Perhaps one sets themselves up for failure when they make their brand being the personification of God's purity on earth. Simply because there's no way you're not going to fall short.
The Righteous Gemstones follows the hilarious and sometimes homicidal mishaps of a family which runs a mega church. To the world, they are the first family of the United States of Christ, crusading worldwide to spread the good word. In truth, however, we're introduced to a family that's simultaneously kept together and torn apart by its secrets.
The series opens up to Dr Eli Gemstone (John Goodman), the head patriarch of the family and leader of the church, hosting a 24-hour baptism marathon in China with his two sons Jesse (Danny McBride), who is the 'family man' son next in line to lead the church, and Kelvin (Adam DeVine), the youngest and possibly queer youth pastor.
There's a mishap with the pool they can't fix because of the language barrier and it ends up turning the baptism into a rave – strobe lights and all. These are the Gemstones.
Greed is carefully masked as glory while the Gemstones minister – and by minister, I mean fly around the world in private jets and have hostile takeovers of other churches' land. Other sins highly favoured by the righteous include wrath, pride, lust and gluttony. Sloth makes a guest appearance during a cocaine binge that's caught on camera and threatens to besmirch the family's reputation.
For all intents and purposes this is a family full of and not just surrounded by 'sinners', and can barely save themselves.
Dr Gemstone struggles to lead his family and the church without his wife, who's passed away. Family traditions aren't hitting the same and without his wife as the buffer – he's coming to find that all his children are still very childish and utterly unhinged.
The most stable and level-headed offspring is Judy (Edi Patterson), but she is constantly overlooked because of her gender and her "boring ass whiteboy"/cuckold life-partner BJ (Tim Baltz).
The series leans away from delving too deeply into any real scamming of church folks, we're just assured that the family is absurdly rich in ways God-fearing folks shouldn't morally be. This reluctance to make that the focus of the show allows it to lean into comedy and have the actors perform the absurdity of living a double life as it shows up for each individual character.
The desire to perpetually keep up appearances creates a lot of strain when it comes to their personal relationships and public personas.
The simple lesson here being that if one performs perfection, they deny God the opportunity to come in and fix anything. Should ego lead the way, the path will not be to true glory or salvation, but rather to what the ego demands. In this way one becomes a slave to ambition or personal desire and, therefore, at the mercy of the world's aggressive changes and its desires as well.
Over the course of the show, we see each character grapple with attempting to serve two masters, while publicly only claiming one, in some places falling apart with no hope of coming together.
It's a family trying to remove the twig in everybody else's eyes while they have a log cabin in their own, manicured to perfection and tended to by a whole fleet of staff, but blocking their view of the world and their true selves, nonetheless.
To be a Gemstone means pretending to be the apple of God's eye while living more like a thorn in his side, but on TV, as with God, we're offered the prospect of redemption. Or the opportunity to think about it for a few episodes.
- The Righteous Gemstones is available to stream on Showmax