If there’s something overtly religious about an upcoming television show, I’m apt to DVR it. But then again, I’m inclined to set my DVR to record the initial episode of just about every new show out there, from mainstream networks to lesser lights like BBCA or AMC (although both are moving forward in the national awareness). So, I had to check in on Anne Heche’s new show on NBC (Thursdays from 9-10 p.m.) about a housewife who has a near death experience and responds with a passion about how God speaks to her.
After the first of two episodes aired back-to-back, I asked my wife if Save Me was an ironic, satirical look at faith or an outright spoof of everything involving religion and belief? We decided that the initial episode’s introduction to Beth Warner’s (Heche) broken family relationships with her husband (Michael Landes) and teenage daughter (Madison Davenport) merited another look, and checked out what the show had to say about Beth’s gradual exploration of her newfound faith.
The second episode launches off from the set-up. Beth wants to return an expresso machine that she stole from one of her friends, gets rebuffed, and tries to give it away. In the midst of this, she explores a friend’s church and attempts to organize a house potluck like she used to before she lost herself in the uppity life of the culture she lives in. She asks the local priest if he thinks she’s crazy for claiming that God speaks to her as they both experience a man (pretty obviously mentally challenged) who presents with his “talking stuffed chihuahua who is also God.” It’s a fair question that Beth’s husband’s mistress also wants to know the answer to: is Beth crazy or really “connected”?
But the “wow, we’re really doing this” moment was when, because of events in the first episode, the power goes out in the neighboring homes (or does something else cause it?) and her unwilling friends show up for a spontaneous potluck. In that moment, we recognize that Beth’s newfound faith has actually provided her with a redirect, a healing, a course correction that brings her back into community, and works toward her wholeness. We know Beth’s fragile relationships with her husband and daughter are segueing back to center, but over food, we see forgiveness and unity enter the picture.
There’s more to religion and faith than just community, but when “church” is doing its best work, it’s providing people the opportunity to be forgiven, overcome their differences, and establish a family of love and support. Taking it a step further, it’s also symptomatic of the way that church can and should be like Alcoholics Anonymous when it shows off community’s best. Consider these steps of the Twelve Steps which all take place in the first two episodes:
-Admit that our lives have become unmanageable.
-Believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore our sanity.
-Make a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of that power.
-Admit our mistakes to God and others, and attempt to make them right.
Suddenly, this frivolous summer “filler” of a comedy has more going for it than might have first appeared. It’s certainly deeper than expected, whether you like it or not.