God Friended Me
Drama: CBS (13 episodes; one reviewed); Sun., Sept. 30 Starring: Brandon Micheal Hall, Violett Beane, Suraj Sharma
At first blush, “God Friended Me” is an easy target for mockery. Its title promises something wacky and miraculous, with a bonus social-media tie-in for relevance. In actuality, the new CBS drama is almost too earnest to ridicule, wrapping its absurd premise with the kind of moralistic sincerity that has fueled broadcast network dramas for decades. It’s “Touched by an Angel” reimagined for the millennial generation — or at least that’s what “God Friended Me” is trying to be, with decidedly mixed results.
When a mysterious “God” Facebook account friends Miles (Brandon Micheal Hall), it seems to anticipate the future by encouraging him to help people who need it, whether they know it or not. Complicating matters is the fact that Miles is a diehard atheist, which has estranged him from his father (Joe Morton), a reverend who can’t understand his son’s insistence on preaching a lack of gospel. But now, with this seemingly all-knowing Facebook account trying to dictate his every move, Miles finds himself more confused than ever. (He also assumes he’s being stalked by an expert hacker, briefly teasing an intriguing bizarro-horror-movie version of “God Friended Me” that a cable network might have tried.)
To flesh out Miles and his twentysomething world, creators Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt lean heavily on millennial buzzwords. Miles wants to sell a podcast about atheism to SiriusXM under the moniker “The Millennial Prophet.” His best friend Rakesh (Suraj Sharma) complains about dating apps, insisting that “no one uses Tinder anymore” with a knowing eye roll on a show that nevertheless insists twentysomethings are still avid users of Facebook. By the time the God account points him to Cara (Violett Beane), a writer who hasn’t written one of her signature viral think pieces for weeks but somehow maintains a corner office, the show is brimming over with millennial clichés that never add up to anything especially believable.
It’s telling that even on a series featuring a possibly omniscient being nudging people to do good through the insidious act of suggesting friends on Facebook, the most confusing aspect of “God Friended Me” is the question of who, exactly, it’s for. Its premise and characters are ostensibly geared toward a millennial
CREDITS: Executive producers: Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt, Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Marcos Siega. Running time:
Cast: Brandon Micheal Hall, Violett Beane, Suraj Sharma, Javicia Leslie, Joe Morton
audience without demonstrating much of a familiarity with it at all. And if the show is trying to appeal to a typical CBS audience — which generally skews more Gen X than Z — it’s hard to imagine that those viewers will care about Cara getting back to the top of her website’s traffic board.
The most frustrating aspect of these unconvincing attempts to depict the Social Media Generation is that there’s a potentially winning, bleeding-heart- earnest drama pulsing right underneath that doesn’t need any of them. Some of the best moments happen when the show leans fully into its own cheesiness and embraces the awesome storytelling power of pushing a person to be more decent. And thanks in large part to Hall, a charismatic actor who can make even “The Millennial Prophet” sound halfway convincing, rooting the show in Miles’ journey of having and losing his faith makes for some truly meaningful moments. If “God Friended Me” can convince viewers to get past its premise and develop the wholehearted drama fueling it, the series just might find its way.
Looking for Likes Violett Beane and Brandon Micheal Hall star in CBS drama “God Friended Me.”