Created by Matthew Carlson
Starring (voices): French Stewart, James Garner, Alan Cumming, Laurie Metcalfe, Nancy Cartwright.
It's not uncommon to look at TV shows and ask "What are they thinking?" Usually, it's when a particularly stupid concept somehow makes it to the air. After all, network executive tend to err on the side of stupidity. But, every once in awhile, you ask yourself this even though the show is of high quality. NBC had a history of showing things that were good, but which you could never understand why they'd expect good ratings from it (for instance, Dame Edna and Spitting Image).
God, the Devil, and Bob was clearly in this category. A cartoon show with God as a main character? At a time when the religious right was strong, and unlikely to look kindly on any irreverence? This had to be either an All in the Family home run, or it would fail miserably.
In the show, Bob Alman (voice by French Stewart) is chosen by God (James Garner) in a bet with the devil (Alan Cumming) to perform good deeds in order to show that the Earth has some good in it so God doesn't have to destroy it. No one believes Alman, of course, and God is little help, but he muddles along trying to do his best.
Bob is not a saint -- he watches porn, goes to strip clubs, drinks, and sometimes neglects his family (though he learns to avoid the latter). His wife Donna (Laurie Metcalfe) puts up with him, since he manages to keep the peace with her and their 13-year-old daughter Megan (voice by Bart Simpson . . . I mean, Nancy Cartwright), who's quite a handful (as God says, "I have them until age 12, then Satan gets them until they're 20"). Sometimes God gives Bob a specific task; other times, he just shows up.
James Garner is wonderful -- the sort of laid-back God that's easy to like. He makes everything sound so smooth and easy. And Alan Cumming is hilarious as the Devil -- petulant, childish, and evil, and always trying to make things worse for Bob.
The show was heavily protested when it came out. Religious groups (who, of course, never bothered to watch the show) didn't like the image of God as Jerry Garcia (there is some resemblance, but the image is mostly the old man with the beard image -- just a short beard and hair) or the fact he was shown drinking beer. The message of the show was fairly reverent, and Garner makes an appealing God, but when God is concerned, some people have no sense of humor. The show only aired four times before the low ratings convinced NBC that it wasn't worth the hassle.
Luckily, all 13 shows are available on DVD. It's well worth a rental.