×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: Daniel Radcliffe in ‘Miracle Workers’

What if Earth were just an accident, created by someone who never had any idea what the hell they were doing?

So goes the wild, existentially startling premise for “Miracle Workers,” TBS’ new limited comedy series based on Simon Rich’s book “What in God’s Name.” The show is sharp, absurd and empathetic when you least expect it (a combination that will surprise no one who tuned in to Rich’s delightfully weird FX comedy “Man Seeking Woman”). It casts Steve Buscemi — also acting as executive producer — in the role of a dimwitted slacker God. The combination of his strange ideas, lofty ambitions and utter lack of finesse resulted in Earth, which became the laughingstock of the entire galaxy. (Worse were the eight other useless planets he tried first, with frozen rock Pluto a particular object of bemused disdain.)

So while this God may technically be almighty, he nonetheless spends his days padding around his cavernous apartment, frittering away his forever while warehouses of Heaven employees do the granular work of keeping his defective creation operational. In a slyly pointed piece of satire, the God of “Miracle Workers” is basically a delinquent billionaire who puts his vast company on autopilot, only occasionally stepping in to throw a tantrum that makes things more difficult for those who are actually trying to get things done.

It’s a role that perfectly hews to Buscemi’s specific comedy strengths. His version of God is strange and off-putting but also painfully earnest, often revealing a surprise, naive sweetness that keeps him from becoming too flat a caricature. But for as fun as Buscemi is, what makes “Miracle Workers” so good is that it isn’t really about God or the moral implications of there being a Heaven — as is the case on NBC’s “The Good Place,” an inevitable comparison. Instead, the show largely centers on a core group of Heaven’s workers, who are sometimes called “angels” but are more accurately just flawed people who were randomly assigned to Heaven Inc. after death and are now trying to make something of their monotonous afterlives.

When corporate cog Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan) gets more bored than normal, she stumbles into a high-stakes bet with her fed-up employer. If she can’t make two awkward humans (Sasha Compere and Jon Bass) fall in love, Earth will explode. Desperate, she enlists the help of Craig (Daniel Radcliffe), a shy workhorse who’s been manning the Prayers department by himself for years, rarely daring to get more ambitious than guide a gust of wind to help someone find their keys.

As the show’s anchors, Viswanathan (a standout in last year’s teen sex comedy “Blockers”) and Radcliffe (an executive producer who plainly relishes the chance to try some bizarre comedy on for size) play wonderfully off each other. Viswanathan’s blunt delivery balances Radcliffe’s stuttering in such a way that neither becomes too overwhelming. They also manage to ground a complex premise in something approaching reality.

Eventually, to save the planet, they have to call for backup in the form of Sanjay (Karan Soni) and Rosie (Lolly Adefope), God’s personal assistants, whose considerable talents have been wasted on tending to his every ridiculous whim. With this unlikely team, “Miracle Workers” becomes a surprising and very funny workplace comedy — complete with coffee runs and co-worker crushes — that happens to take place in Heaven. 

Whether it’s focusing on God, his dysfunctional angels or his oblivious human creations, the series tackles the universal plight of what it means to seek connection in a world whose only constant is chaos. It loves a silly joke (keep your eyes peeled for background gags), but that perspective keeps the show from collapsing. Ultimately, the small miracle of “Miracle Workers” is that it launches past any obvious gimmicks to favor incisive punchlines that find humor and warmth in the most unusual — and undeniably fascinating — places.

Comedy, 30 mins. Premieres Tuesday February 12 at 10:30 pm on TBS.

Cast: Steve Buscemi, Daniel Radcliffe, Geraldine Viswanathan, Karan Soni, Lolly Adefope, Sasha Compere, Jon Bass

Crew: Executive producers: Simon Rich, Daniel Radcliffe, Steve Buscemi, Lorne Michaels, Andrew Singer.

Related: 

TV Review: Daniel Radcliffe in 'Miracle Workers'

More TV

  • Game of Thrones Fan Theories

    Best Fan Theories for the Final Season of 'Game of Thrones'

    [pmc=related] After eight seasons, “Game of Thrones” fans will finally see if their long-held theories will pay off. Dozens of important characters and a complex plot have made diehard viewers try to foresee plot twists for years. With the original R+L=J theory confirmed, meaning that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark were the real parents of [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • Tryion Lannister Game of Thrones Episode

    'Game of Thrones' Season 8 Episode 2 Leaks

    The second episode of “Game of Thrones'” final season has leaked online ahead of its Sunday night debut. Fear not, “Thrones” fans: though the internet is dark and full of spoilers, this post is free of any details from Season 8 episode 2. Rumblings of a leak began on the “Game of Thrones” Reddit and [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Signs of Solidarity and Strain Emerge as Week 2 of WGA-Talent Agency Standoff Begins

    Hundreds of WGA members rallied solidly behind their union last week as the industry grappled with uncertainties spurred by the sudden break between writers and their talent agency representatives. But as the standoff heads into its second week, signs of strain among some WGA members are beginning to emerge. Shalom Auslander, author and creator of [...]

  • Jon Snow Arya Stark Game of

    'Game of Thrones' Final Season Vegas Odds Reveal Wild Theories

    With “Game of Thrones” hype at an all-time high, Las Vegas may be raking in as much money as the Iron Bank. HBO’s fantasy masterpiece has seized the gambling world’s attention nearly as much as the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby. Fans spew countless theories on social media, such as which characters will be axed [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content