Steve Buscemi and Daniel Radcliffe lead a delightful cast in an absurd, and often funny, limited series.
The world is a mess, and no one knows that more than the big man himself. Up in Heaven, God (played by Steve Buscemi), slouches on the couch, overwhelmed by climate change and violence across the globe. Fixing all of the world’s problems is too much even for the guy in charge, so who is going to fix it? TBS’ new limited series Miracle Workers presents us with massive problems, but it suggests that we can do our part to make it better if we focus on the little things.
While God struggles to maintain focus, there are employees of Heaven, Inc. who are trying to push themselves creatively. Up in Heaven, there’s a department for everything–animals, constellations, volcano safety–and Eliza (Blockers‘ Geraldine Viswanathan, eager and charming) asks to be transferred from the Department of Dirt to something more challenging. She is excited when she is moved to the Department of Answered Prayers where she meets the only other employee, Craig, played by a scruffy Daniel Radcliffe. Craig is overly cautious and ignores all of the more threatening prayers that come through his department, but he’s very enthusiastic to help mortals find their lost car keys.
Eliza’s enthusiasm for Earth forces her to challenge God when he decides to blow up his failure of a planet. If she and Craig can get two mortals to kiss, he won’t pull the plug. The couple in question, Laura and Sam (played by Sasha Compère and Jon Bass) happen to be the most awkward pair imaginable, so Craig and Eliza truly have their work cut out for them.
Despite hammering home that Earth is a garbage fire (something we get almost all day, every day), Miracle Workers is breezy and charming. It takes huge ideas and whittles them down to relatable problems, and the entire cast is game to alleviate our stress by assuring that no matter where you are, we’re all struggling to be happy. This heavenly plain is colorful and clean but the workers of Heaven, Inc. aren’t always the best at their jobs. As Eliza and Craig try to push Sam and Laura closer together, they leave an unintentional, and amusing, trail of destruction and death.
Buscemi’s take on God is scraggly and dim–there’s no angelic fanfare or billowing robes. He’s quick to anger and his ideas make his underlings roll their eyes. He’s harmless, though. There is a gag with a bowl full of jellybeans late in the season that is quite funny. I wonder if Buscemi found inspiration in world leaders who are clearly in over their heads. Since Harry Potter, Radcliffe has been proved that he has acting chops, but he’s never been this funny before. Craig revels in how cautious he is, but he’s also a romantic. He has a fun energy that bounces well off of Viswanathan’s almost manic helpfulness. Combined with Karan Soni’s Sanjay (as God’s right hand man), they are scrappy holy trinity. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Miracle Workers excels because it has good intentions and a loving spirit, but it has a sharp edge. People will inevitably compare it to NBC’s The Good Place, but Miracle doesn’t get tangled in its own devices. It’s also refreshing that we get a comedic limited series with 20 minute episodes. Don’t get too alarmed by how much you enjoy it. It’s all part of God’s plan.
Miracle Workers debuts on TBS on February 12.