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Your Devotion to ‘Kevin (Probably) Saves the World’ Might Not Pay Off...or Maybe It Will
October 3, 2017  | By David Hinckley

It would be nice to feel more excited about the world getting saved.   

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, easily the clumsiest title of any new drama this fall, debuts Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC, and some of the clumsiness rubs off on the show itself.

For starters, it often feels like a sitcom trying to dress up as an hour-long drama. While it’s true that dramedies are fashionable these days, the successful ones find ways to slide more gracefully between slapstick comedy and figurative group hugs.

To be fair, the show faces a tough balancing task from the beginning, since our title guy Kevin Finn (Jason Ritter, top) has just survived a suicide attempt.

He tries to lighten the mood by joking to his niece Reese (Chloe East, left) that the attempt “didn’t take.” It’s a start, but still, suicide is suicide, as reflected in other characters delicately referring to it as “that thing you tried.”

As the show begins, Kevin has moved with his sister Amy (Joanna Garcia Swisher, below left), whose husband died 18 months earlier, leaving Amy with only Reese and Kevin.

And not much of Kevin. He left the husband’s funeral early and wasn’t heard from again until that thing he tried.

Kevin, the show lets us reasonably assume, has fallen into a deep depression. We get the idea he’s lost a wife and a job and who knows what else.

Reconnecting with Amy has become his apparent last option. Trouble is, he’s too depressed to connect or reconnect with anyone. The fact that Amy is going through some sad times herself, and that Reese has been withdrawn and listless since her father’s death, doesn’t suggest happy days are here again in Kevin’s new digs.  

But wait. This is not going to be the saddest dramedy ever, because another player is about to take the field.  

That would be Yvette (Kimberly Hebert Gregory, right), your basic messenger from God, who has come to Earth to help Kevin fulfill his destiny as one of 36 righteous people who will save the world.

That’s enough of a career change to give anyone whiplash, so we can forgive Kevin for not immediately realizing Yvette is serious.

By the time he does, Reese, who previously just thought Kevin was irrelevant and annoying, now thinks he’s crazy, because he’s having these conversations when there’s nobody else in the room.

Yes, in the tradition of cinema angels that began long before It’s a Wonderful Life, Yvette is invisible to everyone except Kevin.  

Besides navigating invisibility, Yvette must also relay the word of God in a script that minimizes references to God.

It’s clear that’s who sent her, just as it’s clear that the signal for activation of those 36 righteous people was 36 meteors crashing into Earth.  

It doesn’t seem, however, that Kevin will be going door-to-door with a Bible. He’s offering a more vague, general sort of faith and understanding that owes just as much to, say, the Golden Rule.

Or maybe not. To be honest, neither Yvette nor Kevin is real clear on specifics.

We do sense that Kevin’s message echoes the belief of every major religion in faith, goodness, and decency. It just doesn’t ascribe that path to any one religion, pointedly implying that the three dozen righteous people represent multiple religions.

One good thing about making the righteous people list is that it does wonders for Kevin’s mood, confidence, and motivation. On the smallest scale, he works overtime to bond with Reese, and in the larger picture, he shrugs off a couple of awkward early encounters to forge ahead in his new mission.

Still, in the end, all this may feel more abstract than compelling, and the hard cold reality of television is that Kevin won’t be able to save the world unless he can first secure the 10 p.m. Tuesday timeslot.

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