Tuesday night marks the premiere of ABC’s “Block Party” lineup.
In addition to returning series “The Middle,” “Fresh Off The Boat,” and “black-ish,” the lineup includes new half-hour comedy “The Mayor” and new hour-long dramedy “Kevin (Probably) Saves The World.”
“The Mayor” delivers one of the year’s most enjoyable pilots. It is certainly not the funniest show you will find on television, but it may be one of the most fun.
The “Kevin (Probably) Saves The World” premiere is nowhere near as effective, but it still offers some charm.
Let’s look at the series.
The Mayor – 9:30PM ET
What to know: In an effort to draw attention to his music, struggling hip-hop artist Courtney Rose (Brandon Micheal Hall) runs for mayor of his local town.
Rose simply wants the publicity; he has no intention of actually winning. An unexpectedly impressive performance at the debate (against the presumed frontrunner, played by guest star David Spade) throws Rose for a loop. His words resonate with the local community, and he ends up winning the election.
At the urging of his mother (Yvette Nicole Brown), Rose decides to honor the wishes of the voters — and take office.
He may not have wanted the job, but perhaps becoming mayor is what he — and the community — truly needed.
The cast also includes Lea Michele (she plays Val, who becomes Courtney’s advisor) and Bernard David Jones and Marcel Spears (they play his friends Jermaine and TK, respectively).
Quick take: Some shows take several episodes (or seasons) to find their groove. Others click from the first few minutes.
“The Mayor” falls into the latter category. Tuesday’s pilot is great.
It operates with such a clear sense of fun, joy and purpose. The show understands its tone, and the actors instantly understand their characters.
Hall is wholeheartedly believable as someone who could simultaneously be a slacker wannabe rapper and the warm-hearted individual that can turn a local town around. Jones and Spears offer comic relief — but in a flavor more low-key and organic than that often projected by the “side friends” on sitcoms.
Michele is basically playing a toned-down version of her go-to TV character (and, yes, she nails it), while Brown is as commanding yet endearing as she always is.
“The Mayor” is not especially “sharp” or gutbustingly “funny,” but it is still consistently amusing and engaging. The key is that it largely derives its humor from a warm, non-confrontational place — a rarity in today’s world (and perhaps surprising for a show rooted in politics).
While there may not be an elaborate narrative, the atmosphere — and the people within that atmosphere — represent more than sufficient hooks. Viewers will want to see these people every week.
They will want to experience the “fun” so undeniably built into its fabric.
Kevin (Probably) Saves The World – 10PM ET/PT:
What to know: Following a suicide attempt, Kevin (Jason Ritter) moves in with his sister Amy (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) and niece Reese (Chloe East).
While getting situated in the house, Kevin and Reese witness a meteorite crashing nearby. They investigate the object.
Kevin also makes the risky choice of touching the meteorite, which sends him flying. It, moreover, seemingly causes him to blackout — he wakes up in the car with little recollection of what happened.
From that point forward, things seem different. Notably, he begins seeing Yvette (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), who is evidently invisible to everyone else. Claiming to be an angel, Yvette notes that God has tasked Kevin with saving the world. She will guide and protect him as he secretly locates the other special individuals who are part of God’s plan.
Initially resistant, Kevin begins to see the world in a new light — minor things, such as an old shirt, seem to feel more “special.” He also seems to be facing cosmic interference; any time he attempts to tell his sister about his encounter, the words come out incorrectly.
Could Yvette be telling the truth?
Quick Take: “Kevin” is one of those feel-good, but ultimately disposable dramas that often appear on fall schedules. It is hard to imagine someone watching the pilot and not smiling. Unfortunately, it is very easy to imagine someone watching this and feeling little reason to return next week.
“Charm” is the show’s only hook. The premise is somewhat interesting, but it is not particularly gripping. We’re told Kevin plays an important role in saving the world, but there’s no urgency behind this mission — we don’t see the issue that will require the world to need saving.
Worse, “Kevin” goes out of its way to reveal that there may not be instant gratification: there is a long list of people whom Kevin must locate before he can complete his mission, and he apparently has a long way to go before he is ready to locate them.
The “cosmic” element also gets lost in translation. The spiritual awakening helps Kevin see the world in a new light, but we don’t really get to experience the phenomenon with him. We see his reaction to the transformation, but we don’t get to enjoy the factors prompting his reaction.
The cast is definitely the show’s strong suit. Ritter, Gregory, Garcia and East are all adept, charming actors. They also seem to develop believable chemistry in the first hour.
Granted, there does seem to be some confusion around the Kevin character. Through context clues, it seems that Kevin was supposed to be self-absorbed and money-obsessed prior to his suicide attempt, and the new journey is helping him find a more altruistic motivation for life. The problem is that nothing about the character suggests that he ever could have been a selfish jerk — his only potentially alienating quality is sarcasm. The disconnect hurts the show, as Kevin’s transformation does not seem as significant as it probably should.
It probably doesn’t help that Jason Ritter is so inherently charming. He is a solid performer, but “unlikable” is not in his wheelhouse.
Ultimately, “Kevin (Probably) Save The World” is a sweet show with an endearing cast. What it is not — and what it would need to be to come across as a safe bet for success — is compelling or exciting.