“I think everything is beautiful. And I don’t like it,” says Kevin (Jason Ritter) to Yvette (Kimberly Hébert Gregory). She is not surprised by this confession, because Yvette is an angel — a no-nonsense, business-casual kind of angel, minus the wings. She came to earth via a meteor — one of 36 who have shown up and glommed on to humans to try to set the human race to rights.
This is a weird, weighty mythology to drop in a pilot episode — a mix of theology, science fiction, and camp — and “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” almost collapses under the weight of it. The opening 20 minutes of the pilot drags the viewer through canned philosophical leading questions about our place in the world and nighttime meteorite-chasing through cornfields, which is quite at odds with the show’s semi-ironic title.
But it holds together, chiefly through the earnest charm of Ritter’s performance as Kevin, who seems just about as confused as the audience. A newly single, failed finance guy, Kevin has washed up on his widowed twin sister’s home in the rural Midwest because he doesn’t know where else to go, and his inability to connect to either Amy (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) or his niece Reese (Chloe East) is indicative of his stunted emotional growth. Yvette is going to make him work on that: she is his guide, and also, at times, his torturer. No one else can see her — so everyone thinks he’s crazy — and occasionally, in order to make a point, she’ll do things like crush his flashy BMW with a tractor. And along with being a better person, she’s charged him with an odd task: Find the other 35 chosen ones, and hug them. This is apparently the key to saving the world.
It’s strange. Kevin thinks so, too. But if you can stomach the feel-goodery of connecting to people through embrace, Kevin’s crash course in appreciating the wonders of shared humanity is a little sweet and a little funny — and best of all, original, which is more than can be said for a lot of other debuting dramas. It will take some effort to keep the tone of the show in line; some elements tend towards sappiness, others towards physical comedy, and still others towards the woo-woo mysticism of slick science fiction. And the opening sequence, where a helicopter touches down outside their house to pick up Amy for a national security briefing, briefly saturates the show with a military intelligence subplot. But if “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” can manage to do keep these disparate things braided together, it will make for a drama that is a transporting little meditation on how to be a better person.