Stay Tuned: Fall preview: ‘Kevin (Probably) Saves the World’
Reese, the teenage narrator of “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World,” opens the show asking a few questions that most of us have probably asked ourselves from time to time: Why are we here? What really matters? The show tackles these weighty matters with a creative premise, likeable characters and irreverent humor. It’s an uplifting series with heartwarming moments that could easily slip into tired clichés but instead feel authentic and sweet.
Reese’s uncle is Kevin Finn (Jason Ritter), who returns to his childhood home in Texas to stay with his recently widowed twin sister Amy (JoAnna Garcia Swisher). It’s an awkward homecoming because Kevin has neglected his relationship with Amy and Reese (Chloe East) and spiraled into despair. A series of events, which begin with a meteorite crashing near the house and continue with the appearance of an angel called Yvette (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), reveal that Kevin is one of 36 righteous souls whose existence protects humanity. Without the 36, the world will lose hope. Yvette tells Kevin that he must build up his spiritual power with selfless acts so that he can find the next generation of righteous souls. She is there to protect and guide him.
It’s a unique premise and (probably) one of the worst titled new shows of the fall season but Ritter delivers a great performance as Kevin, a not so good but not too bad guy. Kevin’s faults and his unhappiness are relatable because Ritter confidently straddles the line between good and bad with ease. Kevin is selfish but sometimes thoughtful. He’s a coward but then a little bit brave. He disconnects from Reese and Amy but then finds small moments of empathy and compassion.
Garcia Swisher is also solid as Amy, a mother trying to put aside her feelings of loss to focus on her daughter’s grief and a sister who wants to help her damaged brother. Like Ritter, Garcia Swisher has a relatable quality about her acting that grounds the more fantastic elements of the show, namely Kevin’s relationship with Yvette, who only he can see.
Having a character speak to an invisible celestial guide is good for some laughs and Ritter pulls off the physical comedy. It also helps that the series doesn’t overdo these scenes. Hebert Gregory, who recently stole the show as a beleaguered principal on “Vice Principals,” plays Yvette with a refreshing nuance. She is the kind but fierce angel protector you would expect but she isn’t entirely predictable. Kevin frustrates his family but when he frustrates Yvette, it has more (supernatural) consequences, which adds to the show’s humor.
The series has a simple message about serving others through selfless acts of kindness and then imagines that three dozen people are responsible for saving the rest of us from our selfish ways. The idea that there are people in life whose goodness uplifts all those around them is a touching and hopeful theme. And so is the idea that they, like Kevin, aren’t perfect.
“Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” premieres on Tuesday, October 3 at 10 p.m. EDT on ABC.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing’” and the recently released “The American Television Critic.” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.