The new CBS drama God Friended Me has a clear perspective. It’s unfortunate though that its perspective doesn’t allow for an openness that would create a depth to the proceedings. The show’s message is overt and it doesn’t give its characters the room to breathe or develop into well-developed individuals.
Miles Finer (Brandon Micheal Hall) opens the show by talking about how he doesn’t believe in God. He hosts a podcast entitled “The Millenial Prophet,” which he hopes Sirius radio will distribute. On his program, he talks openly about his lack of faith. If that’s not enough, he spends much of the first episode emphasizing the fact that he doesn’t believe.
“I believe everything in life can be explained,” he says.
The drama also introduces Miles’ father as a pastor, who maintains his great faith. The two have opposing views on religion but the program doesn’t add a depth to that debate. Instead, it settles with offering their divergent perspectives.
The concept of the show is that Miles receives a friend request from God. He rejects it but notes the names of God’s friend suggestions. One of them is the enigmatic John Dove (Christopher Redman), who suddenly makes a dramatic appearance in Miles’ life. Another is Cara Bloom (Violett Beane), a reporter with a painful past of her own. In the program’s first hour, we see Miles’ life changed forever by a new connection to John and Cara, a connection that seemingly proves that everything happens for a reason.
The pilot episode showcases this connection with a workmanlike quality, pushing to get its message across. That idea though undercuts the characters themselves. Instead of being fully-developed individuals, they all come across superficially. We know, for instance, that Miles is an atheist because he seemingly repeats that throughout the episode. Aside from one scene noting why he lost his faith, the show seems just focused on his one big character trait. The same goes for many of the other characters here.
At the end of the episode, there seems to be a finality to the plot. All of the threads have been connected and big changes have been made in many of the characters’ lives. The drama wraps things up like a short movie, rather than opening up its concept to allow for further installments.
It will be interesting to see where the show goes from here. Will each episode focus on another way the characters will be connected in a unique way? Will each one find Miles finding more and more reasons to believe in a higher power?
Show creators Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt started out with an interesting concept here (an atheist being challenged by what seems to be divine intervention) but they don’t build up its foundation enough to truly satisfy. This drama may attempt to follow in the footsteps of religious dramas like Touched by an Angel or even Joan of Arcadia but it needs a lot of work and depth to truly fit into that category. That’s something that no simple friend request will change.
Review by: John Hanlon