TV REVIEW: Kevin (Probably) Saves the World Season 1

written by David Steffen

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World is a fantasy comedy/drama fantasy series with what I might call a light Christian backdrop (I wouldn’t call it Christian TV, particularly, I’ll get into that later).  Season one was 16 episodes and ran on ABC between October 2017 and March 2018.  At the time I write this article it’s unclear whether it will be renewed for a second season.

After surviving a suicide attempt, businessman Kevin Finn (Jason Ritter, who might recognize as the voice of Dipper Pines from Gravity Falls) moves back to his hometown to live with his sister Amy (JoAnna Garcia) and her daughter Reese (Chloe East) while he recovers.  Soon after he moves in he starts getting visited by Yvette (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), who only he can see, who claims to be sent by God to guide and protect him as he saves the world.  Not only that, but he is one of the 36 “righteous” in each generation that helps guide the world.  Except… the other 35 are nowhere to be found.

Now, an aside about the religious aspect of the show.  I initially missed the first episode, so I missed the initial discussion about Yvette being sent by God, and I watched 2 or 3 episodes before I realized there was a religious aspect.  I mention this because, as I type the synopsis of the show, it sounds like it might be a show that leans heavily on the religious aspect, meaning either to appeal specifically to devout Christians or to convince non-Christians that Christianity is the best way, but I just wanted to say that I didn’t find that the case here at all.  Although Yvette plays the role of a sort of guardian angel, she states multiple times that she is not an angel, and I thought of her as a guardian spirit in a more general sense.  If I could change one thing about the show it would be to change the use of the word “righteous”, which for me has negative connotations, usually tied to the more negative aspects of the church for me (excluding when it’s used as surfer lingo, which is entirely different).  Especially since Kevin doesn’t seem to be particularly devout, and is no saint himself.

Kevin has made some life choices that he regrets, everything from his choice of career to the way he’s treated other people, always acting selfishly, hurting others casually or intentionally.  After the suicide attempt and with the new guidance from Yvette, he tries to better himself to fit his new role.  Despite the name, the “righteous” are not perfect people, as Kevin already knows from his past actions he regrets.  But he quickly finds that his path forward is to help other people in big ways and small, and these improvements to other people stack up and multiply with each other.  The universe doesn’t speak to him or Yvette directly, but tends to nudge him with seeming-coincidences, chance meetings with people he can help.  In the process, he reconnects with his sister and gets to know his niece, reconnects with his high school best friend Tyler (Dustin Ybarra), establishes a close rapport with Yvette.  As he helps people he starts to see visions that give him clues to where he can find the other righteous to help save the world.

I found this show a lot of fun and I hope it’s renewed for a second season–by what I’ve heard it’s teetering on the edge between being renewed or not.  I think part of that might be that the synopsis of the show makes it sound like it might be preachy and heavy-handed which I found not to be the case at all.  There is a consistent theme that helping people will make the world a better place and can have an increasing effect as the people you’ve helped also help others, and I think that’s a worthwhile theme that can work for people of any religion or no religion.  Most importantly, Kevin helps people by trying to understand what they need, trying to help them improve their life circumstances, not by trying to convert them or by quoting scripture.  The structure of the premise would make it easy for it to fall into a comfortable episodic stride where episodes could be watched in any order as Kevin helps the person of the week, but the show does a good job of mixing that structure with larger multi-episode arcs as Kevin’s visions help him find the next righteous, as Yvette starts to have doubts about their mission, as romantic relationships develop between characters, and some of the plot points in this larger arc are plot-shaking in a way that first-season plot points often aren’t, shaking the established structure of major relationships.

The writing and acting are great.  My favorite character on the show was Yvette, she’s here to do a job and she tries to stick to the job but as she stays she starts to get more of a liking for Kevin, and their interaction is the best part.  She is invisible to most of the other characters most of the time, so she has the unique spot of being able to act toward all of the other actors without them reacting to her, which is used well for both drama and comedy.  Kevin is convincingly scattered but well-meaning, although I found it harder to imagine him as a hard-hitting businessman, in part because that happened entirely off-screen.  The other characters area all likeable in their own way, but distinct, from capable but sometimes overbearing Amy, to positive but naive Tyler, to clever but cynical Reese, and others.

I thought season one of Kevin (Probably) Saves the World was great, and I hope they renew for Season 2.  You can watch the whole season on the ABC website now–give it a try, and I hope you liked it as much as I did.