Kevin (Probably) Saves The World is the kind of series that doesn’t come along very often, because you have to get an actor who can pull it off or it becomes completely ridiculous and absolutely unwatchable. There are only five actors I can think of who would have a chance at making this show into something worth the effort. Three of them are dead and one of them is Jason Ritter.
In what is a fantastically silly premise, Kevin (Ritter), has moved in with his sister, Amy (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), following a failed attempt at suicide. Before he has a chance to settle in, a meteor delivers an angel (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) to him and tells him that he has been chosen to save the world. Kevin doesn’t really want anything to do with the idea, but it turns out that he doesn’t have much choice. Let the good times roll.
Unfortunately, Kevin isn’t able to tell anyone what’s happening to him, and acting rather insane and/or talking to people who aren’t there isn’t winning him a lot of points with his sister or his niece, Reese (Chloe East). Up until his suicide attempt, Kevin wasn’t exactly a great brother or uncle, focusing his life on making money, which means he doesn’t have a great track record with his family.
The pilot establishes a chain of potential episodic content that might remind of shows like My Name Is Earl. Kevin has a certain quest that will open the door for a wide variety of travels and encounters (and guest stars), while giving us a home set of characters that are going to obviously become increasingly concerned with Kevin’s new outlook and odd efforts.
At times spectacularly channeling his father, Ritter carries the audience through the idea and escapades of a character that is far more complex than he seems, and does so in a way that delivers that character far beyond the wildest dreams of show’s creators. Several scenes within the pilot border on the nonsensical on paper, but Ritter manages to breathe life into them. A soliloquy to a deaf person and a mixed up soccer wager are just the beginning of the show’s inability to hold up to script scrutiny. Somehow, Ritter turns these into the kind of moments that actually become standard, crazy, family stories that everyone can relate to. Pulling gravity and realism out of the farcical is something actors simply can’t do, but he manages it anyway.
Still, this is a silly premise, and he can’t quite exist in a vacuum. Garcia Swisher is unfortunately shackled by the establishment throughout the pilot, but she still works a decent enough spin on “fed up with Kevin.” More importantly, she makes it clear that she’ll be able to manage what the series will ask of her, mainly by way of delivering during the “Kevin can’t talk,” scenario, which had to be taxing. It’s a scene that makes you desperate for the blooper reel.
The sad truth is that there are few things that are rare in television anymore. Finding most of what you’re looking for from dramedy in a show that is probably as closely related to Mork & Mindy as anything else is about as rare as it gets. Spinning religion and serious, human introspection into a show that is also zany, but doesn’t drown viewers in treacly, boring, bloated sentimentality just doesn’t exist at all.
If this show gets half the chance it deserves, and stays true to the down-to-Earth development of its goofball premise, this could well become one of the cultural focal points that defines the time.