Why you should watch The Righteous Gemstones—especially with season 3 on the way!
It doesn't matter what you want in a TV series, be it crime, drama, or even social commentary or comedy—The Righteous Gemstones has something for you and should be on your watchlist. In this article today, I will take you through exactly why you need to watch this gripping series right away; especially with season 3 on the way!
Here, I will take you through the following things:
The world famous televangelist family, the Righteous Gemstones
A recap of season 1
The main characters
Where you can watch The Righteous Gemstones online
What to expect theme-wise from The Righteous Gemstones; and as always
The Righteous Gemstones—A World Famous Televangelist Family
About the show—Danny McBride and the show’s creation, development, and reception
To start things off, The Righteous Gemstones is an American television show that was produced by and as an HBO comedy series, which premiered on August 18, 2019. The show was conceived and created by veteran screenwriter, Danny McBride, who has—besides writing for various films and TV shows—acted in several films such as Tropic Thunder (the parody of the classic Apocalypse Now), The Pineapple Express (all-time stoner classic starring James Franco), This is the End (comedy Zombie horror parody film) and many others.
Danny McBride himself plays one of the lead roles, Jesse, in the HBO max comedy series as well, but more on that later. The Righteous Gemstones is both an audience favorite as well as being critically acclaimed. On IMDb, the show has an audience approval rating of 8.1/10, while on Rotten Tomatoes—where critics rate movies and series—the show has an approval of 82%. After airing its pilot episode on HBO in 2018, Danny McBride and long-time collaborator Jody Hill along with David Gordon Green (who has directed, among other things, The Pineapple Express) got the show order from the channel.
To summarize McBride’s intentions for the show’s future, he plans to make this show an epic of sorts, running longer than anything else he has written/worked with in the past.
The first season of this comedy aired till October, 2019. After that, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show saw a shelving phase for three years, coming out with a nine episode second season this year in 2022.
Plot and basic premise—What is The Righteous Gemstones all about?
Before we get into the internal details of the show and its plot, here are two things you should know and be familiar with:
What is televAngelism?
In short, a televangelist (family, in the case of the show) is a preacher who uses modes of mass communication such as the television or the radio to preach. More often than not, televangelists are also involved in social service (charitable work), and, often a bit of theatrics when preaching.
What is a megachurch?
These are normally unusually large churches with huge denominations, more often than not adhering to Protestant or Evangelical faiths. What sets these apart from, say the Roman Catholic Church, are the presence of one charismatic preacher—in this case, a family headed by a charismatic patriarch—and their involvement in things other than just worship and prayer, such as education and other philanthropic or charitable work.
Now, let’s get into the show and the “world famous televangelist family.”
The world famous televangelist family, The Righteous Gemstones
The Gemstone family is a televangelist family that uses its personality and charisma to preach on TV. They are theatrical, and they are involved with a megachurch (which, according toDistractify, “eerily resembles that of the Hillsong church in 1980’s Australia).
Now comes the real heart of the matter. Megachurch pastors (such as the gentlemen who ran the Hillsong Church, as well) are often the centers of scandal and intrigue, and often are accused of corruption and other nefarious activities.
Eli Gemstone and his family of three quite immature children lead absolutely opulent lives, thanks to the millions they receive in church donations. The folly of the Gemstone children, along with various other characters, leads to various situational conflicts for the family.
Let’s look at synopses of the first two seasons of the show, before we delve deeper into the characters themselves.
The Righteous Gemstones—season 1: What happens (Major spoilers ahead)
Season 1 was all about tone-setting, as expected for this dark comedy series. Story wise, mostly the main motif is blackmail, but more details on that later. So, the family has three private jets, appropriately named the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit after the Holy Trinity. On one of them, Eli, Kelvin, and Jesse Gemstone return from a mass baptism in China; their sister Judy, owing to her gender has not been fashioned into another preacher, and seethes with anger and resentment against her brothers—Judy attempts to ensure her father gives her more recognition in public, which becomes one of the main drivers of the story later.
