TV REVIEW: Miracle Workers Season 2: Dark Ages

written by David Steffen

Dark Ages is the second season of TBS comedy series Miracles Workers. I use the term “series” very loosely here, because there is no plot continuity whatsoever between the two seasons–if they didn’t actually have the same name I wouldn’t call it a series. Besides the name, they do have a major connection in that most of the cast from season 1 returns… as entirely different characters in an entirely different setting. The other common element is that both are based on the comedy writing of Simon Rich, this season from the short story “Revolution”.

While the last one was a contemporary fantasy that took place in heaven with bureaucratic workers there trying to convince God to not destroy the world, this one takes place in a fictional city in mideival Europe.

Our protagonist this season is Alexandra “Al” Shitshoveler (Geraldine Viswanathan), daughter of Eddie Murphy Shitshoveler (Steve Buscemi). She has big dreams for exploring the world as she graduates from high school but she is obligated to follow in her father’s footsteps to follow the family business and shovel human poop for the rest of her life. Meanwhile, Prince Chauncely (Daniel Radcliffe) lives in his castle and lives his life without any real hardships nor connection with his people, though he also lives in apprehension of the future ascending to the throne of his bloothirsty father King Cragnoor the Heartless (Peter Serafinowicz). Soon their paths happen to cross each other and they form an unlikely friendship and both see a glimpse of a life outside their own and yearn for something more.

The same sense of humor is evident in both seasons, and it’s great to see the original cast back again in different roles so we can see some of their range. Again, it’s particularly fun seeing Daniel Radcliffe playing a role different from what we’re familiar with, especially at the beginning as Chauncely is cowardly and exploitative if not bloodthirsty like his father he does not have a great deal of redeeming qualities. It builds much of its humor on historical elements from that time period, but often exaggerated for comic effect and also the ludicrousness of it pointed out by Al as she chafes against the boundaries of their small kingdom. Well worth seeing!

TV REVIEW: Miracle Workers Season 1

written by David Steffen

Miracle Workers is a TBS dark comedy series which, so far, has completely different topics and focus each season. Season 1 aired from February-March 2019, and is centered around the bureaucracy of heaven which is not as heavenly as we would like to believe, and is based on the novel What In God’s Name by Simon Rich.

God (Steve Buscemi) has decided on a whim to blow up the Earth to give him more time to focus on his new restaurant innovation where guests eat food while floating on inner tubes in a lazy river. Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan) has just transferred to the prayer-answering department which, until her arrival, was staffed only by Craig (Daniel Radcliffe) whose ultra-conservative approach to answering prayers makes it extremely unlikely that any prayers will actually be answered. They manage to talk God into making a wager: if they can grant an impossible prayer, then God will not destroy the Earth. The impossible prayer they choose is this: if they can get Sam (Jon Bass) and Laura (Sasha Compère), who are both socially awkward and both have crushes on each other, to kiss as a couple within the next two weeks.

This turns out to be much harder than they anticipate, given the minor physical aspects of the world they have complete control over, and making bigger changes can have major consequences. With two anxious people who are afraid to make their move, two weeks is a tight schedule. And all through this God is going forward with his plans and otherwise using his seemingly ultimate power and odd ambition to go forward with his own divine restaurant plans while our heroes try to thwart him.

This show is hilarious, great writing, excellent cast, it’s fun seeing Daniel Radcliffe in particular playing a role very different from his most well-known role. Highly recommended!

MOVIE REVIEW: Hotel Transylvania

written by David Steffen

Hotel Transylvania is a 2012 computer-animated children’s comedy by Columbia Pictures.  The legendary vampire Dracula (Adam Sandler), after the death of his wife at the hands of humans, raises his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) as a single parent. Frightened of violent and unpredictable humanity, he has made a life for them by founding a five-star hotel in Transylvania just for monsters, and telling Mavis constant horror stories about the human world so she won’t to go.  But it’s her 118th birthday now, which means she can make her own decisions and for some reason she still wants to go out into the world.  To make matters worse, a human named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) somehow finds his way to the hotel and is not scared away by the monsters, and Jonathan and Mavis hit it off.

It’s a fun idea, and since there’s been three movies to date and a cartoon TV show, clearly the kids especially like it. There are some funny bits, particular from Jonathan as he is an oddball human to have made it so far into Transylvania without being scared off.  The ensemble cast (Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, CeeLo Green, David Spade, Fran Drescher, among others)

Adam Sandler isn’t super Adam Sandler-ish in this one, so if you tend to hate Adam Sandler movies as much as I do (some notable exceptions exist), I didn’t get that vibe about it.  But the main plot of the movie is based around a fragile scaffolding of transparent lies that Dracula has been building for a century–it was pretty clear it was going to crumble at the slightest touch and then most of the basis for Dracula’s relationship with his daughter would be revealed to be completely fabricated and so the relationship between the two most important characters in the movie would be almost entirely built of lies while her father tries to intimidate and force Jonathan out of the hotel so that she can’t get to know him.  Especially since Mavis is an adult even by vampire reckoning at this point, this level of interference in her life was more annoying than endearing, and I thought she was remarkably chill about her dad being revealed to have been running a long-term con on his own daughter instead of trusting her.