There’s a moment in the season premiere of Miracle Workers: Dark Ages where a character named Alexandra Shitsoveler (Geraldine Viswanathan) asks her friend Maggie (Lolly Adefope) about how unlucky they are to be living in the Early Middle Ages era where the show takes place: “Do you ever feel like we’re living in a particularly bad time in history?” Given how hopeless everything was at that time, the answer is, of course, a resounding yes. But little do they know it’s also a question that’s relevant now more than ever. Yes, the world that we are living in now feels like a really scary place. Everything feels dreadful and hopeless because the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live and affected almost every aspect of our lives for a couple of months now. No one feels safe and, to make things even worse, the information that we can find from all canals only increases our anxiety.
Now let’s face the fact; we all need something to occupy our mind or simply to pass the time. Some people are learning to cook. Some are trying to distract themselves from the news by reading all the books that they promised to finish last year. And some others are watching movies and catching up with a lot of TV shows. Luckily, we live in a time where an abundance of entertainment can be found easily on all kinds of streaming platforms. From killer zombies to period drama and superheroes, every type of story from plenty of filmmakers and showrunners is just one click away. While it’s much easier to binge popular and Award-winning shows like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, nothing right now is lovelier and more comforting than Miracle Workers: TBS’ comedy anthology series created by Simon Rich and executive produced by Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi, both of whom also star in all two seasons.
When the show premiered last year, Miracle Workers was supposed to be a one-and-done limited series, mostly because the material from which the first season is based, Simon Rich’s What’s in God’s Name, is barely 200 pages long. But after gaining a number of fans — predictably from the popular names of Radcliffe and Buscemi, as well as fans of Rich’s previous series, the underrated subversive rom-com Man Seeking Woman — TBS granted a deserving second season. The two seasons are not related. The only two connecting tissues are the talented ensemble and the showrunner, but the transition from season one to season two, despite having totally different stories, is done seamlessly as the writers manage to maintain the sheer warmth and simplicity that the first season already established.
In season one, the show invites us to experience a chaotic situation where heaven feels like corporate hell and is ruled by incompetent people. Having no motivation left to care about his creation, God (played delightfully by Buscemi) informs all the angels who work for him that he will destroy the earth. None of them care about it because they don’t think that earth is worth saving. But there are two low-level angels, Craig (Radcliffe) and Eliza (Viswanathan), who choose to fight for a place they once called home. They decide to go to God himself and make him an offer he can’t refuse: if both of them are able to achieve God’s wish of making two introverted teenagers (Jon Bass and Sasha Compére) fall in love in two weeks, God won’t cancel the earth.
This is what eventually sets the plot of season one in motion. Each episode we follow Craig and Eliza, along with the help from God’s executive assistant Sanjay Prince (Karan Soni) and the secretary of Heaven Inc. Rosie (Adefope), as they attempt to not fail the mission. Though it looks like the stakes of saving earth are high, the real reward of Miracle Workers has never been in the answer of whether Eliza and her friends are able to save humanity or not. Rather, it’s always been on the smaller, silly moments that are sprinkled throughout the whole show, like when it’s revealed that this God does not know how to read, or when Sanjay is assigned the tedious task of exploding Bill Maher’s penis. No, Miracle Workers is not by any stretch a show that can be categorized as prestige TV. There are no twists and turns or multiple timelines. Even when it’s compared to another afterlife comedy such as Michael Schur’s The Good Place, in which morality, ethics, and humanity are examined, Miracle Workers is still a low-stake series where everything feels safe and lovely despite the life-and-death situation that comes from God’s intention to destroy the earth.
But that is exactly what makes Miracle Workers so delightful. The show doesn’t need to reinvent the genre, nor does it need to try to explore philosophical ideas. Instead, where Miracle Workers truly excels is in its offer of an uplifting slice of TV comfort and escapism from our scary reality right now. Isn’t it refreshing to see a group of creative people having a lot of fun by simply telling a silly little story without trying too hard to delve into thought-provoking objectives? Especially in an era where the TV landscape is mostly populated by shows that challenge us to ponder everything, including ourselves and the issues our society is dealing with right now, Miracle Workers’ simplicity is what makes it an irresistible standout.
Yes, at some point in both seasons, Miracle Workers eventually does explore a few compelling subjects that hold the mirror to our reality – like in its much improved season two, when the show asks us about free-will, whether we’re destined to have a better life than what we’re handed or not, and even reminds us about the importance of humanity and being a better human being. But in doing so, never once does the show get too self-serious about it. Instead, Miracle Workers remains incredibly fun and silly until the very end, offering plenty of bizarre moments that benefit from the cast’s comedic chop, especially Radcliffe, whose performance as the dumb Prince Chauncley in season two gets more hilarious by each episode.
With other big shows from even bigger networks and streaming platforms than TBS, it’s easy to overlook the brilliance of Miracle Workers and its optimistic view of life. But with everything that’s going on at the moment, perhaps a lovely little show like Miracle Workers is something that we could all use right now to make us a little more comfortable in this trying time. Who knows, if Craig and Eliza can restore hope even from a very hopeless place, maybe we, too, can find a little light after this darkness ends.