Hit or Sh**: ABC’s KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
Unwarranted smugness? Check. Rage at being forced to watch advertisements? Check. Unfair comparisons to better shows on premium networks? Cheeee-yeck! Alright, time to tear apart yet another network television pilot intended for people light years outside of my demographic.
The events that kick off KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD feel like a haphazard blending of three different pilots. Kevin (Jason Ritter) returns to his hometown after mysteriously losing his vaguely defined financial sector job and his equally vague girlfriend; the grief of these losses drives him to attempt suicide. The murkiness of Kevin’s past probably holds the key to why the non-denominational, monotheistic God chooses him as the most likely candidate to protect Earth, and will also undoubtedly justify gratuitous flashback sequences of Kevin as an amoral capitalist pig. He moves in with his sister, Amy (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), and her Moody Teen Daughter, Reese (Chloe East.) Kevin approaches and touches the smoldering space rock and collapses. He’s awoken by Yvette, who tells him that she’s a “warrior of God” and that he’s the chosen one who must restore balance to Earth by learning about himself and anointing other chosen ones via hugs and such.
Pictured: The Non-Denominational Monotheistic God, sitting next to a large bearded man
Kevin’s self-improvement journey opens up the story to an infinite number of possible parables, and a show that functions as a sampler platter of morality lessons could reap some powerful emotional rewards. Only future episodes can reveal whether or not that becomes the structure, but based on the pilot, it seems like no one could agree on what Kevin should start as. Most characters talk mad shit about Kevin and his sordid past, yet they also act excited whenever he’s around. These love/hate conversations only work when held between Kevin and Amy, who currently only exists as a source of emotional inspiration for Kevin, but has been revealed to be a high-level government scientist. The Kevin/Amy conversations flow more naturally as a result, so a hard focus on improving Kevin’s relationship with his family could be KEVIN’s path to success.
But despite the serviceable dramatic moments, the attempts at comedy slow this show down to a crawl. KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD swings and misses at just about every joke, making the generous helpings of cheese harder to digest. Network sitcoms usually try to earn their “heart” through protagonist-delivered monologues about the importance of family, complete with gentle piano plinks filling the plethora of pregnant pauses. KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD’s pilot subjects us to a couple of those, which could only be forgivable if balanced with gut-busting humor. But the unimaginative jokes that they’ve chosen to lead off with left my gut completely unbusted. The comedic highlights of this pilot include jokes about Reese being a Moody Teen (Kevin calls her goth AND emo,) a scene where Kevin makes awkward small talk with a high school crush, and countless tired gags about how Kevin is the only one who can see Yvette.
Kevin calls it “Snapsnatch!” Aha, that’s not what it’s called!
The latter joke format gets recycled a few times this pilot, and every time it delivers cringe instead of chuckles. Besides being hackneyed and dull, the jokes grind gratingly against the attempts at positive mental illness messaging. Kevin’s suicide attempt gets wrung for every last drop of sadness and sympathy, which works okay until placed in context with jokes where the punchline consists of “hallucinating leads to wacky faux pas!” I usually try not to harp on this sort of thing, but it concerns me that a show trying to stir sympathy for an ostensibly mentally ill character would take such cheap shots at perhaps the most trivialized symptom of mental disease.
A dramedy that lacks humor and poignancy, KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD tries to run in every direction at once but ends up ripping apart like a ragdoll. I just don’t know how to feel about a widely-loved everyman, who most people hate, that cracks weak jokes and also brings up trying to kill himself in a Serious Voice every so often. There’s bits and pieces of this show that could work, but they mix together like toothpaste and orange juice: seemingly benign, actually awful, and I’m sure there’s at least one weirdo who loves it.
KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD airs on ABC on Tuesdays