In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, ABC
Faith-based television has a bad reputation. That is, it has a reputation for being bad. To be fair, that’s largely because not only is it preaching to the converted, it typically airs on networks with small budgets and few creatives. The result is dogmatic, hectoring TV that has the subtlety of Pat Robertson.
But when it airs on mainstream networks, it can often rise above the banal. Sure, you can still end up with the likes of Of Kings and Prophets (cancelled so quickly I didn’t even have time to review it) and the just horrific Saving Grace, but you can still end up with jaunty little shows like Joan of Arcadia, Highway to Heaven or even Quantum Leap. Touched by an Angel? Well, let’s not speak about that…
Trouble is the good ones are all much of a muchness and new kid on the block Kevin (Probably) Saves the World doesn’t exactly deviate from the standard formula. It sees Jason Ritter (The Class, The Event, Another Period, Goliath) playing the titular Kevin, a somewhat aimless complete nobody and failure as a human being, who tried to commit suicide – and failed at that, too. Sister JoAnna Garcia Swisher (Privileged, Animal Practice) is so worried about him trying again that she gets him to move in with her, back in the small town in which they grew up but which he left a decade ago. That’s despite the fact Ritter wasn’t there for her when her husband died, something Ritter’s niece (Chloe East) still hates him for.
One night, a meteorite – one of more than 30 – strikes the Earth nearby and Ritter being somewhat dumb, only goes and touches it. When he wakes up, he can suddenly hear and see Kimberly Hebert Gregory (Vice Principals), who claims to be a ‘warrior of God’ – what we call an angel. She tells him that he’s one of the 36 righteous souls who keep the world going. In fact, he’s the only one left and he now has to find 35 others whom he can anoint as the new righteous souls. At least, once he’s becoming properly righteous himself.
Trouble is, no one else can see or hear Gregory, although they can at least see the results of her actions, and he can’t tell anyone that he’s one of the righteous ones. Ritter’s also not even emotionally equipped to make himself, his sister or his niece happier or better. So can Kevin save the world?
So there you go. It’s Joan of Arcadia again. It’s also Quantum Leap again. It’s even Highway to Heaven again. It’s the “God moves in mysterious ways to go and help the little guy to help other little guys, usually with the help of some kind of angel that can only be seen by said little guy” formula that we’ve seen so many times before. Gregory is precisely the kind of older black woman that Community satirised as inevitably being a TV ‘cosmic mentor’. Ritter eventually sees the light and starts becoming a better person. There are no surprises other than JoAnna Garcia Swisher being a professor of engineering.
But beyond that slavish following of the template, Kevin (Probably) Saves The World is actually okay. It can be quite heart-warming, doesn’t tell you you’re a sinner and doesn’t quote scripture at you. It takes itself a lot less seriously than you might expect, with Ritter being a complete idiot and most of Gregory’s life lessons for Ritter involving her hitting him or something bad happening to him like his car being run over. Ritter’s funny and appealing, and not a loathsome, godless atheist as you might have expected, either.
There’s a good supporting cast as well, with India de Beaufort (Kröd Mändoon, Blood and Oil) as Ritter’s ex, who’s now one of East’s teachers and holds a slight torch for him still; J August Richards (Angel, Raising the Bar, Agents of SHIELD, Notorious) is a local cop and possible romantic interest for Garcia Swisher.
There’s also ample room for the series to expand. Those other meteorites all brought angels to Earth as well, so there’s the possibility for them to show up. Garcia Swisher is working with the US government to find out the significance of so many of them all hitting the Earth at the same time.
Of course, for Kevin to save the world, if the show lasts the maximum of seven seasons, Kevin has to find an average of five righteous souls a season, so we’ll quickly know if it this is the kind of show that’s planning on treading water and moping around town for its run, or whether there’ll be some actual pace to it. Somehow, I doubt it’ll be the latter but you never know.
Would I watch seven seasons to find out? Almost certainly not.The comedy, dialogue and plotting are pretty weak. It’s unremarkable stuff at every level, although it’s not bad and does have potential.
All the same, it’s good to know that reasonably good faith-based TV can still be made.