God Friended Me

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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:

60 MIN.

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.”

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