Just like crime families and mafia, there are proper territories that such similar congregations fight over—and when Eli attempts to expand into the Locust Grove Area, the local priest of the nearby (and much smaller) congregation Rev. J. W. Seasons is alarmed as he knows there is a distinct possibility of his own parishioners joining the Gemstone church.
And, his pleas to Eli, however as expected, fall on deaf ears—Maintaining a megachurch after all is a business, and there are no special cases in running a business. Eli attempts this expansion by getting his estranged brother-in-law, Baby Billy (Walton Goggins) to head up a satellite shopping mall-based church in the area.
To set the tone for the main happenings of the first season, let’s briefly talk about Jesse Gemstone, the eldest son of Eli Gemstone. Played by creator Danny McBride, the character is married to Cassidy Freeman’s Amber Gemstone, a beautiful woman, and lives at the Gemstone family mansion with two of his three sons—after his eldest Gideon distances himself from the family and moves to California to be a stuntman.
One can more or less call him the lead character as Jesse Gemstone receives the most amount of screen time. And, it is he that receives a call from unknown blackmailers seeking US$1 million, threatening him with a video of him and his friends doing drugs with sex workers.
Jesse Gemstone, perplexed, approaches Judy (Edi Patterson) and Kelvin (Adam DeVine) for help. They naturally assume that it is Rev. Seasons who is behind this plot, and Jesse’s friends attack him in retribution.
Judy attempts, begrudgingly, to help Jesse and gives him some of her money that she had stashed, and together, the three meet the blackmailers seeking their money at a parking lot. After securing the device with the video, Jesse and his siblings escape with the money after beating up the blackmailers and run them over with their van.
Meanwhile, Eli is shown to be watching a video of him and his deceased wife Aimee Leigh preaching together, long before his wife’s death (Aimee Leigh is played by Jennifer Nettles).
On the other hand, the Gemstone siblings come to know that there were actually three blackmailers seeking money, and the third one actually managed to get away and get his mates to hospital. With the help of Keefe, Kelvin’s ex-Satanist roommate, they get their hands on some surveillance footage from the DMV to help gauge where the blackmailers run off to.
The blackmailers seeking to trouble the Gemstone family comprises Scotty, Lucy, along with the third young man who escapes Jesse’s van, Gideon—Jesse’s estranged son.
Where Scotty is determined to destroy the world famous televangelist family, Gideon has second thoughts after his escape and abandons the plan, and returns home—everyone, but his father, is ready to forgive (Jesse Gemstone does not know his son’s blackmailer identity).
Meanwhile Baby Billy, despite accepting Eli’s offer, is still bitter about Aimee Leigh not working with him after marrying Eli. There is an uncomfortable bonding moment between the two when they thwart and humiliate Reverend Johnny’s attempt to destroy their new church. On the other hand, Gideon reports to Scotty on the valuables he finds in his parents’ bedroom.
One of Jesse’s friends’ wives informs Amber about an email—it kind of exposes Jesse Gemstone’s debauchery. But the crisis is averted once Jesse manages to convince everyone.
Jesse has a run-in with his blackmailers’ car (Scotty and Gideon) and lies about it to Amber. We are taken back in time with a flashback of when Aimee Leigh was expecting Kelvin, and the only person more disappointed than the obnoxious young Jesse and Judy was Billy Freeman. Back in the present, Billy advocates Judy to Eli. When Eli disagrees, Billy goes behind his back and tells Judy that he wants to give her a lead role in the new church—obviously a ploy to get back at Eli. Meanwhile Rev. Johnny informs his parish that his church is closing.
After another threat call from Scotty, Jesse Gemstone awkwardly makes up with Gideon. Meanwhile Judy (Edi Patterson) attempts to impress Baby Billy.
While Judy and Baby Billy perform on stage, much to Eli’s consternation, Scotty comes to visit Gideon at the Gemstone family mansion. In a very small but eventful flashback, we are informed that it was Gideon who recorded Jesse on his phone—this is the very video that the blackmailers use.
Scotty, now cleaned up, spends an evening dining with the family claiming to have had a spiritual awakening thanks to Gideon, who is none too pleased with the new turn of events. With Easter service around the corner, Eli informs Jesse that he will be delivering the main sermon and an elated Judy and Baby Billy will be performing as well.
