Review: THE RIGHTEOUS GEMSTONES Is Wickedly Funny

FIRST IMPRESSION

With a phenomenal cast and plenty of humor, The Righteous Gemstones has the potential to be one of the funniest shows of this year.
Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

The Righteous Gemstones, the newest TV show created by Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down), is a hilarious satire of the televangelist community. Featuring a phenomenal cast and chock full of laugh-out-loud moments, this has to be one of the funniest new shows to debut on television this season so far.

This series follows a famous televangelist family that may not be as generous and wholesome as it seems on the outside, having a secret history of greed and debauchery that they attempt to hide from the public eye. The antics in which the Gemstones get involved, particularly Jesse (Danny McBride) are always crazy and often uproarious. This show is surprisingly unpredictable because you never know what absolutely insane thing the characters are going to do next.

The humor of the series definitely won’t be for everyone, as it is frequently dark and sometimes crude. Undoubtedly, someone will come across this and see “righteous” in the title and read that’s it’s about televangelists and think that it’s clean and wholesome family fun. It’s not. This is definitely a series made to make adults laugh, with a few raunchy jokes, some slapstick humor, and plenty of satire on the “spiritual-industrial complex”.

The moments that poke fun at televangelists are perhaps the most enjoyable in the series. This show isn’t anti-religion, but rather, it is against people who take religion and use it for profiteering and personal gain. As such, this show is able to avoid feeling mean-spirited like so many other shows that focus on the world of religion do. The message of this film feels honest and important, and is delivered in a way that is thoroughly entertaining.

A significant part of why the series is so effective at delivering its commentary is that the characters are extremely nuanced. Although the Gemstones are greedy and do some deplorable things during the time we are with them, the series emphasizes their humanity. They aren’t bad people, but good people who have just lost their way. The show very much seems to be pointing towards a redemption arc, which has the potential to be extremely effective.

the righteous gemstones trio
Episode 1 (debut 8/18/19): Adam Devine, Danny McBride, John Goodman. Photo: Fred Norris/HBO.

The first hints of this can be seen in the fifth episode of the season. Until that, the series is mostly just a bouncy and satirical comedy. However, in that integral episode, the series’s true colors are revealed and the arcs become a whole lot more emotionally complex. Multiple relationships and dynamics are set up in early episodes that will hopefully be explored towards the end of the season, which would bring the show to a satisfying conclusion.

Undoubtedly the best part of this show is the cast. The charisma of the cast members and their chemistry with one another is what really drives the enjoyability. The three main Gemstones, played by John Goodman, Danny McBride, and Adam Devine, are pretty hilarious to watch. The dynamic between them, established in the first scene they share together, is ridiculous yet tons of fun.

Other great actors in the cast include Walton Goggins, Edi Patterson, and Skyler Gisondo. Patterson is particularly enjoyable in her role, fitting her character wonderfully. The character is also one of the most refreshing parts of the series, as she serves as the means by which the series provides commentary on the patriarchal nature of traditional religion. Goggins and Gisondo are both playing out of type, but in very different ways. Goggins plays a funny has-been child star, and Gisondo, who is known more for playing lovable goofs, is given a much more involved and intelligent role to play than usual.

On a technical level, the series is definitely very interesting. The cinematography and production design do a great job of poking fun at the exuberant and over-the-top nature of televangelism. The world of the Gemstones as created for the show feels like it could be very real and in our world. Additionally, the use of music is quite strong, ironic usage of Christian tunes being prevalent and effective throughout.

The Righteous Gemstones offers exactly what you would expect from McBride — plenty of hilarious moments and some insightful commentary on greed and religion. This is worth watching for the cast alone, but there are a wealth of reasons why you will be drawn further into this unique and hysterical world.

The Righteous Gemstones debuts on HBO on August 18 at 10pm ET/PT. (Six out of ten episodes reviewed.)

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Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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