God, The Devil And Bob: A Great Show Cancelled By Needless Controversy

God, The Devil And Bob was a great animated sitcom cancelled before its time. The later 1990s and early 2000s were something of a breeding ground for classic animated shows, spawning the likes of Futurama, King Of The Hill and South Park. The latter show was greeted with no end of controversy in its early days, focused on its violence, language, and skewing of topics like religion. Despite facing numerous controversies since it debuted in 1997, the show is still going strong to this day.

One show that wasn’t so lucky in this regard was God, The Devil And Bob, which arrived on NBC in 2000. The premise finds God (James Garner, The Rockford Files) who has become so disillusioned with humanity he’s thinking of destroying them all and starting fresh. The Devil (Alan Cumming, GoldenEye) is up for that, but God decides to give mankind one last chance. To this end God and the Devil make a bet, with the fate of the world resting on one man: Bob Allman (French Stewart). Bob is just an average, lazy blue-collar worker but God wants Bob to prove the human race is worthy and can be redeemed. The Devil then tries to distract/tempt Bob with various disguises and schemes during his divine mission.

Robert Downey, Jr (Iron Man) was originally cast as the Devil on God, The Devil And Bob, but was replaced by Alan Cumming. The series used its premise as a jumping-off point for some character-based comedy, with the fundamentally flawed Bob struggling against his weaker impulses and struggling to prove he – and thus humanity – can do better. Garner was perfectly cast as the show’s borderline hippy version of God, while Cumming is clearly having a great time with his scheming but deeply insecure version of the Devil. It also attracted some starry guest voices, including Elizabeth Taylor, Kevin Bacon (Tremors), and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

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God, The Devil And Bob feels like it was essentially doomed before it started airing. Christian groups took issue with the series’ concept, its depiction of God as a laidback, beer-drinking hippy and the sympathetic depiction of the Devil, which led to protests against it. While NBC initially stood by it, they cancelled and pulled the show after only four episodes had aired. While reviews at the time were mixed its has since gained a loyal following. It was better received worldwide, however, and the remaining episodes aired over a decade later on Adult Swim.

While it would no doubt still gain controversy, God, The Devil And Bob would probably have stood more of a chance had it aired today. It’s a well-written, well-acted animated sitcom that just happens to touch on religious topics, and away from the controversies that doomed it, it’s just a funny show.

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