Season 1, Episodes 1-6
“The universe just gave you a sign by giving you an actual sign.”
Kevin Probably Saves the World asks the eternal questions, like for example, what if God ran a really crappy HR department? Kevin Probably Saves the World explores what would happen if God decided to send a righteous savior to rescue the world, but the only person available for the job has trouble blinking and breathing at the same time. Following the clues the universe gives him, Kevin, our last best hope, often finds himself in the right place at the right time to help someone. Usually, however, he totally makes their situation worse. Or sometimes he does both at the same time. Oh, and also, the angels running the universe have no idea what they are doing and are totally incompetent. It’s meant to be funny, but it is also terrifying in an existential way. What if God ran the universe, not like Amazon, but like . . . Comcast?
Jason Ritter formerly played Joan’s disabled brother on the show Joan of Arcadia. Ritter seems to be typecast as someone who has some sort of weird bromance with God. That show asked what if God was one of us, and even used Joan Osborne’s song for its theme music. Joan of Arcadia indicated that God had a handle on what was happening in the world. That is not the case on Kevin Probably. Run for your lives! The universe is staffed by people who couldn’t keep a pet rock alive.
The choice of Kevin as one of the righteous raises some suspicions that a certain lack of rigorous talent scouting pervades the entire system. So far, in his role as one of the righteous, Kevin has given a guy a heart attack, broken up a marriage just before the wedding, and committed felony breaking and entering. All of this occurs after he moved in with his sister after losing his job and his girlfriend and trying to commit suicide.
Now anyone can hit hard spots in life where everything that can go wrong does go wrong and then a few more things go wrong on top. But Kevin plays like a character who never really had it together. He’s a doofus and something of a dick. Often befuddled, always insensitive, he definitely seems like the kind of guy who if he really is the only one who can save the world, we should all get our affairs in order. Right now.
On the plus side, Kevin has done a couple things well. Though he ditched his high school girlfriend in a cold, ghosty kind of way, he tries to make amends years later by finally calling her and reenacting what he would have said — what he should have said. This serves as a nice way of apologizing while offering his ex the opportunity to obtain a little belated closure. He also literally gives a job interviewee the suit off his back when the job seeker gets splashed right before an interview.
Kevin totally beats the crap out of a deadbeat dad who doesn’t care about his diabetic son. Well, technically, Kevin’s angel beats the crap out of the dude. She just does it using Kevin’s fists, while Kevin keeps apologizing to the guy as he (she) lands each punch. Since the smackdown is the angel’s doing, maybe he shouldn’t get the points for that.
He’s also a pretty generous guy. About to bail out of his sister’s life, Kevin meets a deaf man at the airport. He goes on and on about himself and his troubles, not realizing that the man is deaf. When the deaf man, at the end of this interminable monologue, hands him a pencil with a note saying that he’s deaf and he sells the pencils, Kevin gives him all the money out of his wallet. It amounts to several hundred dollars. The man hugs Kevin and the room lights up with a kind of joy-fueled glow. Kevin assumes that he has succeeded in finding one of the other righteous. But his angel says no, that’s just what happens when you hug someone. It suggests that that is what actually happens when you give someone a genuine hug. And that’s a lovely image.
Regarding this complete incompetence of the divine on a cosmic scale, Kevin’s lack of skills unfortunately don’t constitute the only sign that the inmates have taken over the asylum. Kevin is only one of 36 would-be righteous, so maybe the situation is not as dire as it seems. Except the universe lost track of the other 35. Apparently because Kevin is one of the righteous, he’s supposed to help the angels locate the other righteous, who somehow ended up lost in the cosmic warehouse or put on backorder. Angels are supposed to be these magnificent all-powerful beings that can do almost anything. However, on Kevin, they don’t know what they’re doing. Kevin’s angel seems to have it together, sort of. But the only other Angel that we’ve seen had one job, and completely flubbed it. She doesn’t even seem concerned about it. Apparently there were 36 righteous individuals born into this generation. Every single one had an angel assigned to protect them and keep them safe. All of them but Kevin bit the dust or disappeared. That is not a good record.
If you are looking to hire a security firm, and they told you that 35 of the last 36 clients got . . . mislaid, I think you should move on. Maybe angels are just like regular people, stumbling about with no idea of what they are doing or how they’re supposed to be doing it and when they get it right, it’s all a matter of luck. That is not a reassuring thought. Can we fire this firm? Can we fire God? Can you imagine the annual review for the angels that lost their clients? “Well, I see here that you had one job. You were assigned to protect one of the 36 righteous individuals and… he’s gone. How would you rate your own performance?” Is there a box marked “epic cosmic divine fail?”
A relative of mine sees proof that the divine exists everywhere she looks. No, she does not see beauty and cause for awe all around her. She thinks that if there was no God, then we would live in a doomed wasteland with bodies piled everywhere and smoking husks of car carcasses along the side of every road. I don’t think she thinks that people are that violent; I think that she thinks that people are just that stupid. She may have a point. She does not watch Kevin Probably. But if she starts watching this show, I’m afraid she may lose her faith entirely. After all, if you watch the news, isn’t that kind of what you see? Kevin Probably suggests divine intervention may not provide much hope.
So far the show posits that the universe (the use of the word of God is often avoided in order to prevent offending anyone on a particular point of the religious spectrum) contains some good intentions and maybe even some purposeful elements, but lacks the talent or the skill to achieve its goals. It’s neither that there’s a clockmaker creator who has set a series of events in motion and now remains hands-off as it unfolds, nor is the universe entirely chaotic and random.
No, this is much worse: this is like the worst run customer service office you’ve ever seen. And it’s not just controlling our returns or tech glitches, it’s controlling our whole lives. Can we just go to a different store? Order online?
The show resonates with me, and with a lot of similar people, because we would like to be capable, helpful people who make a positive difference in the world. Instead, like Kevin, we bump into things, commit felonies unawares, make big messes, and generally walk around with no clue how to fix anything in our own lives, let alone other people’s. Maybe Kevin establishes a whole new genre: The Spiritual Reality Show.
God, I hope not.