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TV Reviews

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Cast
Anne Heche as Beth Harper; Michael Landes as Tom Harper; Madison Davenport as Emily Harper; Alexandra Breckenridge as Carly McKenna; Heather Burns as Jenna Dennings; Joy Osmanski as Maggie Tompkins
Channel
NBC
Reviewer
Adam R. Holz
Save Me

Save Me

"By the time I died on that stormy, September night, I'd become an angry, drunken b‑‑ch in a good marriage gone bad, practically daring my husband to find someone better. When he finally took me up on it, I figured I should at least consider killing him."

Such is our introduction to Beth Harper. After drunkenly raising a hammer over her sleeping husband, Tom, she thinks better of it and heads down to the refrigerator for a post-binge-drinking snack … and promptly chokes to death.

Or maybe not.

When Beth "wakes" from an apparent near-death experience the next morning, something is different. Her brush with mortality has not only given her a new appreciation for her life, it's quite unexpectedly given her a connection with … God.

"He/She," as Beth often refers to the deity she's just gotten in touch with, begins giving her what might best be described as clairvoyant intuitions about people's lives. Like the name of her teenage daughter's secret sex partner. Or the number of years it's been since her best friend Jenna got close to her intimacy-starved husband (2 years, 1 month and 6 days).

"I know things I shouldn't know," Beth tells Tom.

"So now you're a prophet!?" he asks, incredulously.

Wow! So I am, she thinks. And as this newly minted "prophet" embraces her new spiritual calling as an unlikely mouthpiece for the Almighty, she feels "suddenly wide awake in my life for the first time in years." Accordingly, she begins dishing out words of encouragement ("There is such magic in you!" she exhorts her daughter), affection ("I love you so much, Tom," she tells her cheating husband), repentance ("I apologize for every horrible thing I ever did—and I did a lot of horrible things," she tells her friends) and warning ("Here's what I do know: He's not too happy with you," she tells her husband about God's attitude toward his affair with a co-worker named Carly).

Naturally, not everyone is as excited about Beth's new spiritual vocation as she is. For Emily, Mom has suddenly become an intrusively annoying presence compared to her drunken absence before. For Tom, Beth's newfound affection has implications for his ongoing affair with Carly. And it's safe to say that Carly is not even remotely interested in what the Prophet Beth has to say about anything—especially after Beth seemingly summons up a direct-hit lightning strike. As for all the neighbors Beth has alienated with her narcissistic, out-of-control behavior through the years, well, it's safe to say they're not going to be quickly won over either.

At times, even Beth's not so sure she really wants the "gift" that's been given to her—and she even tells Him so in repeated prayers. Other times, she's willing to accept whatever price comes with her new "calling," and she's determined to keep listening to God and doing what He says, even when it's hard and uncomfortable.

Spiritually oriented offerings on TV are nothing new, of course, from the always-earnest Touched by an Angel to the more recent, and decidedly more sarcastic, satire GCB. And you can probably already guess that Save Me is much closer to the latter than the former in its lighthearted, sitcom-centric approach to spiritual issues.

There are some spiritual realities that the laughs leave alone, that are even illustrated admirably, such as Beth's desire to listen to God, her willingness to apologize when she doesn't, and her realization that trying to love others and help them love one another is what matters most in life—even when she faces resistance. There's even a moral core of sorts to the show, which we see (sometimes rudely) communicated through Beth conveying God's (grumpy) displeasure with (certain) sins.

But Beth's faith still exhibits a whopping dose of sitcom-style narcissism. And while her faith in God bears some passing resemblance to Christianity, Jesus Himself is conspicuously absent as a Savior. Instead, Beth has a direct, almost occult-minded vision of a divine being who dispenses secret knowledge to her—just like He does to that one Tibetan monk too.

Have I mentioned yet the effect all the gags and giggles and goofiness have on these "super-spiritual" proceedings?

Episode Reviews

"Take It Back"

Beth prays several times (sitting on a toilet), telling God that she's not a good prophet candidate and that she's not going to listen to Him anymore. When she tries to ignore God's voice, though, it results in Emily going to a party and drinking. So Beth then apologizes to God for her bad attitude. And at a potluck, Beth apologizes to neighbors for past misdeeds, saying, "I love you. I really do want to make this work." She also tries repeatedly to make amends for once stealing a neighbor's espresso maker.

Beth goes to Jenna's church and sings "I Saw the Light." She and Pastor Jim have a heated conversation about another congregant who thinks he too hears from God (but is clearly crazy). Beth tries to convince him she really is hearing from God. When she can't, she gets mad at God and calls Him a "dog."

One of Tom's friends says his father had a homosexual affair with the mailman. They debate the wisdom of talking openly with children about their sexual affairs. Emily's friends dub the Harper house a "Little Shop of Whorrors." We see a flashback to Beth in a nun's outfit being sexually spanked S&M-style.

God's name is taken in vain several times. We hear one "h‑‑‑."

"The Book of Beth"

God "tells" Beth a whole lotta things right off the bat, and before the dust settles, her neighbors think she can even strike folks with lightening. (Carly is comically shocked with a bolt after "comically" crashing her car while driving drunk.) Beth tells Tom that God's angry about his affair (and that it's hurting their daughter). She pushes Emily to break off a "neighbors with benefits" arrangement with a guy.

Right before her God encounter, Beth drunkenly contemplates murdering Tom with a hammer. The day after, she vomits in a trash can, then dumps all her alcohol. Other scenes show people drinking wine and beer. And a flashback features Beth dancing suggestively and drinking. Tom and Carly are twice shown getting dressed ("afterwards") in a hotel room. On the positive side of the sexual coin (but still questionable within the context of a sitcom) is the reconnection that happens between one of Beth's friends and her husband.

God's name is taken in vain five or six times. "B‑‑ch," "p‑‑‑ed," "h‑‑‑" and "d‑‑n" are used once or twice each. Context implies that somebody says the f-word. (It's drowned out, and the character's mouth is pixelated.) Beth is dubbed "Jesusina."

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