Who is behind the "God" account? We may not find out until the series finale. But, it's a lot of fun trying to find out and part of why CBS's "God Friended Me" is connecting with audiences. In the pilot, the mysterious social media user behind the "God" account "friends" Miles Finer, an atheist who uses his podcast to mock God. Once he finally accepts the strange request, Finer begins to get friend suggestions, which puts him in the path of strangers he is able to help. His first friend request, John Dove, had just got dumped by his girlfriend and was about to jump in front of a train, until Miles grabbed him.
With the help of his hacker friend Rakesh, Miles tracks down "God's" location. In the first episode, "God" was in Jersey. This past week, he was in "Hell's Kitchen." Still, he/she/it remains elusive.
In episode 1.2, "The Good Samaritan," Miles crosses paths with a woman named Katie and her autistic son Nate. When Katie's boss gets violent and verbally abusive, Miles steps in to help. But, his "help" ends up costing her her job. Slowly, Katie lets her guard down and accepts Miles's assistance - after all, he seems harmless. He comes to find out that Nate has a difficult time communicating. When the two find themselves in a music store, they play the piano together and Katie's heart nearly bursts when she walks in and sees her son smiling for the first time in a long time. It turns out Nate is able to connect with him mom through music, a discovery which leads up to a beautiful, tearjerker of an ending.
For the whole episode I was waiting to find out why Katie and her son had become so distant. Was the father ever a part of their lives? But, I realized that wasn't the important part - it was Miles's ability to love them regardless of their history.
In the second episode we also see Miles and his reverend father begin to reach out more to one another. The two men dealt with the death of Miles's mother vastly differently. Rev. Finer sought God, while Miles rejected him. Yet, the two are learning that they need to "agree to disagree," as actor Joe Morton put it, and start talking again.
At its core, "God Friended Me" is all about people helping people. Contrary to what you may think when hearing the title, it is not intent on forcing any one belief system on its audience. That was very clear from my chats with the cast last week during a studio set visit in New York, who all have very different views about God.
Speaking of the cast behind the characters, they are just as charming in real life.
Suraj Sharma said he relates to his character Rakesh a bit, but only in the sense that he's "definitely awkward individual, so that comes handy." He also noted that, like Rakesh, his mom did have a big influence on his life, but he moved out of her house long ago, while Rakesh "still lives in the basement."
I would add that Suraj also has Rakesh's charming humor.
The show's leading actor, Brandon Michael Hall, also has plenty of charm and charisma. He shared how "humbled" he was to have the opportunity to play a character rarely seen on TV - a black Millennial atheist.
Viewers have been quick to compare "God Friended Me" to "Touched By An Angel," the popular show starring Roma Downey, Della Reese, and John Dye, who played angels visiting Earth to encourage humans who were struggling with various issues. Violett Beane, who plays Miles's friend Cara on "God Friended Me," said the comparison to "Touched By an Angel" is fair, but their show is much more reality based.
"I feel like it could have a similar impact, but they are pretty different shows," Beane explained. "I feel like our show lives in a little bit more of a reality. What I think is really cool about it is that we don't think it's God. We're looking at the code of the God account and trying to get to the bottom of it figuratively and literally. We end up helping people along the way."
Yes, I nearly reached for the Kleenex. I'm comforted knowing some of the other 11 million viewers did too.
"God Friended Me" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBS.