Thursday, June 20, 2013

Save Me

Save Me
Episode 7: Holier than Thou
By: Carlos Uribe

Save Me is a show about a girl who thinks God is talking to her and has made her a prophet.

Spoilers Ahoy!

And thus ends Save Me, with it's weakest episode since the pilot.

I like the general idea behind the episode but I just felt like the execution behind the idea had two major problems. The first is the guest casting. I love Betty White as much as the next person and I did appreciate her casting as God. She was great in the role and it's hard to imagine a better actor (other than Morgan Freeman) that you would want. Which is ironically exactly my problem with it. It's a bit odd to say but I like it when a series casts someone you would never expect in that role and they end up being perfect for it. It's a nice surprise, it makes me look at the actor in a different light, and I get respect for the casting director. They saw something that I didn't see. As an audience member, I like to be surprised. It's a nice feeling when you discover something new because it's so rare after you grow up. Casting as Betty White felt like the safe choice. It was the predictable one which worked fine but it was also disappointing because it didn't really leave me surprised to see her in that role. Oh, I was a little surprised when I saw her because I wasn't expecting her to appear at all but I figured out what the writers were doing with her as soon as she was on screen. I guess this is an odd point to contest since there's no reason to really criticize Betty White for being casted. It must have made the producers happy when they actually got her to agree to appear. I just wonder what would have happened if she hadn't been willing to. Who would they have gone with and would that have seemed like an actual fresh choice? It's often in moments of limited opportunities that creative genius can be born. The second problem is God's presence in the actual episode. This has been a show where Beth thinks she's been talking to God. It's one thing to make those voices but it's quite another to actually personify the being. It simply makes it go from one level of spirituality to a whole other that I'm not sure the series was ready to do yet. It's also basically accepting that she is talking to God. There's implications that it might have just been feverish dreams, but this is a show where miracles do seem to happen around Beth. Remember the squirrel that got resurrected? She might not always get God's purpose but she's always right with her intuition. Having her talk to God basically removes a lot of doubt that she might have been crazy, despite it's assertions that she could have been hallucinating because of everything that's happened so far.

I also think Save Me works best when God is an invisible character who influences Beth rather than having direct conversations with her. This is because it basically forces her to do her will and her complains never really get answered. It creates a lot of the funny moments for the show. If anything, God should be like that sit-com character we know is there but doesn't actually appear completely. A character like Wilson, whose face we rarely saw in Home Improvement. His presence is felt regardless of his physical appearance. By having him appear on the show, it removes some of that power. He stops being a character who imposes his presence to someone whose simply there. It would have been better if he hadn't appeared because then he would have remained an omnipresent, mysterious character on the show. What's worse is when the show basically reveals that he's been taking human form, guiding Beth through her life. It simply smacks of an activist deity that doesn't really confirm with one who needs a prophet to do his will. Now, granted, God works in mysterious ways but he's usually acted through a prophet for a reason rather than direct intervention. Using a prophet keeps the element of free will in the bag since the people could chose to not follow the prophet. I think Save Me undermined itself by utilizing God's physical presence, even if it was only temporary or the last episode of the series.

I do like the theme of the episode. The idea is that God tells Beth to do something to save the hospital where her daughter was born. Beth settles on the idea of doing a charity run despite not trusting charities herself. She has trouble because all of her friends don't want to help her out. Her restaurant friends are too busy trying to keep their business afloat and they turn her idea down of giving away free pizza at the charity. Which is actually a good business practice since it promotes their restaurant, but I guess there's a reason they are apparently struggling. As for her other friends? They would rather help out their pet charity, ballerina. Beth looks down on them both: one half of her friends are only looking out for themselves while the other half are supporting charities that she doesn't think are worthwhile. Her train of logic is that she's trying to save a hospital that is important in actually saving people's lives rather than the limited contribution ballet has to society. I disagree with that assertion as I think methods of artistic impression is what gives value to the lives that hospitals safe. Without ballerinas and other forms of art (like film), then what's really the point of living? I digressed. So Beth is basically being holier than thou only it gets worse. She doesn't really have a conflict with her husband, as he's willing to go along on the ride for now. He's realized resisting is useless so he's only getting it over with so she could move on to her next crazy plan. Her daughter is surprisingly helpful but she was only helping so that she could get permission to go to a concert. When Beth realizes that her daughter had selfish aspirations, she forbade her daughter from running in the race. Beth was basically judging people for not being as good as her. God gives her a fever as a result and makes her run the race. She collapses for a bit, realizes the errors of her way, and apologizes to people by eating mud apology pies. Everyone is happy and the season concludes.

Save Me is a short-lived show. It lasted only seven episodes. Thirteen were actually made but the first five episodes were apparently so off-target that the network decided not to air them. That's probably a wise move because the episodes we did get were pretty strong. It's surprising how funny this show could be. As for the religious element, I thought it was a great, if flawed, take on religion. I was fearful that Beth would be the joke and she was to a point. What was the real joke of the series was really how the world was reacting for someone trying to improve her life once she started to get spiritual. That's where a lot of the humor came in. It's exploration of spiritual values while at the same time undermining some traditional social values was also a direction that the show would often take. It managed to mostly work within the writing. I might not have always agreed with Save Me's conclusions or assessments but I did appreciate what the series was actually trying to do. The first season was a small, but brief, delight even if it did end on a somewhat weak note. It's too bad there isn't going to be a second season.

Oh, well.

Holier than Thou was a decent episode. It wasn't the best one as it undermined itself when it brought God's figure into the mix. Casting Betty White was the easy choice to make which made it somewhat predictable. Of course Betty White is going to play God. That doesn't make God a woman as we later see him take the form of a man. Looks Like Beth will never learn God's gender. It had a good strong central theme of Beth having to learn to control her judgmental attitude-one that a lot of religious people have to learn as well. The season finale had it's moments but it's a pity that the writers stumbled with God in the end.

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