To start, a confession: In anticipation of the Kevin (Probably) Saves the World premiere, I could not stop calling it Kevin (Probably) Can Wait in my head. But reader, after watching said premiere, I am here to tell you: This Kevin really cannot wait. He has a mission: a high-concept, high-stakes, hi-jinks mission. Kevin’s mission is to save the world…probably.
Of course, nearly all of that is in the parenthetical title. The most surprising part of the Kevin premiere isn’t the plot, but how funny it can be, thanks much in part to the well-documented charisma of its lead, Jason Ritter. The most concerning part is how unsurprisingly sappy it can be when you consider its spiritually driven premise. Throughout its premiere, there are distinct notes of Touched by an Angel (angel tasks), Joan of Arcadia (God tasks), and Little Miss Sunshine (suicidal uncle arrives, inadvertently healing a complicated but endearing family, etc.). None of that is bad necessarily, but it is my hope that Kevin will lean into that last influence as, thus far, its human elements are wringing out more magic than its spiritual conceit.
And I do hope this show can figure it out, because it’s a charmer, if not a perfect one, with a handful of delightful leads. Moments after we see multiple meteors of some kind striking down all over the globe, a BMW ables its way into Tyler, Texas. That BMW contains Kevin (Ritter), who we soon find out is arriving on his twin sister’s doorstep after losing his job, losing his girlfriend, and subsequently attempting suicide. Thankfully, his attempt was unsuccessful, both for obvious reasons and because Kevin is all that remains between the world and…a fiery Revelations-style hell? I don’t know, that part is actually pretty unclear.
But first, Kevin is experiencing a bit of hellish awkwardness inside his sister Amy’s (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) house as she attempts to connect with him, though it’s clear the two have gone quite some time without a fruitful sibling relationship. And then there’s Amy’s daughter, Reese (Chloe East), who is the definition of “sullen TV teen,” which — even when given solid reason for the behavior, like her father passing away 18 months ago — is still generally a tough character trait to swallow.
Reese seems uninterested in connecting with Kevin, even though he offers up his best YA literature ideas to her: “Serious question, would you rather read a book called Vampire Sluts or Murder Teens? Or Robot High School?” Broken relationships be damned, everyone is about to be thrust into a big ol’ familial bonding bomb because that night, a helicopter arrives to whisk Amy away to a top secret Aerospace Command Center. See, Amy is a respected professor of aeronautical engineering who specializes in weapons, and given that 35 meteors have struck earth in the last 24 hours, the world’s governments are concerned that these might not be your average falling space rocks.
As Amy tells world leaders that these don’t seem like weapons but they also don’t really seem like meteors, the 36th not-meteor touches down on U.S. soil…within spitting distance of Amy’s Texas home where her brother is asking her daughter if she would read a book about robot high schoolers.
She would not, but she would go look at a meteor hole with her uncle. Unlike her uncle though, Reese would not immediately run down into that fiery hole and put hands on a steaming space rock. But that is what Kevin does, and the next thing he knows, he’s coming to in his car with a goofy smile on his face, his niece furious with him in the driver’s seat, and the aforementioned meteor sitting in the back, with no recollection of how he got it there. It’s too heavy for him to get it back out when they arrive back at the house, so he leaves it in the car…
Until it explodes with light and more or less gives birth to a spiritual guide by the name of Yvette (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), who accidentally knocks Kevin out with the car door.
When Kevin comes to in the morning, Yvette is in Amy’s kitchen making Kevin a green juice and straddling that ever so common line between “house intruder” and “anointed messenger of God.” Yvette insists that she’s the latter and calmly explains to Kevin the facts: “In every generation since the dawn of man there are 36 righteous souls in the world, and they protect humanity by merely existing. Now, there’s only one — you, Kevin. You are the last of the righteous.” Them’s the stakes, Kev, so you can put the butcher knife down and just accept that everyone is going to think you’re talking to yourself from now until the point when you (probably) save the world.
Since Amy is still gone, Kevin has to take Reese to school, during which he attempts to ignore the fact that he seems to be going insane, and also valiantly tries to embarrass his niece by blasting Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” as he drops her off. But inspiring songs can’t cover up the fact that Kevin is being tasked with an inspiring mission by…well, here, let me offer you my favorite ongoing joke of the premiere:
Kevin: Are you an angel?
Yvette: Angels are a human construct. Let’s just say I’m a warrior for God.
Kevin: Okay. Can I see your wings?
Yvette: All right, we’re done here.
(React continues on next page)