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Clever Animated Comedy Is ‘God’s’ Gift to TV Viewers

TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Animation continues to be television’s most promising venue for cutting-edge comedy. More evidence comes in NBC’s funny “God, the Devil and Bob,” which finds a Detroit auto worker at the center of a tug of war between the Almighty and the Prince of Darkness.

He’s family man Bob Alman (voiced by French Stewart of NBC’s “3rd Rock From the Sun”), whose wife (voiced by Laurie Metcalf) is out of the loop regarding this contest for control of her husband. “My soul has become a battleground for a war between God and Satan,” he explains to her in a coming episode. “But I know you’re just gonna make that sound weird.”

Bob himself initially doesn’t believe that God (who resembles an aging hippie) is really God and is persuaded only after the Lord does magic tricks and creates an apocalypse.

That is the brand of droll humor threading this clever comedy whose mellow God (voiced by James Garner) inevitably gets the upper hand over the scheming Devil (voiced by Alan Cumming) in one encounter after another, in contrast to the Jesus-devil wars of Comedy Central’s darker “South Park.”

There’s a touch of Homer Simpson in Bob. When his young son demands a beer, he replies: “Not until you’re 16.” But it’s Cumming’s magnificently snotty Devil who steals the show.

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* “God, the Devil and Bob” premieres at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays on NBC, before moving to its regular Tuesday night slot. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).


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