If Belinda Carlisle is right and Heaven is a place on Earth, it probably looks a lot like Miracle Workers. In the new TBS office comedy, the afterlife is a sprawling, impersonal corporation — Heaven Inc. — plagued by worldly issues like budget cuts, unmotivated workers, and a boss who is both unreasonably demanding and unbelievably helpless.
Daniel Radcliffe stars as Craig, a low-level angel working in the Department of Answered Prayers. Toiling alone in his basement office, Craig is content to solve humanity’s minor problems — finding lost keys, securing better airport WiFi — because only God (Steve Buscemi) is equipped to handle the really big issues like famine, war, and the like. Unfortunately, God’s kind of over Earth, what with all the violence and humanity’s careless destruction of the planet — so rather than answering any prayers, he decides to blow the whole thing up. When Craig’s eager new coworker Eliza (Blockers breakout Geraldine Viswanathan) begs God to reconsider, the Almighty gives the duo two weeks to answer a simple prayer — helping awkward young singles Laura (Sasha Compère) and Sam (Jon Bass) fall in love — or else he’ll pull the trigger on another Big Bang.
Created by Simon Rich (Man Seeking Woman) and based on his 2012 novel What in God’s Name, Miracle Workers takes this bleak premise — Earth is an irredeemable hell-hole! — and wreaths it in sight gags, goofy running jokes, and relatable workplace grievances. (During an exit interview, an employee from the Department of Clouds gripes, “We have no leadership. No direction.”) Miracle Workers (premiering Feb. 12 at 10:30 p.m.) is more amusing than full-fledged funny, but the show’s saving grace is its ensemble. Radcliffe — whose wide eyes and angular features give him the appearance of an adorably worried meerkat — is charming as the skittish Craig, an underdog who talks so fast it’s as though his brain is trying to outrun his anxiety. Buscemi deftly masks the Lord’s passive-aggressive neediness with a façade of beach-bum chill (the stringy gray wig helps), while Karan Soni, as God’s put-upon deputy Sanjay, excels at the art of impotent-underling resentment.
The last time TBS tried the “What if The Office, but [insert wacky place here]” formula, it resulted in the entertaining but short-lived People of Earth. Miracle Workers may have better luck, based on the star-power alone — but the show would benefit from injecting a bit more dark humor into its lighthearted antics. Any show can give us stories about zany coworkers — give us more jokes about making Bill Maher’s penis explode! B