‘The Righteous Gemstones’ Is Good, Soapy Fun

Courtesy of HBO

The Righteous Gemstones, a black comedy with soap opera undertones, is a hell of a good time.

The series follows a family of televangelists led by Eli Gemstone (John Goodman). Eli, the family patriarch who co-founded their megachurch, is in mourning over the loss of his wife and partner, Aimee-Leigh (Jennifer Nettles). He now runs the church with their three children, Jesse (Danny McBride), Judy (Edi Patterson), and Kelvin (Adam Devine). 

Jesse, the eldest, aspires to follow in his father’s footsteps, but his crude personality and past bad acts continue to jeopardize both his future and the family ministry’s. jeopardizing the family ministry. Judy secretly cohabitates with her soft-spoken fiancé BJ (Tim Baltz) and (as the family’s frequent doormat) dreams of escaping the Gemstones. Kelvin, a hipster youth pastor, is definitely the kindest of the bunch and shares his mansion with his convert, ex-Satanist Keefe Chanbers (Tony Cavalero).

Eli and his children, immature and incredibly dysfunctional, lead very full and opulent lives — fully subsidized by donations from congregation members. When they arenr scheming or trying to get out of their latest scandal, they work to expand their megachurch network, which puts smaller neighboring churches at the risk of going out of business. Chief among these is the church led by Rev. John Wesley Seasons (Dermot Mulroney).

Particularly notable is the performance of Walton Goggins, who plays Eli’s good-for-nothing brother-in-law “Baby” Billy Freeman. His Southern drawl is delightful and his Jim Bakker-esque manner fits perfectly for the show.

I also liked Skyler Gisondo, who plays Jesse’s son Gideon. He is in the running with Kelvin to be the most decent and honorable of the family, in spite of how his character started off.

I absolutely loved it. It reminds me of GCB, a fun ABC nighttime soap about Bible thumpers in Texas that got canceled during its first season back in 2012. Thankfully, this show seems to have more staying power. Both seasons of The Righteous Gemstones are available for streaming on HBO Max.

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