Welp, it's official. We're all going to die. NBC has put Sean Hayes in charge of saving the world and whatever the threat is, be it zombies or global warming or terrible TV shows, it's going to kill us all if Sean Saves the World is our last line of defense. When NBC decided that dumbing things down and broadening its comedy offerings would be a good strategy for restoring greatness to the network, Sean Saves the World was probably one of its first ideas.
The new comedy marks Hayes's official return to primetime television, probably against his will and definitely with a lack of grace. (Wait for applause... okay, continue.) He plays the cartoonish Sean, a divorced dad who's stuck in the hot TV trend that sees relatives unexpectedly moving in with each other. In this one, it's Sean's 14-year-old daughter who nudges into his life. But here's the placate-everyone-and-please-no-one angle: Just as Sean is ready to get his single-dad on, his new boss demands that Sean and his fellow employees work harder and longer! How is anyone supposed to parent with a kid AND a job? And seemingly as an afterthought, save for a few attempts at humor, Sean is gay (his daughter asked, "If you're gay, how did you and mom have sex?" and then Sean was all thumbs with a tea set har har!).
Before getting to the world, Sean must save his domestic life and his work life. At home, he has to deal with his increasingly independent and typical daughter Ellie (Samantha Isler) and overbearing mother Lorna (Linda Lavin). And at work—an "online retail business,"—he must cope with his new slave-driving boss Max (Thomas Lennon), along with his coworker friends Liz (Megan Hilty), Hunter (Echo Kellum), and Howard (Vik Sahay).
Watching Sean bounce between the two worlds splits the series in two, making it less about Sean the family man and less about Sean the working man and more about Sean the fidgety gay man who gets poked and prodded from all sides. But if I was forced to choose between the two worlds at gunpoint or being dangled over a kiddie pool full of ravenous piranha, uhhhh... the workplace side of things works much better. That's largely because of alterna-comedy vet Lennon, the only cast member who can pull off playing a stock sitcom character. But really, the workplace side is favorable because the "online retail business," despite its lack of details, is a more realized world with more potential, as opposed to Sean's home life, which is only Sean, Ellie, and Lorne.
But that's not nearly enough to save Sean Saves the World, whose pilot was bogged down by comedy's Kryptonite: a lack of actual comedy. It doesn't matter whether a comedy is multi-camera (though this one is, to the extreme), or whether it has a laugh track (this one does, and it's a doozy), or whether it's Frankensteined together from old sitcoms and ancient ideas. If the writing is there, it'll be good. And the writing just isn't there in Sean Saves the World.
It appears that NBC decided to gamble quite a bit on Hayes' residual Will & Grace fame, then figured, "While we're at it, let's just relive that whole era"; Sean Saves the World
has the contemporary feel of a brick-sized cell phone. The big first
joke to hook the audience in, following some drums and a "Hey!" as the
music-cue intro, involved Sean sticking a knife into a toaster to fish out some burnt bread, and then WHOOPS! Two slices went flying across the
room and the automated laugh machine roared with delight as Hayes donned a Jerry Lewis face. Sean Saves the World's debut was basically 30 minutes of that.
The premiere also featured an extended scene in which Sean tried to escape his office by sneaking out through the bathroom window. It was pocked with the physical comedy that Sean Saves the World is in love with; Sean couldn't quite scurry up the wall to get to the window, he ended up getting hit in the face with a bag of uncooked chicken, and then he fell onto two nightstands and smashed through both of them. As he looked into the camera and rolled his eyes as he toppled over, his coworker Liz burst into the bathroom and delivered this haymaker of a punchline: "Wow, those nightstands really do add drama to any room." And that was probably one of the episode's better scenes.
Sean Saves the World isn't a creative enterprise looking to enrich the world, it's a joke factory where okay is good enough as long as there's a familiar face up front. Sean won't save the world, he won't save NBC, and he won't save Must See TV. The end is already near for this show, but there's still time to save yourself, and it starts with skipping Sean Saves the World.
– Why is Echo Kellum, who was so delightful in Ben & Kate, speaking the way he does in Sean Saves the World?
– Was Hilty, who showed off her pipes in Smash, really the best choice for a sitcom role? Since she's roped into NBC, couldn't she have been used better in another show?
– So this is on, but Community isn't.
– Can you believe that Victor Fresco, the same man who created the excellent Better Off Ted, is also the creator of Sean Saves the World?