The first season finale of “Miracle Workers” aired Tuesday, and the possibility of renewal by TBS still hangs in the air — but if Simon Rich’s absurdist comedy does come back, you might not recognize it.
His vision for the anthology series, which he says was largely made possible by star and executive producer Daniel Radcliffe, is to recycle the same cast and stay true to the genre, but switch up everything else — the same way “American Horror Story” does each season.
The first seven episodes star Steve Buscemi as God and CEO of Heaven Inc., the grossly-mishandled corporation in the sky that puts angels to work making the world go round. But the fate of humanity is thrown into jeopardy when God, whilst going through a “midlife crisis,” decides to pull the plug on the whole operation.
Enter a trio of angels played by Daniel Radcliffe, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Karan Soni, who convince God to save the world on the condition that they can perform one miracle: getting two socially awkward earthlings (Jon Bass and Sasha Compère) to kiss.
Based on Rich’s novel “What In God’s Name?,” the creator says he’s had options to adapt the story before, but never took the bait — until Radcliffe came in.
“I never thought that anybody would give us a shot at doing it the way I felt like it ought to be done,” Rich told TheWrap. “It wasn’t until I talked to Dan that I thought well, you know, we could pull it off.”
In Rich’s mind, the story could only ever work for the length of one season — a concept that worked well for Radcliffe, who is understandably hesitant to play the same character twice after a career-defining role like Harry Potter.
“The more you stretch it out, the lower stakes it becomes. It’s a show about existential doom so you want that gun to be loaded. You want that doomsday clock to be real and ticking,” Rich said of the first season’s timeline, which takes place over the two weeks God gives the angels to save the earth. “If you get rid of the whole world-explodey thing, you negate the entire point of the show.”
After white-knuckling it on his previous TV show, “Man Seeking Woman,” Rich is relieved not to have to worry about whether “Miracle Workers” will live long enough for the story arc to reach its natural end.
“We almost got canceled after our first and second seasons ’cause our ratings were so low, and I was really nervous after each season because I really wanted to see that character arc through,” he said of “Man Seeking Woman.” “I was so scared that we would get canceled before I could finish the story.”
As for “Miracle Workers,” Rich can’t say whether a new season is in the works, or what it would even be about — but the “Saturday Night Live” veteran confirms that the mood will be consistent with the first season.
“It’ll always be a comedy about existential doom. It’ll always be absurdist,” he said. “They’re all meant to be stand alone narratives. That’s the other thing that’s cool about this project for me, is that you get to tell stories with a beginning, middle and an end.”
The season finale of “Miracle Workers” airs tonight at 10:30/9:30c on TBS.