Does Religion Have a Place on Primetime Television? New Series “God Friended Me”
Creators of the new faith-based show, God Friended Me, claim that they’re seeking to find the “middle ground between a believer and a nonbeliever.”
Religion and mainstream television don’t often go hand in hand, but the formula is getting an update with the new television series “God Friended Me”, which premieres on CBS on Sunday, September 30th.
CBS has reason to hope for the new series, considering their previous successes with the faith-based genre, with shows like “Touched by an Angel” in the 1990s and “Joan of Arcadia” in the 2000s.
“God Friended Me” stars Brandon Micheal Hall (last seen in ABC’s “The Mayor”) as Miles, a young atheist podcast host who receives a “friend request” from God. Miles is skeptical, having lost his faith since his mother’s death, to the chagrin of his preacher father, played by “Scandal’s” Joe Morton.
Similar to its predecessor “Touched by an Angel”, Miles is then appointed to help people in need, through God’s guiding hand—via social media, presumably.
Miles is also joined by a more “spiritual” foil, Cara, played by Violett Beane.
God Friended Me Aims to Offer a Modern Take on Religion
Considering the often-polarizing subject of religion, the show aims to remain light and respectful, focusing on the concept of basic human goodness and our connectivity with each other—which theoretically sounds good in our divisive times.
Show creators Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt (“Alcatraz”) claim that they’re seeking to find the “middle ground between a believer and a nonbeliever.”
Overall, the market for religion-based programming has been strangely stagnant among viewers, despite a veritably large segment of the population that subscribes to a faith.
It’s not necessarily without effort from Hollywood: there have been several recent attempts at the subject matter, but mostly with little success among audiences: CW’s “Reaper”, Fox’s “Wonderfalls”, NBC’s “The Book of Daniel”, and ABC’s “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” and “Eli Stone”.
TV Writer-Producer Michael Schur has scored recent success with NBC’s “The Good Place”—although not overtly religious, it taps into broader themes of spirituality such as the afterlife.
“Religion is tribal,” Schur explained. “And people who strongly believe in one religion, it’s a zero-sum game—and you mostly do not believe in another religion or the tenets of another religion. [This] causes a lot of friction, and it’s dicey to talk about, especially on TV in a quick way—in 21 minutes or whatever. Ethics is not tribal.”
“God Friended Me” is making efforts to be more inclusive and contemporary, with its references to social media, technology, and the current generation of millennials. Its creators also stress that they will not promote any one religion.
Along with creators Bryan Wynbrandt and Steven Lilien, it will be produced by Greg Berlanti (“Dawson’s Creek”, “Riverdale”).
“God Friended Me” premieres Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on CBS.