Series Premiere Date: September 30th 2018
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
God Friended Me (Pilot)
Starring: Brandon Micheal Hall, Violett Beane, Javicia Leslie, Suraj Sharma, Joe Morton
If you were to pick one new TV show this 2018/19 season that has the most applicable nature and is the most relevant to today’s technologically driven interconnected society at the moment, I’d say it has to be God Friended Me. Sure you have Manifest that delves into the ‘what if people returning on a flight land at their destination 5 years into the future and adjust to life and all the changes within the time frame’, or A Million Little Things, that touch on the notions and ideas of what it really means to have great friendships and how well we really know each other, when a character in the show, the most well-to-do one, kills himself without warning (and everyone else is left to pick up the pieces); but when everything is said and done, God Friended Me is perhaps the one that’ll have a lot of people talking. A story about religion? Check. Technology? Check.
An outspoken atheist that has a life-altering experience and starts to re-think the whole notion of God through the process? Check. CBS’s new drama, that debuted last Sunday to reasonable ratings, and will be pitted against CW’s Supergirl later on during the year, is one to ask the questions that maybe should be asked but are not, for whatever reason. And with a lot of faith-based dramas, that have had the opportunity to debut on network TV over the past 50 years or so, from Kevin Probably Saves the World and The Good Place, to Touched By An Angel, 7th Heaven, A Gifted Man, Eli Stone and Joan of Arcadia; God Friended Me continues to add to the growing amount of shows that continuously ask questions the human race may either reckon are too embarrassing to ask, or even too outdated for a society like the 21st century. Nevertheless, CBS offers to us God Friended Me, and while the show itself may paint itself into a corner for alienating much of the world who may not be Christians, or even believers in a monotheistic religion (or maybe they may not even belong to any faith at all!), this show nevertheless delivers a show that’ll hopefully give people the courage to speak up and add impactfully to the continuing conversation about life, God, and everything else in between!
So in an age of technology and the tenderness of even discussing about religion in all its facets in a millennial society that seem to place more importance on maintaining the status quo rather than shaking it up, how does God Friended Me fit in? Let’s just say that such a storyline in the TV show may not happen in real life…but then again, who are we to limit and even question God’s methods for shining a light on such a subject as crucial and central as this? The show starts off as this- Miles Finer (Brandon Micheal Hall) is an outspoken atheist, with an up-and-coming podcast and a message to deliver- that there is no God, or even if He was real, He’s not needed in current modern society. Then comes the punchline- one day, he get’s ‘friended’ on Facebook…by an account calling themselves ‘God’. Whether the account really belongs to God Himself or not is rarely even considered or even asked in the pilot, but whatever the case, be it God Himself, or someone else behind such an account like this, Miles suddenly goes on a quest of deeper meaning and solace, as the ‘God’ account decides to connect Miles with various other people (through Friend Requests and Friend Request Suggestions) who may need help at that particular moment in time. And then the story goes from there- I’m sure each week the God account sends Miles a person to consider ‘friending’, all the while the story plays out, that this person is in need of something, and Miles can and ought to encourage the person on their own walk through life, all the while learning about himself and the world he is in, in the process.
When we look at it, God Friended Me is half about faith and religion, half about family and relationships, and being able to see that sometimes, we are made to walk a certain path to understand more about who we are and what we believe in, undertaking life together in a community as we all should. Violett Beane, one of TV’s up-and-coming actresses who’s TV credits include The Flash (as Jessie Quick), signed onto this new project in the role of Cara Bloom, a character that was originally introduced as a ‘friend suggested by God’ to Miles. As the story of the pilot continues, we see that both Miles and Cara have things in common that they themselves may not even have realised. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that from what seemed like something random at the start of the pilot when Miles and Cara are introduced, is really something unique and interconnected when the end of the pilot rolls around.
As Violett share herself in an exclusive interview, ‘…With Cara, she could have been a one-off friend suggestion, but there’s a reason she sticks around and she teams up with Miles and Rakesh to try to figure out who’s behind the account. She’s a journalist so she’s incredibly interested in the story of all of this. When you meet her, she’s also got writer’s block, so she’s not doing well in her job, and there’s a lot of things going wrong. I think that the God account and Miles and all of it came at this right moment for her. And she is a believer, and she believes that everyone’s connected and that there’s something higher than us, so I think this to her is pretty magical… It does say God in the title, but the show actually doesn’t revolve around faith. It’s touched upon in certain episodes, but it’s really just about humanity in general. All the characters in the story, big and small, all come from different backgrounds, and different religions, and different perspectives on life, so I think it might be kind of special for people who are struggling with something like that in their real life. If they’re sitting down with their family or friends that they’re different from them, that maybe it’ll give people a different perspective…’ And it is in this interview that I can see such universal appeal in God Friended Me, and that despite the title of the show, it ought not to discourage people from watching who may have a preconceived idea about God, faith, coincidences, predestination, free will, religion and everything else. For if such a thing like a TV show like God Friended Me, and shows like Manifest and A Million Little Things previously, can impact someone’s life and can challenge what they think about the world and their ideas about love, life, God, community and everything else, then it is a show to be welcomed with open arms. While I don’t know if God Friended Me will get a second season or not, what I will know is this- the show is opening up the dialogue about the discussion of religion, in a healthy non-threatening way that is helpful and edifying to all people involved. Everyone comes from all walks of life- some my have faith, some may not, some may believe another religion that is different from you. Regardless, we are all humans and we are all struggling. And God sees us and loves us and cares for us all. And God Friended Me is a moment for us to realise that there is something greater at play, that our lives are not just an accident, that we are not worthless on this planet called Earth. That our lives from birth to death, the bits in between the points when we raise from the earth, to when we get put back into it, matter. We matter. Our lives and what we do have far greater impact on people than we ourselves realise.
God Friended Me may not win many, if not any, awards. Nor will it be as popular as it really should be. But it will impact lives, and challenge what we think about the world and our fundamental beliefs of whether things are just random chance, or that God is in control of the seemingly out-of-control lives we often lead. And for that, the show has succeeded in its purpose. Never mind that that majority of the cast may not be religious- the show still impacts even if people aren’t as receptive to God than maybe the TV show and the subject of it suggests. Which is ok…who are we to say that God can use this and can’t use that to impact and change people’s lives? As actress Javicia Leslie (who plays Ali Finer, Miles’ sister) relays in an interview, ‘…no matter what you believe in, human connectivity is always the most important thing. You can sit in front of the TV with your family and every single member of the family can find someone or something to connect with on the show. Miles [the main character] is on a mission and it’s one he struggles with… He comes from a father who is a Christian, but it’s very much a spiritual show. … You’ll see that it’s going to help people of different faiths—acceptance for people being exactly who they are—that will be the catalyst for the whole show…’ As she continues to discuss the word community and its importance in general, we start to see more about her own personal faith- ‘…mistakes are necessary in order to grow. Anything I’ve prayed for, whether I’ve gotten it or not, I know God heard me. It’s not about whether you get [what you’ve prayed for], it’s about the communication with Him. The more I communicated, the more I felt my prayers were strengthened. Thank God for [lessons from] the failures and the successes… I realized…start praying for other people and start praying for your network and family—that way you strengthen your team. Another thing you realize in this industry is that you can’t do this by yourself. God gives us the community for a reason, even if we’re not related, like a blood situation. There are people in your life that are there for a reason…’
It is in the light of these quotes above that I can truly appreciate God Friended Me and its importance in today’s society as a whole. Yet will this show survive to season 2? Only time will tell. Yet regardless, I will continue watching, knowing that it is shows like this one that’ll hopefully impact and inspire at least one person. And no matter the faith of whomever watches it, let me encourage- keep watching. And know that at the end of the first episode, you’ll get something out of it, even if it is just one thing. Well done to Greg Berlanti (and the rest of the cast and crew) in creating God Friended Me, here’s hoping this show delves into more technology and faith related topics in the upcoming episodes. So what are we waiting for, sit back and watch (or re-watch) the pilot episode, and be warned. This episode is an impactful one- be sure to discuss the points and messages raised with your family afterward!
RIYL: Kevin Probably Saves the World, Joan of Arcadia, Eli Stone, A Gifted Man, Hand of God, Touched By An Angel
God Friended Me airs every Sunday at 8/7c on CBS.