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Sean Saves the World: TV Review

Sean Saves the World
Vivian Zink/NBC
"Sean Saves the World"

The Bottom Line

A gay father raises his teenage daughter while his mother and best friend make trouble. Oh, and there's some nonsense at his workplace. 

Airdate

Thursday, 9 p.m., NBC

Cast

Sean Hayes, Linda Lavin, Megan Hilty, Thomas Lennon, Samantha Isler, Echo Kellum

Executive producers

Victor Fresco, Sean Hayes

Directed by

James Burrows 

Sean Hayes can't save his own show, which is predictable, pointless and littered with lame jokes.

It’s hard to imagine what NBC was thinking when it bought Sean Saves the World, a new sitcom it’s tossing into the now-lost cause that is Thursday night. Clearly it’s not going to save Thursdays, what with its oppressive laugh track. And it’s not going to save NBC, with its years-long, ill-conceived plan to make Thursday night a place for comedies that would actually attract viewers.

The world? Isn’t that a little ambitious, then?

Best that the world not even see it. And yet, you wonder how it got that opportunity in the first place. You know, to live, to be on the schedule. Oh, right, it’s directly due to Sean Hayes, who had a little something to do with the NBC glory years in comedy but now can’t remotely replicate that history.

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It’s not really his fault -- no series on Thursday night on NBC, whether it's great like Parks and Recreation or whether it's adventurously misguided like The Michael J. Fox Show, can restore the former luster. But it’s easy to see how the NBC brass thought Hayes and Michael J. Fox and whatever lost demo that Welcome to the Family is supposed to serve might coalesce into something that works.

You know I’m just kidding about that, right? Do I have to be as obvious as Sean Saves the World? Nobody with a brain and a bit of intuition could have put this lineup together. Clearly this is some kind of NBC-bot at work.

NBC’s Thursday night schedule, just to hammer this point home, makes no sense. There is the brilliant, harshly ironic comedy of Parks and Recreation leading into the family meshing of Welcome to the Family, leading into the family splitting of Sean Saves the World (complete with laugh track!) and the uncomfortable nature of The Michael J. Fox Show, which seems like it was made not just for another night, thematically, but also for another network.

Are you picking up on the WTF vibe here? Good, because WTF?

OK, so Parks is the last remnant of the failed Cool Kids lineup of comedy and everybody else just got put here because NBC didn’t have a clue what else to to.

At 9 p.m., Sean Saves the World just clashes against the structure of the show leading into it plus the show coming out of it – no big deal in this DVR world, right? Maybe. But at least the concept of flow might be nice to explore.

Instead, as the laugh-track-heavy oddball of this bunch, Sean is about a guy (Hayes, duh), who gets married, has a kid named Ellie (Samantha Isler) and then realizes he’s gay. Oh, the woman who catered his wedding, named Liz (Megan Hilty), knew that Sean was gay immediately and she told Sean’s mother, Lorna (Linda Lavin), who already knew but was pretending to not know on that day and thus hates Liz.

So much hilarity here, right? 

Wrong. So wrong.

Sean’s wife is conveniently absent from his life, but Liz and Lorna have keys to his place so they bust in all the time, as sitcom characters are wont to do. Ellie just looks like she’s in a house of freaks but is keeping that knowledge on the lowdown until she can escape.

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Because there’s not a whole lot of funny in that home life, Sean Saves the World – how about we agree not to ask why the show is called that, yes? – decides that Sean will be at work part of the time and have a quirky, unreadable boss named Max (the brilliant Thomas Lennon) and an African-American co-worker named Hunter (Echo Kellum).

I note that Max is quirky and Hunter is black because those are the signposts that you’re supposed to read, according to Sean Saves the World. Their very presence makes the show funny or edgy (note: this last sentence is completely untrue).

Basically, no cast has ever meshed less successfully than this one. What the hell is Sean saving again?  Whatever. The writing here is abysmal. Says Hunter: “People know you’re gay faster than they know I’m black.” The laugh track goes wild. Sean: “And yet I’m the only person in this room who has actually put a baby in a lady. Take that, bitches.”

The laugh track goes wild.

More? Liz talks about her enormous boobs. They’re not held up by elves, she says. Hunter adds, helpfully: “Booby elves. The happiest elves on Earth.” Yeah. Riotous, yes? Here’s a line from Lorna, the mother. “Sean, you look a little flushed. Have you had a BM today?” The crowd, or the laugh track, or the live, manipulated studio audience, goes insane for that joke. Out bra shopping for Ellie, grandmother Lorna says to her, out loud: “Have you looked at your vagina in the mirror? I mean, really looked at it?” Ellie walks off, embarrassed. “She hasn’t looked at it,” Lorna tells the off-camera clerk.

The laugh track loves this kind of stuff, even though sentient beings will not.

So, as you can see – crazy hilarious. One line after another comes out manufactured and pointless, just like those before it. That makes you wonder how anyone got hired to write this dreck.

And then it ends. After two episodes (all that I could endure), it’s unclear who the audience is supposed to root for or why they should care. The situation set up for the comedy is all over the map and indecipherable, never more so than at work. The home-life scenes just have "Fake Sitcom" spray-painted all over them.

In short, nobody has any idea what the hell Sean is saving, but it sure ain’t this show.

E-mail: Tim.Goodman@THR.com
Twitter: @BastardMachine