Reviews

God, the Devil and Bob: The Complete Series

Nikki Tranter

In the final episode of God, the Devil and Bob, titled 'Bob Gets Involved', Bob (voiced by French Stewart) goes on a rampage against rap music.


God, the Devil and Bob

Cast: French Stewart, James Garner, Alan Cumming, Laurie Metcalf, Nancy Cartwright, Kath Soucie
Subtitle: The Complete Series
Network: Fox
First date: 2000
US Release Date: 2005-01-04
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
Most of the boycott and attacking emails came before we were even on the air.
-- Harvey Myman, producer, God, the Devil and Bob

In the final episode of God, the Devil and Bob, titled "Bob Gets Involved", Bob (voiced by French Stewart) goes on a rampage against rap music and a school production of Arsenic and Old Lace. A working class father -- of Megan (Nancy Cartwright) and Andy (Kath Soucie) -- he runs into problems with the play, because his wife Donna (Laurie Metcalf) is one of its stars.

Bob's misguided sense of morality ironically mirrors the crusade that had his show cancelled after three episodes. The difference between Bob and others sharing his opinions is that he is literally at the center of a contest between God (James Garner) and the Devil (Alan Cumming). Fed up with Earth, God considers "chucking the whole thing and starting over." Instead, He goes looking for one soul to prove that all humans all worth saving. In a recreation of the story of Job, the Devil, who'd love nothing more than to see God's test fail, elects Bob, his shoulders slumped over a beer in a dead-end Detroit dive, to be that savior.

But Bob is not the loser he initially appears to be. He's actually a top father and husband who only needs a little help proving it. All-knowing God is aware that Bob needs this help, and so He guides him. In the first episode, Donna doesn't know how to handle feisty Megan, so Bob tries to help out, taking his daughter to her favorite place -- the mall -- for a chat. Here, she reveals the source of her agitation:

Megan: I lied about getting my period last year. All my friends had theirs and I felt like a little girl . . . Pretty lame, huh?
Bob: Well, girls mature at different ages, there's no right age. There's a whole range from, uh, well...
Megan: Ten?
Bob: From 10, all the way to...
Megan: Sixteen.
Bob: Sixteen! Okay?
Megan: No, I wanna be like all my friends.
Bob: Yeah. Well, I guess we all do.

What a good dad. Yet, when God congratulates Bob on a job well done, he's unsure he's actually done anything right: "You mean, you want us to try with our families?" But, God, ever mysterious, replies, "This is good beer. Did you know the caps twist right off?"

So, apart from showing God's fondness for light beer, what was so bad about this program that it didn't last a season? Apparently, NBC suffered a storm of protest regarding its religious tone. In interviews on the new DVD (featuring all 13 episodes, commentary, a making-of doc, and interviews), creator and former seminarian Matthew Carlson hints at a protesters' victory. "It was meant to be gently satirical, sometimes not so gently, but never really sacrilegious. We weren't trying to shove it in anybody's face, we were trying to have fun, to challenge an audience, but not devastate them." Looking back, he says he was living in a "fool's paradise": "We thought a little controversy would be helpful," he says. "We didn't think it was gonna completely shut us down."

A closer examination reveals just how ridiculous the protests were. The show doesn't even attempt to challenge Christian theology or ideology; it only follows one man's quest to do right by his family. The Devil tries to trick him at times, but Bob's preexisting faith in himself and his God always wins out. What could be more acceptable, or more Christian?

In the commentary for the premiere episode, show consultant David Sacks notes, "There is no greater message than doing something decent with your family is the way to save the world." This is exactly why God resists obliterating the universe. Everyman Bob makes an effort to be a better dad and a better husband at every opportunity. At the same time, he drinks with buddies after work and occasionally indulges in pornography. Carlson depicts the Almighty as accepting of Bob's peccadilloes, not because He doesn't care or thinks they're right, but because He refuses to judge, which is, after all, a foundation of Christian acceptance, no?

This isn't to say God doesn't have some explaining to do. Bob demands, "You're supposed to be a benevolent God, [but] let's look at the record: you're vain, you're unknowable, you're unreliable, you let good people suffer and lousy people prosper. You call yourself a father, you're more like a deadbeat dad!" Carlson doesn't even attempt to put words of explanation in God's mouth. God, as always, lets the guy figure stuff out for himself. After all, what other people do and don't do isn't Bob's concern. As God says when asked why He allowed Bob's own abusive father into Heaven, "It's not your job to forgive him. It's mine."

Besides, God has His own issues. In "God's Girlfriend," Bob helps his new buddy when He falls for a mortal woman, Sarah, voiced by Elizabeth Taylor. This episode, Carlson says, was the only time he attempted to explore God in a "human" way. Conflicted over His feelings for Sarah and His job (he misses a Parisian fling with Sarah in order to answer His nine million prayer-phone messages), God ends up having to choose the good of mankind over His own happiness. "The poignancy that he really couldn't have this kind of relationship," Carlson says, "that he'd created something that was great for mankind, one of the best parts of being human is something that was denied him." It's rare that God does anything here that contradicts modern Christian beliefs, and it's never in doubt that God will choose correctly.

This God is just a little cheeky sometimes ("Let's take a walk," He says to the Devil at one point, "I'll show you where the Leakeys found those bones I buried"). He's playful, fun-loving, everything you could want in a leader, quite frankly. He ends up learning as much from Bob as Bob learns from Him -- that humans are mostly decent.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.