With Easter service preparations underway and the family busy, Scotty and Gideon devise a plan to get their hands on the donations in the vault.
Baby Billy and Judy back out of their performance at Eli’s church because Judy feels that it’s too little too late for Eli to include her, while Scotty and Gideon are ready to set the plan in motion. And before it’s too late, Gideon retrieves the final copy of the tapes from Scotty, assaults him, and foils his plans.
A climax ensues, with Scotty stealing back his van and holding Jesse at gunpoint, while announcing that he was acting on Gideon’s instructions to steal from the rich, celebrity televangelist family. Gideon and Jesse are forced to hand over cash to Scotty, who locks them inside the vault. After an altercation with Billy and his wife Tiffany, however, Scotty is left for dead with a bullet in the head.
After understanding the gravitas of the situation, the righteous gemstones family see a lot of separation, as Gideon is (kind of) disowned by his mother Amber, while his father Jesse Gemstone regrets being a terrible dad. Judy attempts to reconcile with BJ, after falling out with Billy, but that too goes haywire.
Kelvin Gemstone, leader of God squad, also kicks out Keefe after being convinced that God is punishing him; meanwhile after showing his wife, friends and their wives the taps, Jesse Gemstone receives a bullet from a freaked out Amber. Judy is bailed out by Eli, but Billy and Tiffany party with the cash they stole from Scotty, driving the story forward for the Righteous gemstones season.
Here we come to the comedy series The Righteous Gemstones season 1 finale, aptly named “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.” Eli informs his kids that he is firing them from the church (set in Gemstone salvation center), after Kevin and Judy tell him of the blackmail scandal.
Jesse Gemstone receives a terrible blow: Amber tell him to go to Haiti for evangelical work, if he wants to repent. Judy tries her best to win back a now “bad boy” BJ at the Outback Steakhouse. Kevin makes a bizarre confession to his siblings saying he sometimes identifies as being Jesus, much to his siblings’ disapproval and ruling out. Kevin leaves, but is soon back to his roots when he finds Keefe back to his Satanist ways.
Later while Judy and BJ get back together; the siblings and Eli understand who stole the cash from them. Billy becomes the Electric preacher and starts a new church, while Eli and Rev. Johnny reconcile after an apology from Eli; the latter comes to work with them. The first season of this Rough house pictures comedy ends with Jesse and Gideon repenting in Haiti.
The Righteous Gemstones—season 2: Where to watch online?
The latest season of The Righteous Gemstones is season 2. It began airing this year in January and the run ended in February. It is a 9 episode season and has followed Righteous Gemstones season 1 with amazing critical reviews and great reception.
If you want to watch online, The Righteous Gemstones is available on the following platforms:
So, go ahead and give The Righteous Gemstones a binge over this holiday season! And of course, wait for Righteous Gemstones season 3 as well, which is currently in the works.
Read on for a character list of the Righteous Gemstones.
The Righteous Gemstones—Characters
Main cast and characters
Jesse Gemstone: Played by creator Danny McBride, Jesse Gemstone is quote-unquote the main character. He is the eldest son of the Righteous gemstones family patriarch and given to many vices. However, he does end season 1 on a redemptive note.
Dr. Eli Gemstone: Played by John Goodman, Eli is the father figure of the titular Righteous Gemstones family. He is the patriarch and main preacher of their church, and is concerned constantly with his children’s future. The Church is into “charitable work” that earns the family millions in donations, leading to immense luxuries such as the private jets named after the Holy Trinity.
Kelvin Gemstone: Played by Adam DeVine, Kelvin is the youngest sibling of the Gemstone family on the Righteous gemstones. He heads the youth wing of the Gemstone family Church.
Judy Gemstone: Played by Edi Patterson, Judy is a volatile and unpredictable character, and is constantly looking for her father’s approval. She is berated again and again, and even then, she tries to help out Jesse whenever she can.
Keefe Chambers: Played by Tony Cavalero, Keefe is an ex-Satanist and the best friend of Kelvin. Besides he mildly reveres Kelvin.
