October 4, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World”


KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD:  Tuesday 10PM on ABC – In the Queue

ABC’s KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD is the closest any broadcast network has to a Big Swing this fall, and as such, it deserves some respect.  But wow, is it a mess.  The only reason the fantasy-inspirational dramedy holds together even a tiny bit is due to the enormous likability of its star, Jason Ritter.

The word “contrived” doesn’t begin to do justice to what series creators Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas have wrought.  (They were senior writer/producers on Agent Carter, Resurrection and CW’s wacky Reaper, but notably the latter is the only one they created.)  Try to follow along:  Kevin (Ritter) is three weeks removed from a failed suicide attempt, and with both his job and girlfriend gone, he heads to the farmhouse of his widowed sister Amy (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) and teen niece Reese (Chloe East).  One night, while astrophysicist Amy is off consulting with the Pentagon (!) about 35 meteors that have all fallen to Earth in a single day, a 36th meteor falls near the house, and when Kevin touches it, he’s knocked out.  The next morning, he’s acquired a nonsectarian angel named Yvette (Kimberly Hebert Gregory, the Principal from Vice Principals), whom no one else can see, and who informs him that he is one of the “righteous” and he now has a heavenly duty to become a better human being and do good deeds, which will enable him to find the other 35 righteous, and once he’s hugged all of them, he will save the world.

So… yeah.

The intent seems to be a mix of the spirituality of Highway To Heaven with the more grounded(-ish) comedy of No Tomorrow or My Name Is Earl, but if those pieces can fit together, Butters and Fazekas haven’t figured out how.  (Maybe Steven Spielberg in his mid-1980s heyday could have pulled it off, but even that’s far from certain.)  Nothing about the show quite makes sense.  Kevin seems meant to be a materialistic creep (he was late to Amy’s husband’s funeral and drives a big BMW that Yvette destroys), but Ritter doesn’t remotely play him that way.  While other fantasies where the protagonists talk to characters only they can see find ways around having them communicate in public, Kevin just flat-out has conversations with thin air while others look on.  Yvette herself, a sassy African-American angel, has a presence that’s just this side of queasy.  Reese is talked about like she’s deeply troubled, but she’s hardly even sullen as TV teens go.  Who knows what’s going on with Amy and her military astrophysics consulting gig.

And yet, sometimes Kevin works, usually when it’s not trying so hard.  The scenes that are just about Kevin and his relationships with Amy and Reese land nicely, and Kevin has a bumbling crush on Reese’s teacher Kristin (India de Beaufort).  But the more metaphysical Kevin gets, the worse it fares, and it seems to intend a lot of metaphysics.

Is there an audience for Kevin?  In Ritter, the show has a lead who can nimbly segue from near-slapstick to serious introspection, and perhaps there’s an opening in today’s fractured culture for the purely heartwarming.  Kevin is certainly an alternative to the crime stories on CBS and NBC in its timeslot.  But the show is such a unique, chewy batter of tones and genres that it’s tough to recommend, and sometimes even to watch.  In short:  God knows.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."