NBC's new sitcom Save Me is better than it has any right to be. The leads -- Anne Heche, Michael Landes and Alexandra Breckenridge -- have no chemistry and can barely act their way through the pilot. The premise -- which has Heche as Beth Harper, a woman who starts receiving messages from God after nearly choking to death on a sandwich -- is at best pretty stupid. The first half of "The Book of Beth" was just terrible. However, by the end of the episode, I actually had the desire to watch more... an entire 12 episodes more, maybe. (Note: At the time of writing, I'd only watched the first of this week's two-episode premiere.)
I think what happened is that the first 15 minutes had the same effect that the first episode of Enlightened did for me; by which I mean, absolutely nothing. I hated every single character, and could not imagine willingly cringing through another episode. (I've still not been able to find what other critics seemed to love in Enlightened, though I've been told it gets amazing. Maybe one day, I'll force myself to watch the whole run in the name of snark.) But as the latter half of the Save Me pilot unfolded and the writers (via a medical professional) shook off the dubiousness and confirmed that yes, this woman is actually in contact with God, the show became something unique. No longer are we stuck watching a pathetic woman drive everyone crazy in her life with her nutball conspiracies -- instead, we have an almost-sci-fi series that's maybe just cartoonish enough to work.
Also on the plus side, there are actual stakes in Save Me, now that Beth's entire neighborhood just watched (what certainly looked like) her kill her husband's mistress... with the help of "God." I actually want to find out what the consequences are, and if people are going to be afraid of her powers, try to take advantage of them or both. And I love that supporting actress Heather Burns, who remains beloved in my heart from her Miss Congeniality days, actually seems to have a real role in this. Thanks to her, I can't say I hate everyone, which pretty much counts as a successful NBC comedy pilot in my book. The no monkey thing helps, too.
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