A Deeply Flawed Apocalyptic Workplace Comedy
The movie and television world is no stranger to the prospects of the apocalypse and the downfall of society as it currently functions. Whether it is a beloved teenage series like Divergent, The Maze Runner, or The Hunger Games, a world overrun by zombies, or a black comedy like This Is the End, this has become its genre reaching across decades and finding light and humanity even in the darkest moments. But what happens when a disgruntled tech worker has to be that source of light? No computer or monitor can save the Earth except this one man. That is the story of Netflix’s newest comedy series God’s Favorite Idiot.
Ordered as a sixteen-episode series by Netflix back in December 2020, the series finally debuted in June 2022. Stormy waters appeared in 2021 when the series was cut in half to eight episodes, officially ending production where they were shooting in Australia. Creator and executive producer Ben Falcone was slated to star alongside his wife, Melissa McCarthy, through their personal production company: On the Day Productions. Months later, it was announced that Kevin Dunn, Leslie Bibb, Yanic Truesdale, and Usman Ally, among others, were cast in supporting roles. Michael McDonald (MADtv) is to direct every episode of the series along with being an executive producer.
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An Average Tech Worker Finds Himself Blessed by God
On the Day Productions
God’s Favorite Idiot comes in bite-sized installments running at about twenty-five to thirty minutes an episode, making it the perfect kind of show to watch mindlessly over a longer period. Melissa McCarthy, who previously starred in Netflix’s Perfect Strangers, returns to the streaming platform to team up with her husband and collaborator Ben Falcone (Tammy, The Boss). Falcone wrote God’s Favorite Idiot and portrays its main protagonist, Clark, who is the average middle-aged tech worker awkwardly living his best life until one day he is struck by lightning. This seems to be quite the divine act, as he magically begins to glow and develop powers.
One would not assume this is the scenario in the show’s opening moments as Clark sings along to Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times” and talks to his cat while in a bathrobe. While wandering outside, looking for his other cat Skittles, he looks up, sees a cloud hovering above him, then gets hit by the lightning bolt. His newfound powers are an initial mystery, but his soon-to-be-girlfriend (McCarthy) and family are now convinced that this is an act of God.
They are not too far off the mark with their assumption, as an angel appears and tells Clark that he has become one of God’s messengers and that it is now up to him to stop the upcoming apocalypse. The show’s antagonist? That one is a classic: Satan (Leslie Bibbs) and her forces of evil. In a mirror to the real world, which is now full of difficulties, this is a world that seems pretty peaceful on the surface. All the workers at Clark’s workplace surprisingly get along, and there is not much drama outside of the religious plotlines.
The rest of the series then swells on Clark’s journey of trying to spread the word of God to prevent the apocalypse. As the episodes unfold and the plot exposes itself, it becomes more evident why this series may have potentially had its lifespan cut short. Nothing happens, which is what one may expect from a pseudo-missionary that has just been hit with lightning and now has some divine mission. It might have been more interesting if Clark had some inner conflict about what is going on, driving up the stakes beyond the mundane fact that the apocalypse may or may not happen.
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Taking on Classic Themes of Good vs. Evil
One thing is certain about the show: it introduces these concepts that many Western viewers would be familiar with, such as Satan, God, and War, but then it uses these characters and situations to riff on these familiarities to garner laughs. God’s Favorite Idiot does not contribute much to the philosophical or moral implications behind what it means to save the world or what these notions of good or evil actually are. Perhaps if the show were to dig a bit deeper, and go beyond comedy on a superficial level, then it would have been more memorable. Instead, it is a straightforward comedy that plays on situations that many already potentially know and love before pressing play.
The majority of its characters, too, are unforgettable. McCarthy’s and Falcone’s characters run this show, so they get the most screentime and thus more character development. Their co-workers and other characters are condemned to the back of the screen, appearing only when needed for a quick joke or two, or for scaling down McCarthy’s Amily and how she believes that Clark glows after running into him at the office one late night. What she says is true, but everyone thinks she is either high or on drugs.
This bit is a little unsettling though, despite Amily being depicted slightly as an absent-minded character at times. Although done for the sake of comedy, it evokes the historical depiction of women’s concerns as hysteria. Her concerns are proven valid later, as Clark does indeed glow, but as the show tries to spin this female-positive world where Satan is a woman—but that concept is pretty complicated. Too often women are blamed as one of the world’s original sins in Christianity, making them a scapegoat for being the root of all evil.
Satan here is a temptress, yet another classic archetype when it comes to depicting women. Considering the main protagonist is a man, it overly relies on the notion that his life is now dictated by God, a girlfriend (Amily), and Satan, who is another vengeful woman trying to pull everyone down with her with no explicit reason given. Rather than her being a solid form of representation in the entertainment world, this is harmful and perpetuates age-old stereotypes if Satan is not given enough characterizations to subvert the underlying expectations already there.
Yet, at the same time, when Clark tells his coworkers about the word of God, he is not questioned much. When Amily is tempted by Satan she is offered alcohol, thus solidifying her image as a ditzy blonde addicted to booze and drugs. That then demotes her on the totem pole of patriarchy. McCarthy’s talent and skills are not utilized properly in God’s Favorite Idiot, making her seem more like a prop than an actual character at times. While she is not taken seriously, Clark is now considered to be the mouthpiece of God and spread the word about his disciples.
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God’s Favorite Idiot Misses the Mark
On the Day Productions
Some moments shine in their comedic timing and humor, but, as a whole, God’s Favorite Idiot does not do much to make it stand out from the competition. It is a valiant effort from the team and Clark, who has been trying to save the world from Satan, but it falls flat. The writing, too, falls flat at times and feels majorly underdeveloped in its reasons why certain things occur at certain points. It becomes a little too convenient after a certain point, casting doubt about how fleshed out the plot was.
Maybe this was intentional, making this show something that someone would watch mindlessly on a Sunday night. It does offer a good premise, but it needed to go much deeper than it does. There is little story to progress the action and conflict, making the majority of the eight episodes being characters just talking to each other about what is happening. None of the characters grow, and they are locked in these archetypes of awkward IT guy, his more outgoing girlfriend, and vaguely helpful coworkers helping them sort out their issues.
In the end, it comes across as a series that does not want to require too much thinking. It wants the viewer to get lost in the world that it creates. However, that world is not immersive enough no matter how hard it tries to include Alexa or Harry Styles. Even with the repeated efforts to try and drive in some humorous effect throughout, it leaves the viewer asking this: so what? The world may never see the remaining eight episodes of the series, as there is no word about when those will come out if they even come out, but stay tuned to see if episodes nine through sixteen potentially ever escape the void.
God’s Favorite Idiot is available to stream on Netflix as of June 15, 2022.