This is no time to bring God into the situation. Especially if you’re aiming for satire. Besides, we all know that Satan is more fun.
The best thing that can be said about God’s Favorite Idiot (streams Netflix) is that it doesn’t waste time getting to the part where the principal character is, um, touched by God. Just a few minutes in, our alleged hero Clark (Ben Falcone) is struck by lightning and then mysterious things begin to happen. Regrettably, you have to wait until Episode 4 to meet Satan herself (Leslie Bibb), arriving dressed in leather and snarling.
This new series could only exist on Netflix. One of the worst shows of the year, and it’s only June, it exists because it stars Falcone with his wife, Melissa McCarthy. Now, you know, McCarthy has become a major force in the past decade, and fair play to her, she’s been brilliant at times. Apart from her movie work, her portrayal of Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, on Saturday Night Live, was defining of the Trump era.
Here, she’s wasted in what is a muddled, lazy heap of stinking clichés. The deal is that Clark, a shy, quiet IT guy, is chosen by God to help stop Satan from taking over. Or something. First, Clark glows in the dark. This phenomenon is observed by co-worker Amily (McCarthy), but nobody believes her. The others in the office are skeptical because Amily is mostly, drunk, high and being unfathomably rude to people. It is a sign of the ineptitude of the series that these traits seem to disappear by Episode 2, and the character played by McCarthy becomes boring.
As hard as that is to imagine, there’s worse ahead. Clark always had a thing for Amily but didn’t ask her out. Now he does, and starts glowing again. Someone shares this online and it goes viral. Of course it does; the series is that vilely dedicated to the obvious.
Let’s pause here and consider the context. Almost every year, there’s a faith-friendly network drama series. That is, Christian-faith friendly. Not long ago there was God Friended Me on CBS, which featured a young man being friended by God on Facebook and sent out to do good deeds. Just before that, there was ABC’s Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, about a misanthrope who touches a meteorite, is transformed into a “warrior for God” and can help others with a simple hug.
It’s not hard to figure out why these shows exist. Each one, going back to Touched by an Angel, is an overture to white evangelical Christians who are concerned about their religion’s place in the U.S. culture. And, yes, Christian conservatives are a solid and loyal audience.
Any hope that God’s Favorite Idiot sets out to have fun with this history of God-friendly shows is misplaced. The series veers into sincerity and, by the second episode, Clark is effortlessly quoting the New Testament and an angel appears. He tells Clark, “You have been chosen by God to help the world.” How will this happen? “Spread the message, just be yourself,” the angel replies. Next thing you know, Clark is bringing a dead bird back to life.
Everything about this series is jaw-droppingly slack and unambitious, given the talent involved. The material aimed at satirizing office life for Clark and Amily is tired, the material aiming to poke fun at religious fervour is spiritless. Occasionally, McCarthy delivers a line meant to land at least a smile. For instance, when Clark is surrounded by new acolytes, she shouts, “Don’t you all have a gun rally to go to?” But the series has no focus, no imagination and if McCarthy and Falcone weren’t already successful and well-off, you’d just feel sad for them.
The one you truly feel for is Leslie Bibb as Satan. It should be a fun role: Satan is a tall, blonde temptress in leather on a speeding motorcycle. But nothing happens with that bit of comic business. Nothing. There are 30-second commercials on network TV with more sass and imagination than this crock of God-centric nonsense. There were supposed to be 16 half-hour episodes, but only eight have been made, thank God.
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