'God's Favorite Idiot,' streaming, Netflix
NEW YORK (CNS) -- While it may be one of Netflix's most popular recent shows, and although it features comic headliner Melissa McCarthy, "God's Favorite Idiot" is a painfully unfunny misfire.
Dreadfully crass to boot, the limited series is streaming in eight half-hour episodes.
McCarthy's husband, Ben Falcone, created and wrote the program, in which he also co-stars. Michael McDonald directed six installments while Sheila Waldron helmed the remaining two.
The story plays fast and loose with the sacred as it follows the fortunes of computer technician Clark Thompson (Falcone) and the colleague he would like to make his girlfriend, Amily Luck (McCarthy). After a supernatural experience that transpires to the tune of Harry Styles' "Sign of the Times," Clark takes on a strong, inexplicable glow.
At first, only Amily is aware of Clark's strange transformation. And when she tries to tell her co-workers about it, she's met with predictable skepticism and derision.
But all that changes after the two go on a dinner date during which the Styles song, played at random in the background, causes Clark to radiate in front of everyone in the restaurant. He becomes an instant social media sensation.
Clark's newfound stardom draws the enmity of televangelist the Rev. Milton Throp (Leon Ford), who regards him as a threat. Throp brands Clark an "agent of the devil," and his followers hound Clark at his home and hurl bricks through his window.
Clark himself, by contrast, believes he's been given his otherworldly gift in order to do good. Yet, as an inactive Episcopalian, he's unsure what his message should be.
A visit from the apocryphal archangel Chamuel (Yanic Truesdale) clarifies things. "Lucifer is trying to take over throne of heaven," he informs Clark, "and it's not going well for the good guys." (Mentioned in some medieval sources, but absent from Scripture, Chamuel is not among the three named archangels venerated by the church.)
A subsequent encounter with God (Magda Szubanski) -- who manifests as a mature Englishwoman -- makes the nature of the crisis clearer still. "The world is at a tipping point," she says. "If people don't love and respect each other more, then God will have to whip the devil."
As this snippet of dialogue indicates, the script tries to convey a basically respectable moral point. But this generally congenial ethical outlook is clouded both by do-it-yourself theology and layers of gratuitous vulgarity. Through the four episodes reviewed, the show also includes some mild violence and an incidental same-sex couple.
More unusual -- and more disturbing -- than the crudity of the proceedings is the show's treatment of Amily's persistent substance abuse. Her binge drinking and indulgence in all manner of narcotics is treated as comic fodder. This is typified by a sight gag in which she sports a blouse fashioned to look like a Budweiser beer can.
Anyone familiar with the life-threatening perils of alcoholism and drug use will find this sort of humor not only offensive but profoundly irresponsible. It's yet another reason to steer clear of a series whose modicum of goodness comes buried under an avalanche of distasteful material and misguided values.
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Byrd is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.