Thursday, May 30, 2013

Save Me

Save Me
Episode 1: The Book of Beth
Episode 2: Take it Back
By: Carlos Uribe

Save Me is a show about a girl who thinks God is talking to her and has made her a prophet. I will be covering this show weekly.

Spoilers Ahoy!

If I had to describe Save Me in one word it would have to be whimsical. The premise of the show could be a bit controversial. There is a raging alcoholic who is a major sinner. She has managed to alienate just about everyone in her life. Her marriage is in shambles as her husband is cheating on her. Her daughter refuses to let her in and all of her friends are doing their best to avoid her. Her life is a complete mess until she chokes on her sandwich. When she wakes up, she feels different. She feels like she's alive. She starts to change as she decides to fight for her marriage, give up alcohol, and repair her relationships with her daughter and friends. She starts to be a different person which leads some people to think she's crazy. The controversial part, and the one that justifies people thinking she's lost it, is that she thinks God is now communicating with her. She believes she has become a prophet of God. This is a premise that could alienate people. Christians could see this and think that the show is making fun of them. Why would they want to watch a show where their faith is made fun of? If the show takes religion seriously, it could alienate those who seek secular entertainment. They don't want to be preached to. In other words, this is a premise that by it's very nature promises to be contentious. Is it a show mocking Christians? Is it a show that affirms God's existence? It's a good thing that Save Me is premiering in the summer where few people are bound to notice it. The network isn't really promoting it and the way it's running two episodes at a time suggest a burn-off. In a way, Save Me is avoiding controversy simply because most people probably aren't going to be aware of it's existence. It's going to air quickly, with little fanfare, so that the network can get back some of the money they sunk into making it. So Save Me probably won't generate any heat from either the Christian crowd or the secular crowd. The question becomes then whether or not Save Me is a good show or whether it deserves controversy.

I'm a Christian so it's always a bit odd when secular Hollywood tackles my faith. Some shows tend to be respectful about it (Community, The Middle) while others simply mock the faith. Save Me is a show that tries to do both. It's making fun of religion up to a point. The only time I remember being directly offended was at the beginning of the second episode when there's a flashback to Beth sexually roleplaying as a nun. At the same time, there's a certain sense of acceptance by it. It might not respect organized religion but it does seem to acknowledge that God is real and that he's actually using Beth as a prophet. The second episode basically ends with God making Beth's wish for a potluck come true by using the coffeemaker she had stolen. There is some question on whether Beth is simply crazy or whether she's actually a prophet at the beginning but the writers seem to be leaning towards the latter. There is very little question whether she's actually talking to God or not by the end of the second episode as it's clear that she is. She might actually be a member of a Church but she's on a road of redemption through God. In other words, Save Me is a show that both makes fun of and accepts God at the same time. It takes Beth's conversations with God seriously. It's an odd balance for the show to take but it's one that the two episodes manage to handle with surprising skill. It'll be interesting to see if the show's take on spirituality is able to remain consistent. So does Save Me deserve some controversy? I'm going to go with a “maybe”. As a Christian, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this show. On the one hand, I feel like I should be offended by this show. On the other hand, it's hard not to appreciate how Christian part of the show is.

So is Save Me any good? I would say that it largely works. I did find myself largely laughing at the show and the whimsical tone really seemed to fit. It's whimsical nature reminded me a lot of the first season of Desperate Housewives. There are some dark elements found within the series but the light tone ensures that it never gets grim. The pilot is a little overstuffed with how many characters it has to introduce as well as the premise but this is a matter future episodes can easily solve. Without taking religion into consideration, it's a fun little series that could have become one of the network's best comedies if it had a shot at surviving. It doesn't so Save Me will probably be an entertaining show while it lasts. The reason Save Me works so well is because of Beth. She's the last person you would expect to become a prophet. The pilot begins with her actually considering killing her philandering husband before she decides that she doesn't want to deal with the consequences while hung-over. She's a sinner who has never even stepped into Church. When she chokes on her sandwich, she starts a process to redeem herself. She does have a lot of doubt and there's points where she admits she's the last person who should be a profit. There could be a lot of other people who are better suited at becoming prophets. At the same time, that God would chose such a person would be the exact kind of thing he likes doing. Is not the whole Christian faith about sinners going to him and making them into his disciples by forgiving their sins? The reason I like the second episode a lot better than the pilot is because Beth actually tries to pray herself out of being a prophet because she doesn't feel like she's up to the task. This easily fits into the crisis of self-confidence many prophets had. Moses himself had fought the role God wanted for him because he didn't feel like he had the people skills to get his people out of Egypt. Beth might have been a sinner who had destroyed her life but her redemptive arc is partly what makes Save Me's Christianity element work. She's a winning protagonist for this reason: a hugely flawed protagonist who is trying to repair her life by sheer force of will. A force of will that is powered by her newfound connection to God.

The rest of the characters are wary about her. Her husband, Tom, thinks that she has lost her mind. It's hard to like Tom since he's basically trying to divorce her to marry his mistress. If there's one thing that the two episodes should have done is find a way to show what Beth sees in Tom. She's trying to save a marriage that was bad when the viewers tuned in so it would have made sense that we saw it when it was still good so we knew what exactly she was hoping to get back to. The daughter, Emily, is simply a delight as the writing manages to make yet another rebellious teenager seem fresh. Her sharp wit and her ability to use it to push her parents away is simply sharp. The friends in the neighborhood need some more development as they aren't developed enough to really stand out from each other. They sort-of blend in together largely because of how the show treats them. They were the best friends of Beth and she needs to repair her relationships with them. The problem is that's basically all there is: people Beth needs to fix her relationships with. It would make sense if they were developed as actual characters rather than as goals and if we knew more about how Beth managed to push them away in a way that relates to them as specific people. It's suggested that they've started avoiding her for the same reason which implies that she didn’t have a unique friendship with every one of them. Basically the show needs to find a way to make each friend to have their own personality rather than treating them as goals for Beth.

Save Me is a complicated show for me. On the one hand, it really connects with me on a comical level and I rather like the show's Christian elements. On the other hand, I feel like I should be avoiding this show because of it's semi-mocking treatment of spirituality and God. There's a part of me that wants more and there's a part of me that's wary of getting more. It's this conflicting part of me that adds this show to the review roster because I think it could be an interesting way to explore not just the show's quality but my relationship with it.

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