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 Feb 14 - 20, 2019 
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Idiot Box

Mysterious Ways

“Miracle Workers” on TBS

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You could catagorize TBS’ “Miracle Workers” as yet another workplace sitcom. Except, in this instance, the workplace happens to be Heaven. Based on the book What In God’s Name by Simon Rich (“Man Seeking Woman”), this seven-episode “limited series” follows Hollywood’s current obsession with the afterlife. Unlike ABC’s “The Good Place,” however, it deals with questions of spirituality rather than philosophy. And unlike CBS’ “God Friended Me,” it’s a mostly cynical upending of traditional Christian theology.

Instead of the usual clouds and pearly gates, “Heaven Inc.” is a rundown factory staffed by a bunch of stressed-out, overworked angels. Seems that God (Steve Buscemi, because—why not?) has had a rough few thousand years. “You know how long it’s been since anyone sacrificed a ram to me?” he laments. His greatest creation, Earth, has devolved into a cesspool of war, climate change and road rage. Instead of performing miracles and bathing in exultation, God is just sitting around in his sweatpants drinking beer. Meanwhile, faced with yet another budget cut, workers in the Department of Animals nervously eye “dogs” for extinction.

Sick of her duties in the dead-end Department of Dirt, ambitious young angel Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan from Blockers) puts in for a transfer. Her pluck gets her sent to the promising-sounding Department of Answered Prayers. There, in the dingy bowels of Heaven, she meets the department’s sole employee, Craig (Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame). A lonely, unsocialized hermit, Craig has spent the last few millennia helping people find lost keys and missing gloves. All the other more difficult prayers are kicked upstairs to God, where they pile up in his inbox.

Freaked out about her department’s severe understaffing, Eliza decides to confront God. The Earth is falling apart and humankind is in need of some serious divine intervention. God agrees—and decides to blow up Earth. Time to move on to his “next big thing.” (Some sort of theme restaurant, possibly.)

Unwilling to give up on Earth, and fearing for Craig’s well-being, Eliza makes a bet. If she and Craig can fulfill one “impossible” prayer, God won’t snuff out the planet. The angelic duo are given two weeks to complete their assignment: help two shy people fall in love. As far as God is concerned, prayers of love are the most impossible to fulfill.

Compared to “The Good Place” (which it, inevitably, must be), “Miracle Workers” isn’t nearly as smart nor innovative. It doesn’t tackle issues of cosmic significance with the same level of gusto. It’s mostly just a good-natured, fantasy-based rom-com-cum-office-sitcom with some funny, broad-target jokes. The cast interacts well, with the twitchy Radcliffe and the optimistic Viswanathan bouncing off one another nicely. Like prayers to God, questions regarding the mechanics of this odd, corporate afterlife remain mostly unanswered—or are at least left hanging until later episodes. The show’s concept has its flaws and logical gaps, but they don’t spoil the fun. Appropriately—given the setting—“Miracle Workers” ends up finding empathetic, energetic satire in odd places.

“Miracle Workers” airs Tuesdays at 8:30pm on TBS.

 
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