TV REVIEW: 'God Friended Me'
Every few years, a network airs a show with some kind of premise involving religion. CBS has been at the top of this list, with the excellent “Joan of Arcadia” and the recently cancelled, short-lived “Living Biblically”. Now, they’re trying it again.
“God Friended Me” stars Brandon Micheal Hall (ABC’s “The Mayor”) as Miles. He’s got a job in sales but his real passion is hosting his podcast, “The Millennial Prophet”, which he’s looking to pitch to Sirius XM radio. Miles doesn’t believe in God… even though his father is a reverend. The two haven’t been on speaking terms for a while, and the reasons why are revealed throughout the Pilot episode.
Miles receives a Facebook notification that an account with the name “God” has friend requested him. He denies it at first, but when the notification keeps appearing, sounding-off the “ding” on his phone, Miles thinks something has to be up. A sudden, random encounter with a stranger takes this unusual situation to another level, and pretty soon Miles involves his friend Rakesh (played by “Life of Pi”’s Suraj Sharma) and a writer named Cara Bloom (Violett Beane) on a quest to find out who’s behind this account.
The appeal of this first episode of “God Friended Me” is figuring out if someone will be revealed as the person behind the God account. But, of course, this plotline is intended for a series – not a movie, so it’s clear that not all of the big questions will be answered by the end of Episode One.
But I do give credit to show creators Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt (who penned the Pilot) for crafting a fairly serious story that doesn’t hold back in questioning faith, a higher power, outside influences, connections, redemption and forgiveness. There are only a handful of lighter moments, and while things do get a little soap operatic in the final act, the show does go in a few unexpected directions.
Hall makes for a comfortable, engaging lead, never overstepping his emotions in a scenario that easily could be taken too far. His scenes with Beane feel pretty authentic, and these two will likely see themselves as “Good Samaritans” over the course of the series.
“God Friended Me” does face a tough challenge ahead: not getting too repetitive. Admittedly, older audiences who watch CBS dramas (and “Law & Order: SVU” on NBC) are used to a storyline cycle that may seem the same every single time – but the actors are strong enough to keep viewers coming back week after week.CBS has positioned “God Friended Me” to air on Sundays (very appropriate) and in the post-“60 Minutes” timeslot, which could make for some big ratings – especially early on. I can see older people giving it a chance for several weeks – and maybe it will build up a bit of a following. But what about young people? Will they embrace or dismiss it for actually taking this premise seriously?
With more than three weeks to go before “God Friended Me” premieres: God Only Knows.
You can watch the first episode of “God Friended Me” online now. It debuts Sunday September 30th at 8:30pmET on CBS.