Credit: ABC Television Network

SERIES “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World”

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. on ABC/7

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Kevin Finn (Jason Ritter, “Gravity Falls,” “Parenthood”) returns to the Texas home of his twin sister, Amy Cabrera (JoAnna Garcia Swisher, “Reba”), who’s a widow and single mother to troubled teen, Reese (Chloe East). Kevin is struggling with troubles of his own when he meets Yvette (Kimberly Hébert Gregory, “Vice Principals”) who describes herself as “a warrior from God,” returned to Earth to save Kevin and the rest of the world.

She tells him he is the last of “36 righteous ones.” His mission from God is to find 35 new righteous souls and return a spiritual balance to the world. When he finds one, he is told to hug him or her, at which point they become righteous, too. Besides the obvious primetime antecedents (like “Highway to Heaven” or “Touched by an Angel”) this is also drawn from the mystical Judaic concept of the “Lamed Vav Tzadikim” — 36 people scattered throughout the world who justify humanity in God’s eyes.

MY SAY Every now and then, television has an urge to gather up the viewing nation in a reassuring group hug. If Nielsen confirms that the hug was a success — and “This Is Us” was emphatically that — then another group hug will follow. “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” is emphatically that as well.

Hugs are even a core part of the show. Hugs are to “Kevin” what “nothing” was to “Seinfeld” or walkers are to “The Walking Dead.” Everyone hugs it out here. In the climactic scene in Tuesday’s pilot episode, Kevin raises his arms in preparation for another embrace, and then — sensing that the huggee has resisted this unexpected invasion of personal space — lowers them in dejection. A hug denied, Kevin’s eyes glisten, his lips purse, then he looks up to hold back the tears.

Say what you will about his show, but Ritter just might be the world’s greatest hug salesman.

That show itself, however, is a little less so, at least so far. There’s real charm here and by all appearances, a big heart. What “Kevin” can’t quite figure out is the balance between comedy and pathos, or spirituality and new-age pabulum. Even that “probably” in the title is a hedge.

To an extent, “Kevin” the show, like Kevin the man, is a commitment-phobe: Too much pathos and this becomes a soap, too much spirituality and it becomes “Touched by an Angel.” So “Kevin” course-corrects as it goes along by tossing in a little slapstick or comic relief to offset the darker shades. Viewers also learn that Kevin has survived a suicide attempt, which is a particularly heavy thing to lay out — not to mention poor Kevin — in the pilot. Is he a tragic or “chosen” figure? Does he represent all of the spiritually bereft? Who is “he” exactly? At least they’re compelling questions in a potentially compelling new show.

BOTTOM LINE A huggable charmer with a big heart that can’t decide whether to go deep or skim the surface.

Top Stories