Kevin (Probably) Saves The World
I’ve always been an admirer of Jason Ritter’s work. From his appealing performance as the paralyzed brother on the underrated Joan of Arcadia to his wonderful work as high school teacher Mr. Cyr on the ditto Parenthood, he’s always had a gift for playing charming, warm and engaging people. I’m a little shocked, given his Hollywood heritage, that it’s taken him this long to land a lead in a series worthy of him: ABC’s Kevin (probably) Saves The World.
Indeed, the parallels to Joan are rather uncanny. In this series, Kevin plays an unlikely and initially unlikable lead. He’s just moved in with his sister Amy after what we learn was a suicide attempt. Amy seems to be watching Kevin more out of obligation then anything else: the last time she saw him was at her husband’s funeral, and he didn’t stay for all of that. Her daughter Reese is openly disdainful of him, but then she just seems to be a typical pre-teen. Then that night, there’s a meteor shower and when Kevin’s touches the meteor — well, things get weird. Yvette (Kimberly Herbert Gregory) shows up in his kitchen the next day, tells him that she’s a messenger from God, and that Kevin is one of the 36 righteous souls destined to save mankind. Now it seems that thirty-five of them are missing, which means its up to Kevin to find them.
Needless to say, Kevin is not up for the job. He doesn’t want it, he can’t tell anybody what’s going on, and he can’t rule out the possibility that he is going crazy. (It doesn’t help matters that no one else can see Yvette, so it frequently looks like he’s talking to himself.) There are, however, signs that he might indeed be one of the righteous — he keeps having visions that seem more and real and that his guide seems sure of our clues.
Notably, the series doesn’t go about its mission in a very rapid sense, which probably will dismay as many viewers as it seems to dismay Kevin. So what Kevin is trying to do is listen to the universe. This includes trying to help Amy come to terms with her grief, try to reconcile with people like his high school sweetheart, and just try to be a better person, something he admits he was never good at.
The slow, almost languid, pace will certainly dismay the typical TV viewer who wants their revelations now-now-now! I actually find it refreshing, part of because it does have the tone of Joan of Arcadia, where the series was cancelled just before it was becoming clear what God’s mission for Joan was. Most of it is due to the fine work of Ritter himself , who plays Kevin as something of a combination of The Dude from The Big Lebowski and Earl Hickey from My Name is Earl. He’s definitely not fit for the job at hand, but part of him really wants to try and solve the mission, even if it seems to be misguided.
It’s not clear yet whether or not Ritter’s charm is enough to make this into a successful series. The other characters, with the exception of Yvette, are either cliches or ciphers (they still haven’t figured out how to use J. August Richards yet). And its not clear if the main story is enough to sustain a complete show (even Joan devoted significant plots to either mysteries or teen drama, neither of which this series has). But Ritter is enough to charm me, and given the gradual pace of Joan, I’m willing to give this series a bit of a chance. Its different, and it has faith. That’s rare on any medium, much less broadcast TV.
My score: 3.75 stars.