Take Me to the Pilots '17: ABC's 'Kevin (Probably) Saves the World'

Jason Ritter is likable, but perhaps miscast, in this inconsistent genre- and tone-bending spiritual dramedy.
Courtesy of ABC
'Kevin (Probably) Saves the World'

Show: Kevin (Probably) Saves the World (ABC)
The Pitch: "Ed meets Touched by an Angel"
Quick Response: Tone-bending and genre-bending network pilots are complicated business — see The Orville — and Kevin (Probably) Saves the World is a quirky "Prodigal son returns to his hometown" dramedy blended inelegantly with an earnest, Biblically inspired spiritual quest drama that plays out like a superhero origin story, but those dramatics are still spiked with bits of broad humor. I'd say that the earnest parts work least, but Jason Ritter, Chloe East and JoAnna Garcia Swisher all sell the earnest family part of the story, so it's just the religious superhero part that isn't introduced convincingly here (and could end up being a fake-out if our hero's quest to find fellow righteous souls is a product of mental instability or something related to aliens). In that respect, it's just a badly structured/plotted pilot that doesn't give me any feel for episode two. Ritter is good and wholly watchable, but he's also entirely miscast for the character-as-written, who is repeatedly called out for having been an awful, self-serving, wealth-obsessed person, when Ritter is genetically predisposed to likability and isn't even trying to play anything more distasteful than "Emotionally careless slacker." It limits the potential arc for his character. A better version of a similar character would be Jason Lee's role in My Name Is Earl, where the named character's work-in-progress personality had more rough edges. Garcia Swisher is nicely grounded and authentic, and I was willing to excuse that she's basically introduced as Amy Adams' character in The Arrival, and to excuse that, even though they're supposed to be twins, Ritter and Garcia Swisher have what is dangerously close to Jon Snow/Daenerys chemistry. I'm giving East a lot of credit for seeming effectively natural and unforced in the "Pouty teenage" role that can often doom a show immediately, but that kind of character can go from fine/acceptable to horrifying in the blink of an eye (Think, "Brody, Dana"). I can't tell yet on Kimberly Hebert Gregory's "warrior for God," who plays as somewhere between "troubling trope" and "refreshing update on troubling trope."
Desire to Watch Again: Some. Creators Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters' Reaper was a show I really enjoyed with a potentially similar structure and premise, but also a far superior pilot. This is one of the few broadcast dramas for the fall that I'll definitely give a few more episodes to, even if it has a really bad title and would maybe be better suited to a different network. Perhaps somebody could orchestrate a network trade for Valor?

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