‘The Righteous Gemstones’ Review

Praise Be to HBO


Righteous Gemstones

Chuck Sipps, Arts and Life Editor

HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones” (TRG) is a fun and somewhat terrifying look at the power and wealth televangelists haphazardly wield. Created by Danny McBride, who stars as Jesse Gemstone, TRG is a satirical view of the church and the greed that can come from unlimited power plus the moral conviction of believing you’re worthy of everything you desire. Despite the fun issues that the show pokes at and the hypocrisy it reveals, it doesn’t ever feel like its punching down at religion but rather mocking the false shepherds who try to mislead their flock.

Eli Gemstone (John Goodman) has crafted an international brand all in the name of Christ and he runs it with the help of his children Jesse, Judy (Edi Patterson) and Kelvin (Adam Devine). Sadly the matriarch of the family, Aimee-Leigh, has died a few short years before the events of the show, and the family has never fully recovered. Without the heart and soul of the Gemstone clan to guide them, the family has descended further and further into sin and debatary, particularly Jesse. After a wild night at the Power Prayer Convention in Atlanta, involving an exorbitant amount of cocaine and strippers, a video of the night surfaces along with a blackmailer who threatens to destroy the life to which Jesse has become accustomed.

TRG is often hilarious and heartfelt and with the amount of improvisation that is clearly happening on screen, it’s obvious that the show was as much fun to film as it was to watch. Some of it’s best bits are its awkward little character moments. Each actor plays their part with such joy that it’s not hard to imagine how often they would force the others to break into laughter. That feeling is contagious to its audience, as TRG got some hearty laughs from me even when I was alone. Walton Goggins, who plays the scene-stealing Uncle Baby Billy, delivered some real gems, if you’ll forgive the pun. 

It’s not all laughs either, as there are some really somber and relatable moments throughout the season. Despite their extreme wealth, there is something broken about each of the characters. None of them are well-adjusted and part of the humor and heartbreak is watching them be a fish out of water whenever they have to conform to societal norms. When you’re almost 40 and still living in a house your daddy pays for, it’s safe to assume you don’t have everything together.  

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the phenomenal John Goodman. The man truly is a gift to acting. He plays the lost Eli to perfection in each scene. During a flashback, we see him struggle as he watches his snake of a brother-in-law Baby Billy coerce his wife into reforming their musical duo. Goodman starts the scene by hamming it up to convince his congregation he is alright with the pairing, before showing his disgust towards Billy before eventually admiring his wife for her talent. All of this is conveyed without saying a word. 

It’s no “Game of Thrones” and hasn’t seemed to achieve the critical acclaim of “Barry” but “The Righteous Gemstones” is another fun addition to HBO’s lineup. It is consistently surprising, funny and heartfelt. Ultimately it is a story of familial love and drama that is worth your investment.

“The Righteous Gemstones” is awarded between 2.5-3 million potatoes on The Sipps’ Potato Scale.