Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
“Call me, and let's talk!” podcaster Miles Finer invited his loyal audience. Finer, an outspoken atheist, hoped to challenge their faith – to prove that the blessings they attributed to God's goodness were actually of their own making. Miles' nihilist banter had caught the attention of SiriusXM, and his broadcasting career was trending upward; but his life was turned upside down when he received a friend request on social media – from God.
That's the implausible premise of CBS' newest sitcom “God Friended Me,” which debuts at 8:30 p.m.* Sunday, Sept. 30. Miles Finer, played by Brandon Micheal Hall, wants his listeners to know that “There is no God, and that is okay.” His goal is to encourage listeners to take responsibility for their own lives. But as the engaging young podcaster explains in the opening lines of the show, “I thought I had it all figured out... but then something happened, and it changed my life forever.”
Miles wants to ignore God's friend request, which he regards as a joke, but God just won't take “No” for an answer. Finally, an exasperated Miles accepts the friend request; and then the story begins! God's first two friend suggestions, John Dove (played by Christopher Redman) and Cara Bloom (played by Violett Beame), enter Miles' life amid turmoil, and their lives are soon intertwined in inexplicable ways.
“God Friended Me” seems, at least judging from its first episode, to be a delightful diversion on Sunday evenings. Miles Finer becomes an unwitting agent of change in the lives of his new social media friends, and future episodes will likely see him impacting others in meaningful ways. The characters are smart, witty, believable; Miles' sister is a bartender who has not abandoned the faith of her youth; his father is a pastor who introduces the viewers to Holy Scripture. The set – including the colorful office and various street scenes in Manhattan – is inviting. The show is uplifting, and there is none of the animus toward religion which is, regrettably, almost the norm in Hollywood.
The show's creators, Bryan Wynbrandt and Steven Lilien, were both raised Jewish, although they have widely different viewpoints today. They agree, though, that social media has something in common with religion, and they believe that audiences will fall in love with their show, regardless of where they fall on the spiritual spectrum. Bryan Wynbrandt said,
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.
Steven Lilien adds,
...you never really see shows having conversations about religion on television. And it's not something that we wanted to have that was judgmental or was taking sides, but would show everybody's different points of view. That was really fascinating to us.
CBS's premiere of “God Friended Me” is scheduled to air Sept. 30; however, the network has made the first episode available for streaming online in its entirety. You can get the flavor of the show by watching the trailer here, or watch the full one-hour episode here.
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*The network's schedule has been adjusted to accommodate an NFL double header on Sept. 30; future episodes will air at 8 p.m.