Furthering NBC’s goal of dialing back the clock to happier days, “Sean Saves the World” brings Sean Hayes back to Thursday nights, joining Michael J. Fox to spread out a blanket of nostalgia. Game as he is, however, the show is a tired litany of setups and rim-shots, with Hayes as a single parent grappling with the demands of working for an eccentric boss and raising a 14-year-old daughter. If the actor helped break ground on “Will & Grace,” all he saves here is the TV-given right to roll out retreads.
Hayes’ Sean has gone from “Fun Weekend Dad” to full-time father, which is doubly stressful because his company’s persnickety, humor-challenged new owner (“Reno 911’s” Thomas Lennon) is completely unsympathetic about off-job responsibilities. Moreover, he gets lip from his hypercritical mom (Linda Lavin), and questions from his kid (Samantha Isler) — like how he sired her when it turns out he’s gay — that provoke the customary stammering responses.
Created by Victor Fresco, the show seeks to show off Hayes’ versatility, including big physical gags and broad comedy. And while one could forgive the pilot for failing to strike a single original note as it sets up the premise, it’s harder to get past the fact that there’s almost nary a funny one.
Nor do subsequent episodes much improve matters, as Sean must decide whether to let mom or his best gal pal (“Smash’s” Megan Hilty) take his daughter bra shopping, while in episode three, he worries about the kid’s whereabouts as he braves going on a date.
NBC will position the show at 9 p.m., presumably to give Fox’s eponymous vehicle a better chance of finding an audience and bridging the gap into “Parenthood” at 9:30. Still, if “Sean Saves the World” looks like it’s falling on its face as the linchpin of a revised Thursday block consisting of three new sitcoms, one suspects the network won’t sit idly by for long before making some kind of move.
Hayes has never exactly been known as a model of restraint (that was the fun of his “Will & Grace” role), but the mugging felt more tolerable in supporting turns. In what almost feels like an unintended joke, Hilty was a late addition to the cast after they shared a “Smash” story arc in which her character gets saddled with a hammy star, played by Hayes.
“My boss is being a total di — difficult guy,” Sean says to his daughter, laboring to clean up his language, to the approving roars of sweetened laughter.
Much like “Sean Saves the World” is total dr — er, dreary comedy. And while Hayes might represent another link to NBC’s “Must-See TV” days, there’s simply precious little here worth seeing.