Amber Gemstone: Played by Cassidy Freeman, Amber is Jesse’s wife.
Gideon Gemstone: Played by Skyler Gisondo, Gideon is Jesse’s eldest son and drives a lot of the story forward in Righteous Gemstones season 1.
Billy Freeman: Played by Walton Goggins, Billy was one of the highlights of season 1. He is unpredictable, ruthless, and scheming, with one goal in mind: Destroying the fortunes of The Righteous Gemstones. He ends season 1 literally on an electrifying note, being struck by lighting and becoming the Electric Preacher. Walton Goggins is a veteran actor, and recently even made an appearance in the MCU, in The Ant Man and the Wasp.
Benjamin Jason “BJ” Barnes: Played by Tim Baltz, BJ is the fiance and later husband of Judy Gemstone. Judy and him have a falling out, and he suffers because of her explosive, neurotic behavior, but they later make up.
Reverend Johnny Seasons: Played by Dermot Mulroney, Rev. Seasons is an important side character in season 1. Eli and Johnny later make up in the season 1 finale, Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.
Aimee Leigh Gemstone: Played by Jennifer Nettles, Aimee Leigh is the now-deceased wife of John Goodman’s Eli. She appears in flashbacks. The way she indirectly drives the story forward on The Righteous Gemstones is that being separated from her is her brother Billy’s main motive behind wanting to destroy the Righteous Gemstones.
Read on to know some more TV series and films that deal with similar themes as The Righteous Gemstones.
Similar shows and TV series that you can watch online after you finish The Righteous Gemstones
This is actually the most similar movie, thematically speaking, to the Righteous Gemstones. This Malayalam language movie stars Fahadh Faasil, one of the most highly rated Indian character actors right now, and he plays a down on his luck motivational coach who is hired by a shady organization to become a larger-than-life Televangelist preacher. His employers earn billions from their “charitable work.” You can watch this on Amazon Prime Video.
Good Omens (2019)
An angel and a demon form an unlikely duo to stop the Armageddon, which might disrupt their comfortable, cushy lives on Earth. The story is based on a novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett of the same name. The cast is just amazing and includes: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Jon Hamm, Frances McDormand, Jack Whitehall, and Benedict Cumberbatch. This mini series can be watched online on Amazon Prime Video.
The Good Place (2016 to 2020)
One of the most hilariously profound shows of all time in my personal opinion, this minimalist TV series deals with hell and heaven and all the other “big questions” in between. It follows a grey protagonist who finds herself in the “Good Place” after death, but things are not what they seem like—just like in The Righteous Gemstones. Religion, politics, philosophy, and ethics come together in a seamless comedy show that does not forget that all viewers are not the same. It has an ensemble cast and all its 4 seasons are on Netflix.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Is The Righteous Gemstones based on a real family?
In short, no. The Righteous gemstones family, its so-called charitable work, as well its colorful characters are purely fictional and created for entertainment purposes only. Although, having said that, each character is a caricature and the televangelist family is a scathing satirical indictment of the malpractices of the televangelism industry.
What preacher is righteous gemstones based on?
The creators of The Righteous Gemstones found inspiration for the televangelist family from real-life preacher named John Jacobs (inspired John Goodman-played character, Eli Gemstones), a Texas preacher who founded “the Power Team,” a Christian group in the 1980’s.
Will there be season 3 of Righteous Gemstones?
Yes. The hit HBO comedy series has been renewed for a third season, with 9 episodes, in 2022. However, season 3 is in the works for now.
What denomination are megachurches?
Usually with a lot of followers, mega churches (also, megachurches) are most often Protestant or Evangelical Christian institutions that often have a lot of associated social activities, besides worship and prayer.
Where is Eli Gemstone from?
Eli Gemstone, the character on Righteous gemstones played by John Goodman (of The Big Lebowski fame) is from South Carolina, and is the patriarch and leader of the televangelist Gemstone family.
In Closing …
What did you think of season 2? I thought it was hilarious and dark, and delivered more than promised. Let me know in the comments below and have a great holiday season with lots of binge-eating and binge watching!