by Tanner Kinney
Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for this episode of God Friended Me.
Have you ever seen a Pure Flix film? The films are cheap, contain varying qualities of acting, and have a message that, no matter how you view it, is definitely hamfisted. As in like a full holiday ham is delivering the message about God to the silver screen. Some of these films have managed to blend in with real films and get shown in actual cinemas, and they even have a streaming service for those who are interested in having their films on-demand. None of those films are particularly good, though some are entertaining in ways the directors likely never intended. Having seen more than my fair share of these films, I have to say the only one worth watching is Faith of Our Fathers, because it was so unintentionally hilarious that it was oddly compelling.
In a way, God Friended Me captures that kind of essence, creating a show that can in no objective way be considered “good,” but still manages to deliver something compelling to watch.
“Pilot” sets a clear-cut course, but the ride is turbulent
The first episode, “Pilot,” follows Miles Finer, a proud atheist podcaster, who receives a friend request on actual Facebook from God. Following through with friend suggestions given to him by God, Miles saves a man who attempts to commit suicide, helps his cooky friend hook up with a nice lady friend, and finally helps a journalist reconnect with her mother (along with writing a spicy clickbait article). The story is rather simple, and sets up nicely for what will likely be a procedural of sorts. The overall narrative of the episode isn’t very interesting, but the core of it and the pieces that make up the narrative are all fascinating, for better or for worse.
The core idea of the show is, admittedly, more interesting than anything Pure Flix has tried to deliver. The show is essentially a detective procedural, with Miles Finer and journalist Cara Bloom serving as the investigative duo doing the footwork, while wacky co-worker Rakesh Sehgal serves as the hacker/computer expert/guy-in-the-chair. Except, instead of solving crimes, they piece together the mystery of why God sent a friend suggestion for the person of the day. It makes for a surprisingly compelling core narrative, even if the meat around it is a little raw.
The problem with this episode is, well, pretty much everything else. The show is extremely funny, and I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time at a TV show. The only problem is that I laughed with the show once, and spent the rest of the time laughing at the ridiculous amount of conveniences and coincidences within the show’s narrative. The fact that the show has God as a central character does not excuse all of the contrivances within the plot. For example, the climax of the episode has Cara Bloom getting hit by a car, only to have the first person Miles saved be in the taxi nearby. This first person is also a doctor who brings Cara back from the brink of death. It’s so dumb that it’s hard to believe someone genuinely scripted it.
The episode also doesn’t really escape the hamfisted nature of many similar shows/films to this. All of the pop songs are on the nose to a point, with atheist podcaster Miles walking around at the start of the episode to “I’m Different” by 2 Chainz. In a conversation with his podcast guest, Miles brings up that “you would think I’m crazy if I said a bush burning was a sign from God.” Not even five minutes later, as a sign from God, a bush lights on fire right in front of him. The ultimate hilariously bad moment is when God hacks Miles’s computer to replace his atheist podcast presentation with clips of sermons and The Ten Commandments. If I knew God was that petty, I would go to church more often. We can relate.
The regular dialogue in this episode, when it isn’t delivering the hamfisted message, is also embarrassing in different ways. Most of the worst lines are delivered by the wacky friend Rakesh, with such classic lines as “I’m not a hacker, I’m a video game enthusiast” and “The God account is being protected by a firewall I’ve never seen before.” The line delivery also ranges from believable to questionable to “did they actually not do a second take for that.” The lead, played by Brandon Michael Hall, has a particularly large number of these bad line reads, which is shocking considering he did a great job as the lead of ABC’s The Mayor. It could just be a problem of this being a pilot episode, since the bad line reads get better as the show progresses, so maybe future episodes will be a much better experience.
The final question is: Does this show entice viewers to keep watching past this episode? The honest and surprising answer is yes, this show is worth continuing to watch. This episode was wildly entertaining and, even though a lot of enjoyment wasn’t due to it actually being good, the core of it has potential to genuinely expand into something kind of interesting. That or the show will stay terrible, but will still be a riot to watch regardless.
Featured image: CBS
‘God Friended Me’ Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
“Pilot” serves its purpose to establish the procedural nature of ‘God Friended Me.’ The episode itself, however, doesn’t give confidence that this series will have a long lifespan. Somewhere buried underneath all of the cringey dialogue, terrible acting, contrived plot points, there’s a solid core that has potential to make an interesting show discussing religion and social media. That, however, would be too complex and unique for a primetime CBS show. It may be fun to watch as something fascinatingly bad, but that doesn’t actually make it good.
Tanner is a Film and Media Studies major and a Digital Media minor. His Neo Yokio review won a second-place CSPA Golden Circle award for the 2017 semester. He enjoys playing JRPG’s of any variety, regardless of how obscure and strange it is. Tanner is also the host of Byte at the Movies, the premiere movie discussion live-stream.