After death, it seems, fortunate mortals ascend to a plane of celestial mediocrity. “Congratulations on your completely random entry into Heaven,” a functionary says on “Miracle Workers” (TBS), where the pearly gates resemble an elevator vestibule in an office park. The seven-episode comedy presents a vision of eternity as drudge work and office politics. Trolleys groan with interoffice envelopes at Heaven, Inc., as they trundle through a building with the profile of a chemical plant along the New Jersey Turnpike; the head of H.R.—or, rather, A.R., angel resources—is played by Angela Kinsey, from “The Office.” The show depicts God’s involvement in our world as the project of “an illiterate madman,” managed from below by archangels.

Adapting his novel “What in God’s Name?,” the series creator, Simon Rich, has created Him (Steve Buscemi) in our image: foolhardy, self-centered, artless, definitely not omniscient. There is a bit of the Old Testament in his caprice, something pagan in his appetite. Watching television in his sweatpants, overwhelmed by news reports of melting ice sheets and senseless carnage, he chooses to tune out: “I just feel like packing it all in and moving on to the next thing.” He is set to destroy Earth and then focus on his next project—a restaurant whose idiotic concept reflects both his thick-wittedness and the show’s taste for low-hanging fruit. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with the whim of a trust-fund brat. In a late episode, we get a meaningful glimpse into God’s background, when we learn that he was the youngest and least successful child among his siblings; his father (Chris Parnell) gives a disappointed frown when God’s older brother (Tituss Burgess) reveals that he has given us free will.

The job of thwarting doomsday falls to Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan), a go-getter recently posted in the Department of Answered Prayers. She works alongside Craig (Daniel Radcliffe), who wears a hermitic beard and an air of genial resignation. Oppressed by the ceaseless cascade of pleas for relief from misery, Craig takes solace—which he mistakes for pleasure—in devising Rube Goldbergian schemes to help humans with mundane hassles involving missing gloves and distant urinals. The ambitious newbie confronts the impotent veteran; for two minutes or so, the show develops a decent riff about finding meaning in work, and, therefore, life, and then it moves on to fry other philosophical fish—a whole bucket of smelt, some less than fresh.

Eliza makes a wager with the supreme being: if, within two weeks, she can resolve one ticket from the heap of “impossible” prayers, God will extend some mercy. Her mission concerns two timid twenty-four-year-olds, Laura and Sam, who have met at a party, developed a thing, and exchanged a clammy handshake; each entreated the Almighty to initiate a romance. In order to forestall the End Times, Eliza and Craig must bring a bare-bones rom-com to a satisfying conclusion. They are assisted by an oily archangel (Karan Soni) whose smugness and flattery make for a cute parody of executive-suite behavior.

The show is all over the place: it’s sharp when squinting at absurdity, juvenile when diarrhea jokes plop to the fore, sappy when it spares a moment to cherish the mystery and majesty of creation. (“You made Earth a hard place so that we have learned to be strong,” Craig tells his maker.) Several of the passing gags are more confident than the main plots, and several minor characters prove more memorable than Radcliffe’s noble mouse, who mostly quivers and cringes in elaborate spasms of worry. The premise for another, more thoroughly entertaining series is toyed with and flung aside in Episode 3: on a lark, our mercurial God decides to reveal himself to a family man (Tim Meadows) who eventually explains to God that he hasn’t got the time to serve as a prophet right now and, besides, he doesn’t want to ruin their friendship. But, for all its tickling blips of farce and droll bits of drive-by theology, “Miracle Workers” is fundamentally corny, which may be a proof of its sincerity. It’s a meaningfully honest response to a senseless universe.

Sourse: newyorker.com

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