Some of the deepest insights come from finely honed humor. That’s certainly true of “Miracle Workers,” a new comedy series.
The workplace comedy is set in Heaven and is based on Simon Rich’s book, “What in God’s Name.” Rich and Lorne Michaels are executive producers of “Miracle Workers,” along with Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi, who star in the series.
Just as it is in the book, the show depicts Heaven as a massive corporation staffed by a steady influx of new arrivals. After orientation, each new angel is assigned a job in the poorly run organization.
The excellent writing and comedic acting make it tough to avoid disclosing spoilers, but I won’t. “Miracle Workers” is better than good: It’s smart, different and funny. While plenty of the insightful jokes poke at religious conventions and turn dogma and doctrine on their respective ears, it would be unfair to dismiss this daring, inventive series as “offensive.”
Instead, “Miracle Workers” offers open-minded viewers plenty to think and talk about. It digs into various notions, misconceptions and assumptions, offering witty, weird and logical possibilities to consider.
For one, what would it really be like to die, go to Heaven and live forever?
From the “Miracle Workers” perspective, the afterlife is a nondescript 9 to 5 slog. It’s not bad, but there’s not a lot to wow a person, either.
Angels settle into their routines, responding to their menial, ho-hum jobs with everything from disenchantment to recalcitrance.
One worker is “Craig,” (Radcliffe) a low-level angel in the Department of Miracles. His job is to answer prayers, which arrive on what look suspiciously like old-school IBM punch cards.
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When Craig gets a prayer he can’t fulfill, he stamps it “IMPOSSIBLE” and sends it elsewhere through a pneumatic chute.
Most prayers can’t be answered; it’s a good day if Craig clears three.
He’s the department’s sole employee until “Eliza” (Geraldine Viswanathan) joins him. Craig is cautious, which benefits him in the solitary, basement-dwelling job. Eliza is ambitious and makes swift, risky decisions. She urges Craig to work faster, answer flashier prayers and increase production.
Adding to the tension between Craig and Eliza is Heaven’s founder and CEO, “God,” played to perfection by Buscemi.
Over the millenia, God has steadily checked out of anything pertaining to his creation. He dresses in loungewear, binge watches TV, trolls social media and pecks at junk food. The only thing that ignites passion is God’s new entrepreneurial scheme: an unusual take on restaurant dining — with a water park twist.
God’s assistant “Rosie” (Lolly Adefope) and archangel “Sanjay” (Karan Soni) try — mostly in vain — to focus his mind on Earth. Humanity’s constant need for attention leads God to call an all-company meeting, where he announces he will blow up the planet.
Craig and Eliza want to change God’s mind. Despite Craig’s misgivings, Eliza entices God to take a bet: If they can pull off an “impossible” miracle, Earth will be spared. God sets a timer for two weeks.
“Miracle Workers” will premiere at 9:30 p.m. Feb. 12 on TBS (check television provider listings). For more information and to watch a trailer, go to www.TBS.com/MiracleWorkers.