You’ll like it if you already like: The 4400, Eli Stone, Joan of Arcadia, The Event…
Likely timeslot: Tuesday at 10, summer spot…
This year, ABC is all about DRAMEDIES. 7 pilots out of 11 are to various degrees. There’s the action one (Unit Zero), the medical one (The Good Doctor), the crime procedural one (Deception)… and there’s the fantasy one : The Gospel of Kevin. President Channing Dungey stated she wanted new shows that both reflect Middle America and entertain like Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty or Brothers & Sisters did. Those were successes for the network and it makes sense wanting to go back to it, even more if you consider the fact that they have a really strong comedy brand right now and that it’s easier to mix comedies with dramedies than with heavy dark dramas. But I feel like with The Gospel of Kevin, we’re sadly more on the Men in Trees / Eli Stone territory : dramedies that showed up around the same time but didn’t get the same traction for some reason. Some would say that they were not as good. I don’t agree with that. I had a soft spot for them I confess. I’d say they were a little too original and quirky to be appreciated by a larger crowd. Especially Eli Stone, that was ahead of its time with its flashforwards and ambition.
Like Eli, Kevin, played by Jason Ritter -I have a soft spot for him too, let’s call it like that and move on- is a strange man who seems to be on the verge of getting crazy. On one hand, there was Eli, who had visions of George Michael -his “personal Jesus”- singing for him, as well as of his coworkers who burst into songs for no reason. It was about a divine mission he had to accomplish, which had something to with well… saving the world. It was supposed to be because of a brain tumor, though the show ended before we got to know the whole truth. On the other hand, here comes our Kevin, who has visions of a black woman who tells him she has been sent by God to help him accomplish his mission, which also is saving the world. She’s like a guardian angel to him but not in a preachy Touched by an Angel way, thank God. She’s a funny woman. He’s an awkard boyish man. They are both a little crazy and making a mess wherever they go. It’s a pleasure to spend time with this duet. The dynamics between Kevin and his difficult teenager niece Reese, who hates him initially, also works a lot. Plus it’s sweet to watch them getting closer. Those are the perks of the show and the parts that make me hopeful it can be good.
But there are the fantasy elements and the conspiracy behind that puzzle me and make me less hopeful. The pilot starts in Iceland, where a huge impact crater has been found, “the size of a foobtall field and as deep as a lake”. We never go back to it during the rest of the script, which leaves it as a mistery for now. And then there’s this night when Kevin is at his sister’s with Reese and a rock, that is supposed to be a meteor, fall from the sky on a field nearby. Insane as he is, he decides to touch the damn thing and take it back with him. That’s when his visions start. A whole part of the rest of the night has disappeared from his memory, though Reese and surveillance cameras have witnessed his disturbed behavior. The morning after, the meteor has disappeared too. Those scenes could turn out very silly if not executed well.
So what’s happening exactly? We don’t know yet. Is it aliens? Is it God? Is it the beginning of the apocalypse? We’re not left with many clues honestly, though we get some answers along the way thanks to Yvette. Are we supposed to care? I’d say yes, since the characters are pretty interesting. But do we feel like there’s an incredible plan and a fascinating story behind? Not really. Oh and you know what? Kevin’s sister Amy is a “civilian weapons analyst”, who worked with the Pentagon and the CIA before. OF COURSE. It brings the story towards another direction, more serious and real, that I’m not fond of. It’s like there are two different shows there. A funny one and an almost boring one. It seems impossible to make them match naturally. It probably wants to be too many things at the same time. It wants to be thrilling, and funny, and quirky, and touching, and it also wants to be taken seriously.
The Gospel of Kevin is a leap of faith for ABC. It’s exciting on paper but it will require a lot of work, and talent and creativity from all the parts involved to end up on the schedule; and a miracle and lots of prayers not to become a flop. It’s a perfect vehicle for Jason Ritter though, and I wish him all the best, but a heavy serialized fantasy dramedy? I’m not sure it’s even a thing. It’s weird and people don’t like weird.