Review: God Friended Me
Starring: Brandon Micheal Hall, Violett Beane, Suraj Sharma
What if God was one of us—just like the Joan Osborne song says.
If God sent you an unsolicited friend request, would you accept? And would God actually use Facebook, because you know, nobody under 25 is using it these days…
While it’s not unusual for a major American network to greenlight a show about how God can intervene in our lives – think Highway to Heaven and Touched by An Angel folks – what’s more interesting is that there seems to be a resurgence of interest in this subject matter. In a sea of police procedural television series about the evils in the world, it is refreshing that we have this counter-cultural idea back on television.
After all Highway to Heaven, 7th Heaven and Touched by an Angel are all over a decade old now and live large on streaming services and boxed sets sitting in our TV cabinets. Don’t they? Maybe it’s just me…
As reported on Deadline.com with those long-running viewer favourites, the CBS network was quick to point out there are no angels on God Friended Me, but that it is about “tackling questions of faith, existence and science.” CBS also stated that the show is “hopeful, inspiring” and reminds viewers “we are all in it together and that there are really good people out there doing good things.”
God Friended Me is somewhat of a gamble in an era where television audiences are moving off free-to-air and on to streaming services.
The concept is relatively simple: Miles Finer (Brandon Michael Hall) is an outspoken atheist whose life is turned upside down when he receives a friend request on social media from God. Miles unwittingly becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him.
After repeated pokes by God, Miles’ curiosity takes over, and he accepts the ultimate friend request and follows the signs to Cara Bloom (Violett Beane), an online journalist. Brought together by the mysterious account, the two find themselves investigating God’s friend suggestions and inadvertently helping others in need.
Miles is set on getting to the bottom of what he believes is an elaborate hoax, but in the meantime, he’ll play along and – in the process – change his life forever.
The set-up of the show is relatively simple, but it seems like it could be more of a feature film concept than a long running series. It may ultimately need to adopt the help a person a week format like its predecessors to actually work. But as the Executive Producer Steven Lilien explained to Deadline.com the long game will be revealed when “Hall’s character and his friends search for the actual guy behind the “god” account (note little ‘g’ god here), which producers hope is a long journey hopefully answered in 200 episodes.”
The creators of the show believe we need something to unify us more than ever and that faith and social media have that in common. Both social media and faith have had a tendency to divide us, but what if it was the reverse?
“When you think about how people use religion as a tool to divide, at times, we wanted to have a conversation about how we shouldn’t let religion divide us—we should let it bring us together,” says Bryan Wynbrandt about some of the thinking behind the show. “We’re fascinated by culture in general. Nothing has really changed or shaped our culture in the last how many years than social media and the way we communicate with each other.”
“We were fascinated by that and the idea that, like religion, in its most general form, [social media] is supposed to be a positive [place]. It’s something hopeful, something that’s supposed to bring people together, but it’s perverted by humanity in a lot of ways. You see it being used to divide us.
“Social media is a really interesting metaphor for religion in that way because it started off as a great way for all of us to stay connected. And now it’s become this divisive tool.
“So, we thought, let’s smash these two things together because we can say something contemporary about humanity through both of these parallel ideas.”
So do you have to believe in God to watch the show. Executive Producers Sarah Schecter says, “You might not believe in God, but you probably believe in Instagram. Religion is about trying to make sense of the world and what our purpose is, and social media is also about trying to make sense of the way the world works and understand it. So, weirdly, there’s a lot of similarities between the two. You certainly do not have to have a relationship with God to enjoy the show.”
The first episode introduces us to all the characters and sets up the central concept of the show, which is that we are all ultimately connected in some way to each other. But whether that is actually because of God at all may be the central conceit of the show. Is it actually God or is it someone playing god? All these answers will probably play out as the series progresses. Miles and Cara play the roles of super sleuths on a mission (not a mission from God per se) to find out who is behind the enigmatic account. And for every person that is listed under the “Suggested Friends” feature, is the next person that will be impacted by the work of Miles. Or perhaps in the grand scheme of things, they will have an impact on him.
We won’t know until more episodes air if God Friended Me is more God’s Not Dead than that other great CBS series which went all too quickly — Joan of Arcadia — but for now, it will be interesting to see where the series goes and the reaction it gets. Because network television has a tendency to yank material off the air if it doesn’t get an audience.
We’d like to hear what you think of God Friended Me when it airs on Channel 7.