April 01, 2005

Satan has Martha Stewart on speed dial

In 2000 an animated series aired for about three episodes before being yanked from the schedule due to intense pressure from religious groups.

Maybe you saw it. God, the Devil, and Bob.

God and the Devil

The premise is explained in a short clip at the start of every show. God is thinking that maybe he should start over, but being a benevolent God, he decides to let one person convince him that humanity is worth saving. In a sporting gesture, God lets the Devil pick the person.

Meet Bob. Bob works for a Detroit automaker. He is everyman. A family man with a young son and rebelious teen daughter. His wife is trying to go back to college and they're doing ok. Not great, but ok. Bob definitely has his human foibles.

As God puts it, "I wouldn't go making any long-term plans."

Except that Bob manages to convince God that humanity is worth saving, and the series goes from there.

This series is wonderful. Despite the objections from the fire-and-brimstone fundamentalists, God as depicted here is loving and mysterious and unfathomable and immediate.

Probably the single biggest objection was the way God is portrayed. Voiced by James Garner, God looks a lot like Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead. If the circumstances call for it, God will wear a baseball cap and sunglasses. He's been known to hoist a beer on occasion.

Most of the time, God is only visible to Bob. And Bob is trying to wrap his mind around the consequences of being God's chosen one. At first Bob thinks his job is to be a prophet ("that's what prophets do: draw a crowd and shout at people"), and in one episode comes to believe that he's invincible. For a thrill he goes skydiving without a parachute. God shows up on the way down and disabuses him of that notion ("Bob, haven't you ever heard of dumb luck?"). God is not mocked, but organized religion is.

Not unexpectedly, some Christians were up in arms:

Another segment of the show was a direct attack on those preaching the gospel. Bob goes to a preacher, who is naked and smoking a cigar, while getting a massage from a blonde whose cleavage was ready to fall out of her dress. -- George Whitten, editor of Worthy News.

More correctly, Bob went to a televangelist from the God Network (the sign out front reads "formerly UPN" *snicker*) and pitched his idea for a new show about talking to God. Bob was thrown out when the televangelist found out his idea wasn't designed to make money. As for the massage, cleavage and money-grubbing TV preacher, well, that was about the most realistic part of the show as far as I'm concerned.

Now the third side to this triangle is the Devil (voiced by Alan Cumming), and he's a treat. His character makes me think of Felix Unger if he were played by David Niven, with a healthy dollop of wicked in the mix. God and the Devil are on speaking terms, and the relationship mostly seems to be the Devil scheming while God keeps half an eye on things.

The Devil tempts Bob mightily ("I'm Evil, Bob, it's what I do"). In one hilarious episode, Bob blows off the Devil once too often and the Devil retaliates by dating Bob's daughter. In another, the Devil decides to redecorate Hell and calls on Martha Stewart to manage the job. He gets distracted by something on Earth and she takes over for a while.

Satan's sidekick is a little demon named Smeck. He's the administrator of Hell and gets nervous when the Devil goes off on a tangent. He's happiest when the Devil is doing what he's supposed to be doing, namely, raising hell.

The idea behind the show was not to be disrespectful towards God and religion. There is a theologian listed in the credits, a Catholic priest I believe.

Still, I can see why this show had so many people upset. If you'd rather believe in the Old Testament God, then this depiction is not for you. On the other hand, the stories consistently show a strong family relationship that succeeds despite the very human flaws that we all possess.

God, the Devil, and Bob is available on a two-disk DVD set that has the entire (mostly unseen) first season. Well worth it if you can deal with the subject.

Posted by Ted at April 1, 2005 09:12 PM
Category: Cult Flicks

My boyfriend Smotlock got this for his birthday. I actually zoned out during the first episode because I thought it was /too/ good, too morally. I was really surprised to find out that Christians got so pissed off about it - kind of like watching The Simpsons go to church, in older episodes and wondering why my mom wouldn't let me watch it.

Posted by: Ptiza at April 1, 2005 10:09 PM

I'm not anti-religion, I'm anti-*organized*-religion. Too often it's used as a tool or excuse to try to control people.

This show was a good example. Ignorant people looking for a reason to be offended.

Maybe I'm too much a pragmatist. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that there's a God, and if there isn't, well then I'd be gone and wouldn't care. Right?

Posted by: Ted at April 1, 2005 10:48 PM

I never heard of this show, but it sounds like it's right up my alley. Maybe I'll finally buy myself a DVD player!

Posted by: Tuning Spork at April 2, 2005 01:14 PM
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