Miracle Workers gives us a heaven that is run like a factory, with the majority of angels in the role of office drones and low-level factory workers. Most of them have been there for thousands of years, but their work only amounts to just another wheel in the corporate machine. At the top is God, played by Steve Buscemi, who’s kind of over this whole ruling the universe thing.
Based on the book “What in God’s Name” by Simon Rich, who is also the creator of the show, Miracle Workers follows two low-level angels Craig (Daniel Radcliffe) and Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan) who manage the prayer department of heaven. Craig has been there for 10,000 years and is proud of his work in taking care of the prayers that are easy to fix — finding someone’s keys or glove, for instance – by giving them subtle signs. Eliza is new to the department and is dead set on making a difference — she grants a prayer to someone begging for rain to end a drought, something Craig would have labeled impossible and sent up to God. Instead, Eliza’s good intentions unintentionally cause a typhoon that kills thousands of people. This results in God deciding it’s time to destroy the earth, because, like, what’s the point anymore?
That pretty much sets up the rest of the season of Miracle Workers. Convinced she can prove to God Earth is worth saving, Eliza makes a bet with him that she can answer one of the impossible prayers Craig is always turning away. God gives her two weeks to make Laura and Sam, two people who are interested in each other but are too shy to take the next step, fall in love.
There’s an existential mindset from where Miracle Workers gets its humor from. Miracle Workers works because of its willingness to treat everything as if it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. In doing so, it makes the things it does decide to focus on all the more meaningful. One particular recurring joke has Eliza and Craig muting their computer screens when something bad is about to happen. For example, Craig and Eliza answer a prayer from a guy who’s looking for his glove. They control the wind to allow the leaves to blow away, uncovering the glove. As they cheer a job well done, the guy then goes on a killing spree.
This show could so easily fall into religious satire, but its nonchalant use of dark humor helps level it out. Rich, during a Q&A following the screening at Sundance, said the show is more about existential doom. Using a newscaster to deliver bad news as a running joke so as to undermine what our characters think they’re doing right is only the beginning. Steve Buscemi plays a drunk God with hilarious intention, while Daniel Radcliffe shows his comedic chops as an angel who is comfortable in his way of doing things. Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers) perfectly balances out the duo of Craig and Eliza by providing a level of sentimentality the show needs in order to balance the dark humor. Karan Soni (Deadpool) plays God’s exasperated executive assistant, giving the two a great dynamic.
Even while humans are dying on earth, sometimes in ways directly caused by the angels we’re rooting for, and a literal ticking clock counts down Earth’s final days, Miracle Workers lets us think about the world and our place in it.
Miracle Workers premieres Tuesday, February 12 at 10:30/9:30c on TBS.