by John Ostrander
NOTE FROM JOHN: Miracle Workers is a limited series from TBS, and airs Tuesdays at 10 PM EST.
SPOILER ALERT FROM JOHN: I reveal some of the plot and a few jokes in the show so far. Read at your own risk.
So – in the second episode, Miracle Workers kill Bill Maher by blowing up his penis.
Now that’s comedy.
The show is set in a heaven that’s a corporate entity. Steve Buscemi plays God with longish lank gray hair, puttering around in a bathrobe, drinking beer, and more interested in Lazy Susans than the planet Earth. Bill Maher annoys him (hell, he sometimes annoys me) so God orders that Maher be killed off. The method devised is to blow up his penis which pleases God.
Also, because God has been challenged to exert himself and do something about the terrible state of Earth, announces that he is going to blow it up in two weeks.
You see? Wacky.
Heaven is something like a business office (sort of an afterlife Dilbert) with angels as the workers and lots of different and odd Departments; Genitals, for example, which winds up being the Department responsible for blowing up Bill Maher’s penis. Eliza, played by Geraldine Viswanathan, belongs in the Department of Dirt but wants something more challenging so she gets re-assigned to the Department of Answered Prayers. She’s thrilled until she gets there and finds only one other employee there, Craig, played by Daniel Radcliffe (yes, Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe) who is weird, quirky, and timid (okay, cowardly) and the Department only does about 7-8 (small) things a week and anything more difficult than finding lost car keys get kicked upstairs to God where it sits in an ever rising pile of Unanswered Prayers because God would rather experiment with Lazy Susans.
Eliza is appalled and tries to do something bigger only to discover there are consequences to miracles and those can be disastrous. Frustrated. Eliza goes and complains to God directly, saying that he really should do something given the sorry state of Creation. God thinks a moment, decides she’s right, and announces that in 12 days he’s going to destroy Earth. God then wanders off.
Now that’s comedy.
Eliza does make a deal with God – if she and Craig can get one impossible miracle done, God will spare Earth. Together, Craig and Eliza spot two shy humans who like each other and both pray that something good will happen. Craig says unrequited love prayers are among the most difficult to answer happily but Eliza points out the two (Laura and Sam) already are in love with each other, they’re just too shy to initiate anything. If Craig and Eliza can get them past their shyness, the two angels just might be able to pull off a miracle and save Earth.
Except that also proves to be more difficult than it might seem.
In the meantime, in a side plot, God tells his assistant Sanjay that Bill Maher annoys him. God says he’s okay with the disrespect and blasphemy but he just doesn’t think Maher is funny. Yeah, technically Maher will die when the Earth is destroyed but God doesn’t want to wait that long. He assigns Sanjay the job of killing Maher in an appropriate manner. Sanjay is made to understand that failure isn’t an option. All of which leads to the Department of Genitals and Maher’s death by exploding penis. See? It all makes sense.
Only two episodes have aired so far but I’m really enjoying the series. I laugh out loud at times and that’s rare with me. (Waking Ned Devine is a different story which I will tell at some point.) For starters, we have Steve Buscemi as God. I would watch paint dry on Steve Buscemi. Daniel Radcliffe is first rate, turning in a wonderfully comedic performance that is so far away from Harry Potter that you might not believe he’s the same actor. The rest of the cast is also first rate, as are the writers and directors. The show was dreamed up Simon Rich, adapting his book “What In God’s Name”. Quality stuff.
I’m not sure how it’s all going to turn out; being a limited series, they could very well end with destroying Earth. Doesn’t set up a second season but I think it would be cool. Some others, I’ve heard, prefer “The Good Place” but I never got into that show and it may be a little late to start. And it doesn’t have Steve Buscemi. Okay, it’s got Ted Danson and that’s a point in its favor, IMO, but it hasn’t got Steve Buscemi.
Am I recommending you watch it? No. I learned long ago that’s a fool’s errand; different people have different tastes and what amuses me may leave you cold. The show isn’t even the most blasphemous thing I’ve watched; that would be Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter. I would have included Bill Maher’s Real Time but that show just hasn’t been the same since Bill got his penis blown off.
It was funny, though.
John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but now John’s back with a new column at a new blog, PopCultureSquad, where this piece first appeared (before Christmas even, but we’ve been on a break so you get to relive the holiday now). You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE