Cable television has always been seen as somehow less prestigious than movies: a step down, even. This is due, at least in part, to the astronomical pay–grade difference between the two mediums. Apart from a handful of powerhouse series like the Big Bang Theory or Modern Family, television provides actors with far less "big bang" for their buck than movies typically do. Resultantly, we don't see movie stars do television (save for the rare miniseries) unless it’s a desperate attempt to revamp their careers.
Which is what makes it so bizarre that Daniel Radcliffe is doing television now. Not a limited release. Not a docuseries. But real, actual, made–to–order television.
In a surprising departure from blockbuster fantasy films, Radcliffe is now starring on a TBS comedy show. In Miracle Workers, he plays an overworked angel (kind of) employed at Heaven Inc. in the “Answered Prayers” department. So clearly Radcliffe isn’t even the weirdest thing happening here.
Even without Radcliffe, Miracle Workers is a pretty off show. Based on Simon Rich’s What in God’s Name, this workplace comedy set in Heaven is a far cry from what one would expect of anyone involved.
First, even though Lorne Michaels is listed as a producer, the show lacks any indicia of that fact. It airs on TBS, yet it doesn’t resemble TBS’s brand of dime–on–the–dollar syndication at all.
Even still, the premise is interesting enough. When a fed–up God (Steve Buscemi) becomes exhausted by our ungodly world, he decides to shut down production. In a last–ditch–effort to save humanity, the Answered Prayers department makes a deal: If they succeed in answering one impossible prayer, they can restore God's hope and save the world. And, predictably, the impossible prayer is about helping two people fall in love. That's fine. The audience gets to watch the couple's nerdy meet–cute and how life gets in the way of two compatible people. It's endearing, but there's something almost saccharine about the overwhelming quirkiness of the two characters. It's like watching 2010 Zooey Deschanel attempting to pursue 2012 Zooey Deschanel. It's exhausting for just a pilot. Unfortunately, the episodes that follow aren't any less exhausting. There's something about this show that's just unpalatably weird.
But weird is okay. In the world of comedy television, weird is as good as it gets. Weird works. Usually. But in Miracle Workers, there’s just far too much going on. Between Radcliffe’s soft launch into comedy acting, Steve Buscemi as a burnt–out and lackadaisical God, and Heaven as a corporation, we get far too little backstory to understand it all. It’s a lot to digest in a 30 minute run–time.
The most disappointing part about Miracle Workers is that all the pieces are there and all the actors are genuinely good. But none of it fits together at all. And while watching the show, you want so badly for it to work. You can sense the potential beneath the surface. And with only seven episodes for the show to land on its feet, a happy ending seems unlikely.