It could be said that ABC is taking a leaf from NBC’s playbook this season with the addition of a heart-warming, feel good This-is-Us style drama focusing on family and hope.
However that’s where comparisons to the awkwardly titled Kevin (Probably) Saves the World should probably end.
This new Tuesday night drama stars Jason Ritter as Kevin Finn, a selfish and materialistic young man who returns to his childhood home in Texas to crash with his bereaved sister (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), and her sulky teenage daughter Reese (Chloe East).
When a meteor crashes down in a field near their house in the middle of the night, Kevin and Reese investigate, and Kevin makes the impromptu decision to bring the mysterious object back to the house.
However, overnight, the space rock transforms into celestial guide Yvette (Kimberly Hébert Gregory) who informs the hapless Kevin he is in fact the ‘last of the righteous,’ 36 souls whose mere existence protects the word. Without them, humanity has been thrown into crisis and the world has started to lose the one thing that allows it to persevere through the ups and downs of life: hope. Kevin is now tasked with a divine mission to save humanity by finding and anointing 35 new souls to carry out God’s will. You know. The usual stuff.
In order for Kevin to fulfill his holy task, he must first build up his spiritual powers through random acts of kindness — a concept about as alien to Kevin as the rock he discovered the previous night.
Along the way, Yvette, a little like Dean Stockwell’s Al from Quantum Leap, is there to offer assistance or an ass-kicking as needs dictate. Yvette, who describes herself as “God’s warrior,” is clued in to the bigger plan, and regularly checks in upstairs, in addition to checking Kevin for poor behavior. Along the way we learn that Yvette has made the ultimate sacrifice in giving up Paradise to come to Earth to school Kevin. Boy, he better be worth the trip! Just like Al, Yvette is also visible only to her protege, resulting in many moments where Kevin rants to the air as onlookers stare bemusedly.
Convoluted spiritual plotlines aside, the show aims for a light, family, feelgood tone, but occasionally manages to lose its way as it navigates the divide between comedy and drama. At its center is Kevin, who we’re told is a self absorbed and materialistic man. I say told because our press materials literally describe him as ‘not a good person.’ However, the pilot doesn’t do a great job at setting up who Kevin was before his epiphany which is a serious misstep.
When we meet him first we see a man self-consciously stuttering and mumbling his way through a series of introductions — a little like Hugh Grant circa 1999 — as he awkwardly re-encounters childhood friends and acquaintances in his home town. In fact, one might be forgiven for initially wondering if Kevin is truly as bad as we’re told, or if he is just an awkward Millennial, ill-equipped to deal with the nuances of social interaction. Being denied a good look at what exactly makes Kevin so me-centric has the unintentional side-effect of diluting not just what comes next, but also any feelings of doubt on the audience’s part over his ability to tackle his mission ahead.
In fact, it’s not until a moment towards the end of the hour, when Kevin opens up in a monologue about his past to a complete stranger, that we begin to understand the dangerous path of despair he was previously on. It’s all a little too late, as Kevin has been firmly cemented in our minds as an adorable bumbling idiot rather than a selfish cad.
Like last year’s runaway success This is Us, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World is a story about human connection, family and the struggle to find meaning, hope, and purpose in life. But it’s just not as intelligent, or as authentic, and lacks a much needed larger-than-life, charismatic, hot mess at its center to make for a truly entertaining Tuesday night experience.
Kevin (Probably) Saves the World premieres Tuesday October 3 on ABC.
ScreenSpy Score: C+