News Column

Philadelphia Daily News Ellen Gray column

May 23, 2013

YellowBrix

May 23---- SAVE ME. 8 and 8:30 p.m. today, NBC10.

AS THE broadcast networks move closer to truly year-round programming, it may become harder to figure out which postseason shows are leftovers and which were meant for summer all along.

Still, I don't expect anyone to categorize CBS' Stephen King series "Under the Dome," which premieres June 24, as Summer Burn-Off Theater.

Ditto for ABC's Canadian police dramas "Motive" -- which, after a preview Monday, is moving into its regular time slot at 9 p.m. Thursday -- and "Rookie Blue," which comes back for a fourth season at 10.

But "Save Me," which makes its not much-awaited debut on NBC tonight? That one's already half-charred.

Starring Anne Heche ("Men in Trees") as a ditsy woman whose near-death experience leaves her convinced that she's a prophet of God, "Save Me" is, like Fox's "Goodwin Games," one of those shows meant for midseason that never made it onto the schedule.

Some might avert their eyes from such a failure (as many apparently did from the far from unwatchable "Goodwin Games," whose Monday premiere averaged fewer than 1.8 million viewers). Me, I try to figure out what the people who ordered these shows in the first place might have been thinking.

In the case of "Save Me," which will premiere with back-to-back episodes -- only one of which was made available to critics -- it's clear that they weren't using the same areas of their brains that brought us, however briefly, "Animal Practice" (a/k/a "The Show with the Monkey") and "Guys With Kids," to name a couple of NBC's attempts to broaden its comedies.

Not that there's not broad humor, I suppose, in watching Heche's character, Beth, gorging herself on the huge sandwich on which she nearly chokes to death (or does choke to death -- honestly, I'm hazy on the details, despite having seen the episode twice in the past year).

But tonally, "Save Me," with its slightly muddled message about redemption (which in at least one case involves another character's rediscovery of oral sex), doesn't seem to fit with whatever it was that NBC was trying to do with its new sitcoms this season.

Which may be why I liked this effort better than most, though not nearly as much as Matthew Perry's also-canceled "Go On."

Heche plays a woman who, pre-sandwich, has managed to alienate her husband (Michael Landes), daughter (Madison Davenport, of "Shameless") and most of her acquaintances. But like "Eli Stone" (and Harrison Ford's brain-injured character in "Regarding Henry"), she's a better person now.

When she's not suggesting that God might smite someone.

Yes, there's a bit of smiting in the pilot, which ends with a slight question that's supposedly answered in the 8:30 episode.

Maybe if I'd seen that episode, I could say more. But, then, last spring NBC sent critics all six episodes of its burn-off series, "Bent," and enough of us liked it that we made pests of ourselves on Twitter.

To no avail.

No one, apparently, wants to see even that much of a rescue effort for "Save Me."

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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