The new CBS series God Friended Me, which premiered Sunday night, is asking heady questions about whether God still has a grand design in 2018, and how the divine creator can reach his flock when people are feeling more alienated than ever. The show is incredibly earnest, at a time when most TV dramas are (sometimes literally) quite dark. That’s commendable in and of itself. But it’s difficult not to resort to mockery when the show is called GOD FRIENDED ME, and when this happens within the first five minutes:
Yes, God is on Facebook now, and his profile picture is a cloud. His only Like on the account is Nature. But after accepting the silly premise for what it is, it’s hard not to be compelled by what God Friended Me is trying to do, in both its message and narrative framework. I swear I’m not just saying this because the main character is also named Miles, and I’m starting to get the feeling that God is about to send me a friend request.
TV Character Miles, played by Brandon Micheal Hall, is a former Christian and an up-and-coming podcaster (so 2018!) whose series is all about confronting faith—the key being that he’s now an atheist. But his skeptical view is spun on its axis when he gets a friend request from God. Don’t worry, the show doesn’t just jump into Miles thinking God is actually on the other end of this friend request; in fact, there’s a subplot in the premiere about tracking down the account’s IP address, which leads to the blessed line, “I found God—he’s in Jersey!”
But as the God account suggests friends for Miles—and seemingly predicts what’s going to happen when Miles accepts them—the intimate connections he forms with these strangers is hard to pin down as anything but divine intervention. If the series were in more cynical hands, the premise would make for a great psychological thriller, wherein the God account is being run by some Big Brother–y artificial intelligence system overseeing everything. (Honestly? Go for it, Netflix.) However, creators Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt are going for something a bit more wholesome by reconnecting Miles with his faith and having him forge bonds with new friends like Cara (Violett Beane), a journalist who starts helping Miles write a story about his new, potentially celestial friend.
Granted, God Friended Me would quickly become derivative if it were just an endless stream of emotional, faith-based monologues devoid of real conflict. But the show’s setup works in its favor: The premiere implies that Miles—and most likely Cara and Miles’s hacker buddy, Rakesh (Suraj Sharma)—will get a new friend suggestion from God every week, creating episodic conflicts that’ll need to be resolved as he meets new people through the account. Some of those could be uplifting, some perhaps devastating. God Friended Me would benefit from Miles having the occasional stumble, as anyone reconciling their beliefs should. It would also behoove the series to occasionally intimate that the God account is, in fact, a sham, despite the otherwise earnest implication that it is not.
God Friended Me won’t be for everyone, if only because it primarily seems aimed at a faith-based viewership that’s probably really tired of Kirk Cameron’s awful cinema. It doesn’t help that the show is occasionally too cheesy. Of course Miles’s dad is a minister who is heartbroken that his son became an atheist, because who doesn’t love overt dramatic irony? But at least there’s this: God Friended Me mostly works, and it’s nowhere near as bad as the series’ name indicates. Getting past the dumbest title of the year requires a leap of faith.
Should You Watch It? It’s definitely not the worst drama you could find on network TV, and Hall is a likable, charismatic actor. Give it a one-episode trial and see how you feel.
Does Cara Have a Realistic Journalism Job? I don’t know any young journalists who can go six weeks without filing a story and not get fired, which is what Cara does before meeting Miles. She also has a gym membership at SoulCycle. Where the heck is she working? Cara … can I forward you my résumé?
Should You Accept a Friend Request From God? I guess that depends on whether you’re still even active on Facebook. If God were smart, he’d pivot to Instagram and connect with the teens via dank memes and absurdist humor. He’s already on Twitter, but that site’s a good approximation of hell.