Miracle Workers premieres February 12th on TBS.
[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]
By Chris Flanagan
God is bored. Heaven is a conglomerate. And it’s up to the Department of Answered Prayers to prevent the world from ending in two weeks.
This is the basic premise for TBS’ new comedy, Miracle Workers, which features Steve Buscemi as the aloof Almighty, Craig (Daniel Radcliffe) and Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan). Having been reassigned to the defunct Dept. of Answered Prayers, Eliza takes it upon herself to convince Craig that they could be accomplishing so much more in their positions but accidentally sets off a chain of events that leaves God wanting to end the world in 14 days. Eliza is able to convince God that if their department could answer just one of the aptly labeled “Impossible Prayers” then he would let the world continue to exist. Easier than it sounds, the duo, along with the help of other various departments, spend the rest of the season attempting to answer a shared prayer of admiration between two severely shy people.
After having seen the trailer for Miracle Workers, I admit that I was actually intrigued, albeit with several apprehensions attached. The first episode establishes the narrative of the season well depicting Heaven being run as a corporation, not by God, but by his underlings who continue to oversee His creation. God is seemingly a disinterested child-like figure who is easily entertained and appears to be resting on his laurels after having stumbled into creating something as intricate as human life. Meanwhile, Eliza and Craig are typical personifications of carefree vs. orderly characters who are the only real means of pushing the plot forward from episode to episode. This became painfully obvious well into the second episode where the novelty of the show quickly wore off leaving yet another workplace comedy that chooses the mining of periodic laughs from everyday occurrences slightly skewed by a heavenly interpretation as its main draw. I’ll admit that some of these are quite funny- the murderer praying to find his lost glove or the existence of the Department of Genitals – and provide necessary plot breaks throughout the show, but they are unable to elevate it from being anything truly organic or unique.
Buscemi, Radcliffe, and Viswanathan, along with their supporting cast, are well enough in their roles but the script does not do them any favors. Often their characters feel constricted in their dialogue and actions by what the script/plot dictates which comes across as formulaic allowing for no surprises or organic development within their character definitions. Before the first episode concludes, you already know how Eliza and Craig will slowly change from the first episode to the last and that level of predictability breeds a large feeling of disinterest fairly early on into the show. For me, Miracle Workers, while having some signs of life and promise throughout, commits one of the biggest Cardinal sins of TV – being ordinary. Its unique premise quickly grows dim as the season progresses giving off a sense of familiarity that morphs into boredom. Typically, I afford more latitude to shows that might be bad but it’s still evident where they took risks that might not have fully paid off but with Miracle Workers the exact opposite is true. It feels safe and lacks any edge or unpredictability to it which is why it suffers greatly beyond its first episode.
I give Miracle Workers a C-.