With Kevin (Probably) Saves the World kicking off its first season on ABC, showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas will be blogging some of the series’ biggest episodes for EW. First up, the pilot, for which they share their inspiration for the show:
About a year ago, a pilot we had been writing got killed. Now, this happens, a lot, to every writer. But it still doesn’t feel great. There’s always that tiny voice in your head that says, “You’ll never sell another one. That was your last chance.”
This was right after a contentious and tiring election cycle, at a time of endless stories about fake news and chemical weapons attacks and church bombings and cemetery vandalism. Want to find ugliness in the world? Sure thing. Your Twitter feed and message boards on news websites will provide ample examples.
It gets easy to feel helpless. Hopeless. To tell yourself that no matter what you do, no matter how good of a person you are, no matter how much you recycle and get a rescue dog and once in a while give a dollar to the guy at the freeway off-ramp — in the end, it won’t matter. Because nothing will really change. The world will always be this way. And will probably get worse.
There are some very, very good people who try to make a difference in the world — who dedicate their lives to protecting others, helping others, standing up for what is right (ask Kimberly Hebert Gregory — our lovely Yvette — about her amazing sister). But most of us are just trying to get by. Raise our kids, do our jobs, pay our bills. Saving the world seems impossible, and in any event, who has the time?
It was out of this mindset that we came upon the idea of Kevin (Probably) Saves the World: a show about a guy who shouldn’t be a hero, does not want to be a hero, is selfish and greedy and shallow in the way that we all can be — but still finds a purpose. On the surface, the purpose seems impossibly difficult: He is the last of the 36 righteous on Earth and is tasked with anointing other righteous, thus saving humanity. But boiled down, his purpose is simple: Be a good person. Help people. Don’t be a jerk.
But Kevin is not real good at being a hero. And never will be. And watching him try to figure it out should be fun and funny and weird. Luckily Kevin has been embodied by Jason Ritter, who is all of those things, plus generally kind and thoughtful and hardworking and a delight.
The 36 righteous is inspired — very loosely — by the Talmud, which says that at all times there are 36 people whose mere existence protects all of humanity. But in the end, we knew that the show mythology, the visual effects, the celestial being that helps Kevin on his quest — all of those things were meaningless if they weren’t built upon real relationships, characters that we wanted to spend time with, and stories that had an emotional center. We wanted to create a family that felt flawed and funny and real, who loved each other and fought with each other and busted on each other like our own families.
Some people might remember the last show we created, another weird metaphysical show called Reaper, about three idiots who worked for the Devil but were, in their own way, trying to make the world a better place. In fact, some of the writers we had on Reaper are writing on Kevin with us. We have been asked a lot, “What is it with you two and religious stuff?”
To us, it’s not really about whether or not you practice any religion, or even believe in God at all. It’s about wanting magic in the world; embracing the fact that maybe we can’t explain everything. Because if that’s true — if everything is not as it appears to be — maybe there’s hope. Hope that we can be better. Hope that we can change our lives. And if that’s possible — if we can actually change ourselves — maybe that can change the world.