‘Save Me’ appeals to higher power

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Television is taking a lot of hits these days about its lackadaisical approach to diversity in casting scripted shows, but no one seems to be talking about one very MIA character: God.


Think about it: Except for a few dramas (“Touched by an Angel”), the closest television usually gets to religion is with shows like “Father Dowling Mysteries,” “Soul Man” and “The Flying Nun.”


When it comes to TV, God just can’t seem to catch a break.


Maybe he needs a better agent.


But at last, the Almighty figures largely in the new sitcom “Save Me,” premiering today on NBC. (Actually, I guess “largely” is his default mode, but that’s another column.)


Anne Heche (“Hung”) plays Beth Harper, a rotten mother to her teenage daughter Emily (Madison Davenport, “Shameless”) who also drinks too much and has alienated all of her friends. Her husband, Tom (Michael Landes, “Final Destination 2”), is cheating on her and is about to ask for a divorce.


Then one evening, Beth chokes on a sandwich (cue Mama Cass, and hold “New World Coming” – no, she didn’t really die that way) and has a near-death experience that leaves her with the ability to chat it up with the Big Guy.


Tom and Emily think she’s gone ‘round the bend, but they have to admit they like the new Beth, a good, intuitive mom and an attentive, loving wife.


“Save Me,” created by novelist John Scott Shepherd, rushes to establish its premise in the premiere episode, making it challenging to believe at first. There are definite comic possibilities in a character who has God on internal speed-dial, but the premiere episode is too overstuffed to give us a sense of whether the writers are going to be able to make the setup work beyond the few funny but obvious lines in the first show.


It’s a delicate balancing act in any event. A lot of viewers are simply turned off by scripted shows about religion or the existence of a higher power, either implicitly or otherwise. Since the human race has been thus far unable to prove the existence of God through scientific means, we can’t expect NBC to do it in a single pilot episode.


That said, the network has ordered 13 episodes of the show, so someone upstairs must be listening.


Or watching.


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