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God, the Devil and Bob on NBC

By Devin D. O'Leary

MARCH 13, 2000:  French Stewart ("3rd Rock from the Sun") as a modern day Job, British actor Alan Cummings (Circle of Friends) as the Devil, and Rockford himself, Mr. James Garner, as God Almighty? ... It's so crazy it just might work.

NBC's new animated sitcom "God, the Devil and Bob" certainly gets high marks for its high-concept casting. Stewart is one of the title trio, a middle-aged Detroit auto worker named Bob Allman chosen by God (Garner) and the Devil (Cummings) to save all of humanity. Seems that God has decided that Earth is a mess, and He's poised to wipe it out with one of His patented plagues. In a charitable moment, however, God decides that if one single person can prove that humanity is worth saving, He'll cancel the earthy renovation plans. Being a sporting deity, God lets the Devil choose the person upon which mankind's future will rest. The Devil chooses poor Bob, a workaday schmuck with few abiding interests beyond beer and TV. Humanity, needless to say, doesn't look to be in the best of hands -- especially when Bob's first reaction to his pious task is to head to the nearest video store and ask, "Do you have The Bible on tape?"

Stewart is more than passable as a beer-swilling everyman. Surprisingly, the twitchy actor does far straighter work here in the cartoon field than he does on his off-the-wall live-action series "3rd Rock from the Sun." Garner and Cummings have a nice rapport as a laid-back God and a self-esteem-lacking Satan. Garner contributes an entertaining God-as-Jimmy-Buffet characterization, while Cummings (taking over a role originally intended for Robert Downey Jr.) creates an insecure Devil with an entertainingly evil Bottomless Pit ("Appearing tonight and every night: Guy Lombardo" proclaims one Hellish placard). Instead of the usual contentious relationship, this God-and-Devil duo spend their time hanging out at auto shows and going out for Greek food. Of course, that doesn't stop them battling for control of Bob's immortal soul.

Since Bob can't spend all of his time worrying about the fate of humanity, he's furnished with the stock sitcom family: a rebellious teenage daughter, a videogame-addicted young son and a long-suffering wife (voiced by "The Norm Show's" Laurie Metcalf). While the domestic situations on display here could come from any one of a dozen sitcoms -- animated or otherwise -- the metaphysical overtones make for some unique comic situations. What, for example, would you do if Satan started dating your daughter?

If "God, the Devil and Bob" can come up with enough storylines to keep its twisted spiritual concept afloat, there's no reason not to believe this devilishly witty, divinely inspired toon will find a devoted audience.

"God, the Devil and Bob" premiered Thursday, March 9. Regular timeslot begins Tuesday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m.

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