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'Sean Saves the World' review: Sean needs saving

Samantha Isler as Ellie and Sean Hayes as

Samantha Isler as Ellie and Sean Hayes as Sean in a scene from the pilot episode of "Sean Saves the World," premiering Thursday, Oct. 3 at 9 p.m. EST on NBC. Credit: NBC

THE SHOW "Sean Saves the World"

WHEN|WHERE Thursday night at 9 on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Sean (Sean Hayes) is a single dad, also gay, who now must care for his 14-year-old daughter without an assist from his ex-wife, who has taken off for parts unknown. He's lost, of course. Knows nothing about 14-year-old girls, even less about Ellie (Samantha Isler). Fortunately or not, his mom, Lorna (Linda Lavin), parachutes in on occasion to offer counsel, much of it questionable and all of it forcibly dumped on Sean. Meanwhile, he has a new boss at work, Max (Thomas Lennon) -- a martinet with a mean streak. Sean and his office colleagues, Liz (Megan Hilty) and Hunter (Echo Kellum), are learning how to deal with the guy.

MY SAY As a meta-TV exercise, imagine that Jack McFarland of "Will & Grace" pretended he was straight after that series ended. (Don't ask why, just play along.) Next, imagine that he married a woman, had a daughter and then further pretended to live happily ever after. Except that poor Jack was not happy: He came out of the closet again, his wife left him, when suddenly Linda Lavin of "Alice" arrives to be his mother in another multicamera network sitcom. You are now part of the way toward understanding the strange alt-reality of "Sean Saves the World," where a hundred bits of TV past -- floating aimlessly in our memories -- have coalesced into a cultural artifact that feels as antediluvian as a Walkman.

Admittedly, everything here comes from a mostly happy place for many viewers with long memories and also from a time when they didn't even have to laugh at the jokes because the studio audience did the work for them. But life moves on, and so does TV -- or at least it should. Jack should have stayed Jack, Alice, Alice, and their shows remain part of history and millions of DVD collections. Yoke them together -- along with every hackneyed sitcom beat in the book -- and you risk becoming a joke. Now you fully understand the alt-reality of "Sean Saves the World."

BOTTOM LINE Sean pretty much saves nothing.


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