In the US: Thursdays, 8/7c, NBC
As we showed recently, every so often, a mainstream US TV channel will take a break from its usual agnostic programming to make a play for the Christian crowd. Whether it's Touched by an Angel, Eli Stone or Saving Grace, suddenly sinners see the light and the Truth of His word is revealed. It'll never be exactly according to any particular denomination's beliefs and even the question of whether it's a He or a She is up for grabs; there may even be an atheist's 'get out clause' of 'maybe it's a brain condition causing this'; but the general principle - do what God wants and none of things He doesn't - remains constant.
Save Me is like a slightly more comedic, slightly less offensive Saving Grace. In common with Eli Stone, it sees an ordinary American sinner - in this case Anne Heche, playing a former weather girl and party girl - discovers after nearly dying that she is to be a prophet of the Lord and spread His word, all while polishing up her fornicating, stealing, drinking act.
Manna from Heaven for religious viewers, you might think, but the only proof you'll find of a loving God in this particular comedy black hole is Alex Breckenridge. Here's a trailer.
Emmy nominee Anne Heche ("Hung") stars as Beth Harper in NBC's new comedy about a not-so-ordinary Midwestern family. After choking on a hero sandwich in her kitchen and suffering a dramatic near-death experience, Beth - an absentee wife and mother - is revived and claims she can now talk to God. Her teenage daughter, Emily (Madison Davenport, "Shameless"), is horrified and her husband, Tom (Michael Landes, "Final Destination 2"), is skeptical. To make matters worse, Tom's ex-mistress, Carly McKenna (Alexandra Breckenridge, "American Horror Story"), is in a coma after a close encounter with lightning in the Harper's front yard.
As Beth warms up to her new life, she strives to make amends to the people she has alienated over the years, including friends and neighbors Jenna Dennings (Heather Burns, "Bored to Death") and Maggie Tompkins (Joy Osmanski, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"). Despite everyone's initial hesitancy, Beth begins to win people over with her new positive attitude, cheerful optimism and unbridled love."Save Me" is produced by Sony Pictures Television and Original Film. Novelist John Scott Shepherd ("Henry's List of Wrongs," "The Days") created the show and serves as executive producer, along with director Scott Winant ("Breaking Bad," "True Blood"). Additional executive producers include Neal H. Moritz ("The Big C," "Prison Break"), Vivian Cannon ("The Big C"), Alexa Junge ("United States of Tara") and Darlene Hunt ("The Big C"), who also serves as show runner.
Is it any good?
Well, it's not very funny, equating broad and stupid with humorous. But while not as bad in the offensiveness stakes as Saving Grace, Save Me does share its irritating conservative values, even they are spruced up with a hint of political correctness.
The initial problem is that after Heche chokes to death on a sandwich, she goes from a relatively fun party girl, who can't cook, gets drunk and steals coffee machines from people's houses, to one who follows the 'Will of the Lord', which apparently means being boring, giving back coffee machines and cooking meals for the family. Apparently, dad (Michael Landes) can't do that. Or if he can, he shouldn't be, according to the Lord.
Heche hasn't been sleeping with Landes much - not being Christian, she has of course been treating him like dirt, and not having a full and happy relationship with him (cf Saving Grace) - so he's got himself a mistress (Breckenridge). Just as he's about to file for divorce so that he can be with Breckenridge, Heche changes her ways. Angry Breckenridge turns up on her doorstep and the Lord (or a lightning storm) smites her, just because Heche wills it. This is so that Landes can be back with Heche or something.
Loving God? I don't think so, particularly since we have to spend the next episode without Breckenridge, who was just about the only funny thing about the first episode.
Meanwhile, God, who appears more interested in policing women's sexuality and getting them back in the home than ending the problems of the world, expressing His word clearly, or punishing guilty men, also wants to get Heche to church more so she can sing. And meet people with toy dogs.
The show tries for wacky. It tries for theological. It tries for heart-warming. It tries to tell us that without the Lord, we're all going to be at each other's throats, miserable and sinning, but with just a bit of guidance and singing, we'll be at home with our neighbours round the table, drinking coffee, the people we hate in a hospital bed in a coma.
You can see all those things aren't compatible, can't you?
Landes doesn't get much to do but vacillate, Heche just doesn't have the comedy chops for all the crrrrraaaaazzzzy things she's asked to do, the show's writer/creator can't work out what he should be doing with his concept and whether you're Christian or not, you'll be offended by some aspect of the show.
- June 28, 2013: Your handy guide to true religions on TV - Judaism and Christianity
All the scripted shows on Western, English-language TV that have not just featured Judaism and Christianity but have actually shown them to be true in some way or other
- June 6, 2013: Fourth-episode verdict: Save Me (NBC)
A fourth-episode verdict on NBC's Save Me
- September 12, 2013: Mini-preview: Trophy Wife 1x1 (ABC)
A mini-preview of ABC's Trophy Wife
- April 20, 2015: Review: The Messengers 1x1 (US: The CW)
A review of the first episode of The CW’s The Messengers
- September 19, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Hooten and the Lady, Doctor, Doctor and High Maintenance
A review of the TV, films and theatre I saw in the week ending Monday 19th September
- October 4, 2016: Review: Aftermath 1x1 (Canada: Space; UK: 5*)
A review of the first episode of Space/5*'s Aftermath