By John Hanlon
In the Old Testament of the Bible, God becomes so frustrated with the citizens of the planet that he destroys much of civilization in a gigantic flood. Noah, his family, and a variety of animals survive in an arc and eventually help rebuild the population once again.
The new TBS comedy Miracle Workers focuses on the possibility that God might try to destroy the world once again. In the program, God (Steve Buscemi) becomes so frustrated and fed-up with people that he plans to destroy everything once again.
It’s up to a pair of work colleagues to stop him.
In the show’s opening moments, God is portrayed as a lazy channel-surfer who watches as terrible things keep happening on the planet. From ice sheets melting to good people suffering, he sees all of the bad things the world has to offer and wants it all to end.
He declares his intention to the employees of Heaven Inc., the company he presides over. The employees of this afterlife enterprise manage different elements of life on Earth. Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan), an idealistic employee who wants to do good for the people of Earth, wants to save the planet. A recent transfer to the Department of Answered Prayers, she teams up with her new eccentric colleague Craig (Daniel Radcliffe) to convince God that the planet is worth saving.
In order to do this, Eliza has to bring a couple of eccentric individuals — both longing for love — together in a romantic relationship. God promises Eliza that if she can bring the couple together in two weeks, he will spare the planet.
That’s the crux of this simplistic and highly-forgettable program.
Miracle Workers has an incredible creative team behind the scenes. The producers of the show include Lorne Michaels (Saturday Night Live), Steve Buscemi (Fargo) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and the program itself was created by Simon Rich, a Saturday Night Live writer who went also created the FXX comedy Man Seeing Woman.
Rich also wrote the book What in God’s Name, which served as the inspiration of this show.
From the beginning, the program presents itself as a half-baked comedy longing for punchlines that never arrive. Buscemi, for one, is a tremendous comedic talent but his role here relegates him to the position of an unkempt deity who has too much time on his hands.
In the first episode, he starts dreaming of creating a new restaurant (using the concept of a Lazy Susan. In the second episode, he thinks about murdering well-known atheist Bill Maher. He bounces from one thought to the next without purpose. His scattered personality never focuses on anything positive or worthwhile (although he seemingly longs for the people of Earth to be good).
The main storyline — featuring the plight of Eliza and Craig – has more potential. They are trying to bring a couple together with limited resources. They have the ability to melt snowflakes, cause appendixes to burst (don’t ask) and offer subtle hints to mortals but their powers might not be able to stretch much further than that. Radcliffe provides a standout performance as the overzealous Craig (who takes great pleasure in helping people find their missing keys) but unfortunately, the writing doesn’t support his intriguing performance.
The show undeniably strives to be unique and the different departments of Heaven Inc. are seemingly there to give this show an added punch (that could reward keen viewers). However, the concept never comes together even with a talented cast and the resulting show is an unfunny comedy that’s as dour as it is underwhelming.