Tropic of Cancel: CW’s The Messengers

Televangelism has a new address, but not for long.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen July 9, 2015 Published in the July 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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The Messengers, we hardly knew ye.

Someone explain to us why no one is watching The Messengers. Sure, it airs in the television graveyard that is CW’s Friday night, but this show’s got everything: heavy-handed religious overtones, government conspiracies, sexual tension, a diverse cast of highly attractive people who occasionally remember to move their faces while delivering their lines, and—most important—Houston, here portrayed as the central crossroads between heaven and hell. Our city as the gates to perdition? Yes, we believe it.

The premise: after an asteroid crashes into Earth, seven strangers discover that they are God’s chosen messengers, armed with special powers (prophetic visions, super strength, spectral projection, etc.) and tasked with stopping four other people from committing sins that will transform them into the four horsemen of the apocalypse, bringing on the end of the world. 

With the exception of its charismatic, second-generation televangelist (not unlike a certain Lakewood pastor), most of the Messengers’ characters aren’t really sure how they ended up in Houston (not unlike most of us). One mentions staying with a cousin who lives here, another wakes up from a coma somewhere in the Texas Medical Center. A third is literally kidnapped and driven to Texas, which seems to us the most true-to-life aspect of the series. 

Details from the show’s first few episodes build a solid case for H-Town’s centrality to any fight for the soul of humanity. In one, a group of powerful political players convenes at a major energy conference—Offshore Technology Conference, anyone? In another, one of the messengers, a NASA astronomer, endeavors to consult with the world’s preeminent expert in planetary geology, whose lab, it turns out, is right here in town. Obviously.

In a lot of ways, The Messengers is like any other CW sci-fi show about vampires, zombies, monsters and superheroes, although the admixture of religion makes for some uniquely awkward dialogue. (Sample: “People could be out there committing sins right now!”) Still, one would think that the show has, if nothing else, a built-in audience. Seriously, though, no one is watching. At press time, only about 775,000 viewers were tuning in nationwide on average, a number ensuring that the fate of humanity was none too bright. In May, the CW announced that The Messengers won’t get a season two.

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