Watching Sean Saves the World for this past three weeks, I can’t decide if the show is actually getting better, or if I’m just developing a very specific version of Stockholm syndrome concocted by NBC. While I’m not exactly enjoying the show the further we get into this season, I do find myself not being quite as frustrated or annoyed, but rather I fall into the idea that the last twenty years of television comedies haven’t happened and embrace what I’m seeing. Even in this context though, Sean Saves the World still isn’t very good.
After three episodes, I definitely think the main problem is Sean Hayes himself—when the show doesn’t focus on Hayes, it becomes much funnier. So I propose that Sean Saves the World slowly pushes Sean out and makes Thomas Lennon’s Max the main character. I realize that this is impossible, especially since Sean’s name is in the actual title, but it’s really where the show needs to go.
Sean is so over-the-top nuts and spazzy every second of every episode and still feels like a combination of so many sitcomy characters that we’ve seen before. But what Lennon is doing is infinitely more entertaining than Hayes. He’s being the weird guy in a show with almost no identity at all, instantly making him the stand out and the most interesting character.
For example, when Lennon makes his first appearance in “Date Expectations,” he’s carrying a dead stuffed weasel that has the future-telling capabilities of a Magic 8-Ball. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s quite stupid, but it’s different. Lennon is then given a very minor side plot where he believes that Sean is in love with him and his “Cary Grant good looks,” but doesn’t really evolve. At least it gives Lennon and Echo Kellum a chance to interact.
Hayes’ plot is much less interesting, as he’s been set on a date by his mom with a periodontist, yet he’s too worried about his daughter going to a party to pay attention to the date. This allows for Hayes to be as wacky as he wants to be, but it’s more frustrating than funny. It also would be slightly better if every Hayes’ plot so far hadn’t revolved around Hayes trying to balance his responsibilities with work and family and his personal desires. The first episode was Sean fighting against his boss to spend time with his daughter. Second episode he tries to balance his mother and best friend so that he doesn’t have to deal with the aftermath of betraying them both. Here, he’s balancing his family and the desire to have a personal relationship. It’s just the same fight between Sean’s commitments and his hopes over and over.
For once, though, Sean’s best moments do revolve around his mother Lorna, played by Linda Lavin. The material about him becoming his mother isn’t anything special, but the appearance of a mattress commercial he did with her as a child is actually funny. He plays the part his father was supposed to play, which basically means the child version of Sean is being flirty with his mother. It’s weird, and once again that’s why it sort of works.
Sean Saves the World shows in “Date Expectations” it has chances to embrace its weird side, and when it does, the show becomes much more tolerable. Unfortunately, 90% of the show is typical sitcom material that is slightly elevated by a decent cast that could be doing so much better than they are here.