The world according to Simon
Serie. Two years after he stopped directing his amazing show Man Seeking Woman, Simon Rich comes back with an angelic and romantic comedy presented during Séries Mania festival. He uses less his surrealistic style, which is a great and bad news at the same time.
Reading time 5min
By Julien Lada
In few years, Simon Rich established himself as the man to follow of American comedy. Showrunner, scriptwriter, author and writer, this jack of all trades is a pure product of New-York intelligentsia. His father, former New York Times’ editorial writer, works at Veep‘s and Succession‘s (HBO) production, his step mother is also journalist for the NYT, and his brother is a successful essay writer. Far from comedians working hard and going from comedy club to comedy club, Rich went to prestigious Dalton Academy, then Harvard, where he took the lead of the Harvard Lampoon, the satirical review in which have written John Updike, Conan O’Brien, and some of the most famous showrunners: Robert Carlock (30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Michael Schur (The Office, The Good Place) or Alan Yang (Master of None).
”Youngest author of writing room's history
Youngest author of the history of Saturday Night Live‘s writing room, from 2007 to 2011, he offers sketches with really simple pitches, drawn out until extreme absurdity. It’s also the leitmotif of Man Seeking Woman (FX, 2015) adaptation of his own collection of short stories The Last Girlfriend on Earth. A pop diehard piece of jewellery in the form of a romantic comedy with sketches which remained quite confidential. It tells the story of Josh’s romantic setbacks (Jay Baruchel), a sloppy post-teenager who is dragged in a series of surrealistic situations: a date with a Swedish troll, reunion with his ex now dating a one-hundred-year-old Adolf Hitler centenaire, a cohabitation with a Japanese demon in the shape of a huge penis…
Angel Seeking Woman
Cancelled at the end of its third season, Man Seeking Woman laid the foundations of Simon Rich’s new creation: Miracle Workers, new adaptation of one of his novels What in God’s Name. Once again, the pitch is built on a romcom framework combined with absurd. Craig (Former Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe) is an angel specialised in fulfilling humans’ wishes. But God (Steve Buscemi) begins to be fed up with Earhtlings’ stupidity and wonders if he should blow this planet up. That’s why Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan), Craig’s new co-worker, is determined to save the planet. Then God challenges them to create a miracle so that he could change his decision.
Miracle Workers is the second floor of the rocket propelled by Simon Rich. As in Man Seeking Woman, the show casts the light on romantic comedy’s stereotypes and the difficulties of couple’s life. Here we get less interested in the lovers, presented like videos games characters, than in the situations and coincidences on which a relationship is built. How can we make two shy people fall in love when everything seems to be against them? How can we reject an unexpected suitor, ignite a spark or just give them the courage to say hi to each other? It’s the challenge Craig and Eliza are confronted to: God moves in mysterious way, but the human heart even more.
The not so much dream life of angels
Yet Miracle Workers is not only that: it’s also a show about boredom, including divine boredom. In a world where the least task has been automated and coordinated for centuries (Eliza is transfered from a service where she designed every speck of dust on Earth), it’s rather hard to find a sense in one’s life. From the top to the bottom of hierarchy, everyone tries without conviction to remain in a frozen world, except determined Eliza. What’s original about Miracle Workers is also one of its flaws: in creating a double level narration between heavenly and earthly worlds, Simon Rich also has to soften his plots and compose with the need to make his characters live on only seven episodes. Simon Rich’s humour remains easily identifiable, but the show doesn’t echo his last baby’s radicality.
But Miracle Workers highlights the idealistic and benevolent nature of his heroes as in Man Seeking Woman. Eliza, true heroin of the show, is intepreted by Geraldine Viswanathan (noticed in Blockers). She’s responsible for human race’s salvation and she’s also the one who starts every situation and drag Daniel Radcliffe who knows how to disappear behind her when he has too. Miracle Workers reminds us of two series directed by Michael Schur (another star showrunner coming from Harvard). His heaven-like world combined with melancoly and innocence evoke The Good Place. And Eliza shares her rock solid idealism with Parks and Recreation ‘s Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). Miracle Workers maybe won’t be as successful as Man Seeking Woman, but it will find a place in the category of feel-good comedy, at least for seven episodes of thirty minutes.