Kevin (Probably) Saves the World (ABC, Tuesdays, 10/9C) is a quasi-faith-based series in the vein of Twice in a Lifetime or Touched by an Angel.
Its premise is that a ‘Warrior for God’ appears in his life – through the device of a meteor crashing near his temporary home – and informs him that he is the last of the righteous (36 righteous souls who keep the Earth away from dystopia) and that he must find 35 more. Problem is, he is not righteous – not at all, not at all, not at all.
The series premiere of Kevin (Probably) Saves the World opens with a host of meteors falling to Earth.
Cut to Kevin Finn (Jason Ritter, Joan of Arcadia, Parenthood) returning home after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. He’s in a rough state which his sister, Amy Cabrera (JoAnna Garcia Switzer, Once Upon a Time) points out, not unkindly. His niece, Reese (Chloe East, Liv and Maddie) is less welcoming.
They haven’t see each other in a long time – and Kevin is jobless and his girlfriend left, so, he’s in even worse shape than he looks.
In the middle of the night, a helicopter arrives and Amy is off to a classified meeting. While she’s gone, a meteor crashes near the house – and, despite knowing that Amy wouldn’t want them to do so, the two go looking for it.
Kevin climbs down into the meteor’s crater and touches it – with interesting results. The next thing he knows, hand Reese are back and home and he has no idea how they got there – and the meteor is in the backseat.
Later, Kevin is awakened by the car’s alarm going off. When he shuts it off with the remote, light pours out of the vehicle and Yvette (Kimberly Hébert Gregory, Devious Maids, Vice Principals) appears – and tells him he has been chosen by God for a very important mission. But he can’t tell anyone!
The rest of the premiere follows Kevin as Yvette tries to prove she’s real (an airborne truck – seen in the teasers for the show); tries (and fails) to figure out how to help Reese and Amy, and become reacquainted with old friends.
The premiere sets up the rules Kevin must live by (and Yvette points out that no one else can see her); corrects some misconceptions (as noted above, Yvette is a Warrior for God – angels re a human construct); and tells us why Reese is so troubled – while also letting us see Amy at work (she may be depressed by her husband’s death, but she doesn’t let that keep her from doing her job well).
The series was created by Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters (the team behind Reaper and Agent Carter) – who also wrote the premiere, which was directed by Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin, Luke Cage).
Cast against type, Ritter gives a convincing performance as the formerly hedonistic, narcissistic failed suicide. His gift for comic delivery and physical comedy help keep the premiere from being too serious and too dark.
Switzer looks a lot like Amy Adams and the audience might find the sequence where she’s picked up by a helicopter reminiscent of Adams’ film Arrival – but she soon establishes Amy (coincidental name? I don’t know…) as her own character. She’s still not recovered from her husband’s passing, but she’s working through it.
East makes Reese’s intelligence and wit stand out – she’s not really troubled teen, she just hasn’t figured out how to work though her sense of loss and acceptance that Kevin’s changing.
Gregory is delightful as Yvette – she can be sassy, but her go to is a gentle (sometimes not-too-gentle) authority, and she makes Yvette’s efforts to help Kevin evolve completely believable.
Still, there’s not much here that’s new – certainly we’ve seen variations on the theme in virtually every episode of Touched by an Angel – the major difference being that what TBAA handled an episode or tow, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World is using as the basis for an ongoing series.
The result is a premise that could, without some agile writing, be a very one-note show that doesn’t last.
On the other hand, is the writers have some good ideas for variations of the show’s titular theme – and with this good a cast – it could be a sleeper hit.
A single episode isn’t enough of a sample to make any kind of assessment, but if Kevin can constantly invent interesting variations, it will last.
Final Grade: B+