God Friended Me – CBS’s Feel Good Drama is a Beacon of Hope
The outlandish name of the show is precisely what made me check out God Friended Me. Considering my hatred for social media and not being very religious, the marketing department deserves high praise for getting my attention in the first place. Maybe that was their goal? The mere notion of God using social media as a tool for helping people is practically an oxymoron, but it just might be worth exploring.
Airing Sundays at 8pm Eastern with the first episode already available on their website, CBS describes God Friended Me as follows:
…a humorous, uplifting drama about an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he receives a friend request on social media from God and unwittingly becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him.
That may be the most accurate description I have ever read for a TV show and I am struggling to come up with anything else to add, so let’s dive right in.
The first look trailer contains the most significant scenes. It barely stops short of telling you the episode’s entire story. I would suggest skipping it, but here it is.
It is critical they have believable reactions because the show’s premise hinges on the viewers caring about the characters. To that end, we have to get to know their backstories before we can relate to them on any level. The writers did an admirable job of accomplishing that, albeit utilizing a fairly standard formula.
First, we have Rakesh, a socially awkward hacker, combined with some Indian stereotyping. Second, they give us the main character, Miles, his sister Ali, and their father, Arthur, who provide the dysfunctional family everyone can relate to. Miles is the host of his own podcast, where he espouses that God does not exist, much to the chagrin of his sister and his father, who just so happens to be a reverend and–as we know all our parents are–is technologically inept. Finally, we have Cara, a bit of a lost soul, who grew up in a single-parent household and is struggling to cure her writer’s block. They even managed to squeeze in a dig at the expense of New Jersey. Seriously, guys? How original.
The originality of God Friended Me is a refreshing break from the reboots or reimaginings Hollywood primarily airs. I was pleasantly surprised that Miles’ instant denial of the friend request was entirely believable. He does start to second guess himself as we go through some religious tropes and allegories, including a burning bush, going towards the light, God works in mysterious ways, questioning your faith, and everything happens for a reason. I particularly enjoyed an (accidental?) reference to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.
One aspect which is slightly worrisome is the potential for this whole thing to be the work of artificial intelligence. This immediately made me think of Person of Interest, even though I know these shows have nothing in common. It was only briefly alluded to, but just the fact that they put it out there may bother some viewers. That brings me to the show’s biggest hurdle it needs to overcome. In attempting to appeal to both believers and non-believers, they risk alienating both. The devout viewers could easily bring out a #notmyGod hashtag, while the non-believers completely get turned off by the very notion of religion. This could result in everyone missing the show’s incredibly uplifting message, regardless of the source. That would be a shame as I could see it turning into a sleeper hit like I predicted The Good Doctor would become.
This exchange towards the end tells us precisely what this show will bring to the table each week, starting with Cara:
Heard anything from the God account? I told you I’d help you get to the bottom of it. Besides, maybe we’ll do some good in the process; actually make a difference in some people’s lives.
I am about to show my age, but, in this era of discord, perhaps we have the next Highway to Heaven or Touched by an Angel. That would be a–pardon the pun–heavenly departure from the majority of television shows today. I don’t know about you, but I agree with Miles’ reply:
Yeah, that wouldn’t be so bad.