaven – or Heaven Inc. as it’s called in the show – is barely functional. Headed by a CEO who couldn’t care less about what’s going on and run by angels who range from enthusiastic to completely apathetic, it’s a miracle that this version of Heaven is able to keep the earth from completely falling apart on its own. In many ways, this depiction of Heaven reminds me of the depiction of the Good Place in The Good Place. Both versions of the afterlife are plagued by bureaucratic red tape that seems destined to completely blow up. Only, in Miracle Workers, we actually get to meet the mastermind behind everything. Buscemi’s God is honestly perfect. You can see hints of what must have been an immensely creative and impressive mind, but he’s just grown tired over the millennia. His mind is still firing on all creative cylinders but he just doesn’t know what to do with it. You really get a sense that he had a great vision for Heaven Inc and for the Earth when they both started, but that vision has just faded away as the years go by. He’s one of the most interesting characters on the show – not just because of Buscemi’s impeccable line deliveries – because of the unspoken history of the character. Honestly, I’d watch a show where it was just Steve Buscemi’s God for 22 minutes.

107CThe other really great aspect of the show is its writing and directing. As I’ve said, the characters and the overall plot are all great, but the writing in each episode is also great. Jokes come fast and furious, but they’re always given the time to land. The pacing of the show is fast but never so fast that you can’t keep up with what’s going on or that you feel something hasn’t been dramatically earned. A part of me wishes each episode was longer, merely to spend more time with these wonderful characters, but I also think that’s an element of the writing that should be praised. This world is so richly realized, both in its writing and in its directing, that you just want to spend a lot of time in it. Everything is so thought out and so detailed that it really feels like a real world. Visually, the show is gorgeous. Yes – it’s a bureaucratic nightmare setting, but it’s a heightened one. It definitely feels like a world that was once the pinnacle of creation. Now, it’s a bit run down but still gorgeous to behold. Every Department of Heaven Inc. is well thought out and it’s fun getting little glimpses of them as the show goes on. This is a world that I just want to keep exploring and it honestly elevates the show to something really special. Aside from maybe The Good Place, no other comedy on TV is as creative as this one.

Miracle Workers Ep 107  1/4/18  ph: Curtis Baker

All in all, Miracle Workers is a delightful show. Gifted with an extremely talented cast, great writing, and even better directing, the show is immediately captivating, draws you into its world, and leaves you craving the next episode as you just want to spend all of your time here. The world is so fully realized, its characters so fully-developed, its plot so well conceived that it really stands apart as something special on TV. There is nothing about this show I don’t like – except for, maybe, the fact that TBS has to censor the show any time it drops an “f” bomb, but that’s life. The show is a highlight of my week each week it airs and I love every second of every episode. It’s enormously faithful to the source material while updating it a number of ways and tweaking it some so the story works well for TV. I’m excited to see how the season ends and I very much hope we get a second season set in this world; I love these characters and I love this world and I want more of it.

5 out of 5 wands.

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