Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pilot Review: Sean Saves the World

Sean Saves the World (NBC)
Premiered October 3 at 9pm

Sean Hayes hasn’t had a regular TV gig since his Emmy-winning role as Jack McFarland on “Will and Grace.” Now, the actor is back on NBC Thursday night, and it’s only fitting that he would play a gay man struggling to raise a young child by himself. On his last show, Hayes was a supporting player and always at the center of every comic moment, and in this part he’s the unquestionable star. Trading an awkward son for a considerably cooler daughter, Hayes gets the chance to play more of a straight man, pardon the pun, whose comic interactions are most often more due to the nature of those around him. Linda Lavin’s Lorna is his overbearing and excessively theatrical mom, and Thomas Lennon is his obnoxiously stoic and demanding boss. Megan Hilty and Echo Kellum both have disappointing follow-up roles to those that they played in recently-cancelled TV series: Hilty has nowhere near the same opportunity to be as dramatic and showy as she did on “Smash,” and Kellum is considerably less exaggerated and funny than he was on “Ben and Kate.” Hayes is still competent, but this part can’t come close to that of Jack. It’s understandable that he’d opt for a show like this, one whose jokes feel as formulaic and choreographed as they were on “Will and Grace.” From Victor Fresco, the creator of “Better Off Ted,” I’d have hoped for more, but I suppose a mediocre comedy that’s just not all that exciting is good enough.

How will it work as a series? Sean’s efforts to be with his daughter are a mix of over-the-top physical comedy moments and more sincere speeches made to his boss, and I suspect that his work life will play an equal role in his home life as it did in the pilot. Embellishing the supporting characters would be wise, but I don’t see this show covering any new or overly interesting territory.
How long will it last? NBC Thursday nights are not what they used to be, and so it’s hard to measure what standards the network will hold its new shows to. Its pilot numbers were decent but not great, and less impressive than “The Office” in its timeslot last year. I think this will be one NBC opts not to continue with, but I imagine they’ll give it a chance before pulling the plug.

Pilot grade: C+