Thinking Out Loud

October 1, 2018

Review: God Friended Me

Back on August 27th, I told you about a new series beginning this fall on CBS-TV, and last night, after a 13-minute delay due to NFL Football — you’d think God would have that game under control — the series God Friended Me launched.  Miles Finer, the main character is the son of a minister turned atheist following the death of his mother, and is now an aspiring podcaster hoping to have his faith-focused program picked up by Sirius Radio.

The producers had said that “When we say ‘god,’ it’s the general — we’re not focusing on one religious figure or portrayal;” yet what was shown last night leaned more toward a Judeo-Christian God, probably due to the need to solidly introduce the main character, well-played by Brandon Michael Hall.  

So while the premise is multi-faith — “In the cast, Violett [Beane]’s character is Jewish, Miles (Hall) is an atheist, Suraj [Sharma] is Hindu.” — the execution of the pilot episode was more one-sided by necessity. That will may shift in future scripts.

If I have any takeaway from the show, it’s the extent to which individuals at large have their God-picture shaped by circumstances. One of the many comments on Twitter compared the show to Early Edition, and there are certainly a number of story vignettes involving characters in the right place at the right time, except that here the characters are connected, their stories are intertwined well beyond the realm of coincidence.

For some reason, I was reminded of Lost in the sense there is probably more backstory to the characters than we’ve seen — plus new ones which can be introduced at any time in future episodes through friend requests — and due to the story’s quest; in the case, the Holy Grail being finding out who is behind the “God” social media account.

All that to say that our view of God — even among those of us Evangelicals who contend that the object truth about God is clearly stated in the scriptures — is often subjective.

The pilot’s treatment of both belief and skepticism is respectful. Though the tension is certain there in the father-son dynamic, both viewpoints are given equal credibility.

And for all the Calvinist/Reformed people in the audience, Miles doesn’t confirm the friend request the first time around; God has to keep pursuing him. (But for all the Wesleyan/Arminian viewers, Miles can also unfriend God.)

The show’s downside on broadcast television is that CBS consistently stacks the commercial breaks on all its programs with more clutter promoting other shows than any other network. –“Blip-verts, anyone? — so there is also wisdom in waiting for the Season 1 DVD, though the show needs viewers now for that DVD to happen. 

One review concluded: “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.”  You decide. 

The show airs Sunday nights on CBS at 8:00 PM, or, with the football season in full swing, more accurately “After 60 Minutes.”

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August 27, 2018

God is Back on CBS-TV

Filed under: Christianity, media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:03 am

After dumping the series Living Biblically after only one season, God returns to the CBS network in the series God Friended Me, this one a one-hour long comedy/drama, or if you prefer, fantasy/drama which first airs at the end of September. (Airing in Canada on CTV.)

Wikipedia has this short summary:

God Friended Me is described as a humorous, uplifting series that explores questions of faith, existence and science. It centers on Miles (Hall), an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he is friended by God on Facebook. Unwittingly, he becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him. Violett Beane will play Cara Bloom. Confident, compelling and quick-witted, Cara is a leading writer at an online magazine. Under pressure for her next big story, her life takes an interesting turn when she meets Miles—thanks to God’s friend suggestion.

The network has been in talks with Facebook to settle the question of how the social media giant is portrayed and we’re told there will be some real-world Facebook accounts which will tie in to the program.

The website Deadline.com notes:

CBS’s new series God Friended Me is not Highway to Heaven or Touched By Angel, executive producers wanted to make very clear to TV critics at [Television Critics Association]. That, though both NBC’s Highway and CBS’s Touched were quite successful long-running series. Both those shows featured angels; this series does not. “There is nothing supernatural about our show,” [Executive Producer] Bryan Wynbrandt said.

At TV Guide (owned by CBS) we learn more about the “God” of the series:

CBS’ new heartfelt comedy-drama hybrid God Friended Me … probably conjures up the image of an old man with a long flowing white beard sitting on a cloud on his iPhone 5 (he’s old, remember) looking at recipe GIFs or cat memes, you know, the classic image of the Christian/Catholic God doing his thing when he’s not giving someone the flu when they say his name in vein.

But good news, all you other religious denominations — this “god” in God Friended Me is all gods, according to the producers of the show.

“When we say ‘god,’ it’s the general — we’re not focusing on one religious figure or portrayal,” executive producer Bryan Wynbrandt told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “In the cast, Violett [Beane]’s character is Jewish, Miles (Hall) is an atheist, Suraj [Sharma] is Hindu.”

So if God is present, what about Satan? The article continues,

… [T]he question of whether an opposing powerful force came up, but producers wouldn’t say if one would be in the show. But they did offer up this one bit of information.

“The devil would probably be on Twitter,” Wynbrandt said.

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