After The New Normal and Smash, NBC tries again
by David-Elijah Nahmod
“I hope it runs for a million years,” says Megan Hilty. “Or at least seven.” The actress is very happy about being reunited with Sean Hayes (Will and Grace) in the new NBC sitcom Sean Saves the World. Last season, the pair was seen in a five-episode story arc on the cherished if embattled musical drama Smash. On Smash, Hayes and Hilty played co-stars on Broadway in an ill-advised musical based on Dangerous Liaisons. Though Smash barely got through its second season, it amassed an intensely loyal cult following that continues to support its reruns on the Ovation Network, and its DVD release.
Smash, along with The New Normal, were both cancelled this past summer after struggling in the ratings. Both series featured gay characters in leading roles and were expected to be huge hits. Both debuted with great fanfare and initially brought in decent numbers. No one is sure what happened when both series ultimately failed. Yet NBC, which brought both shows to the airwaves, is willing to try again.
“The New Normal didn’t have Sean Hayes,” says TV legend Linda Lavin (Alice). “He’s an extraordinary talent.”
In the new series, Hayes plays Sean! He’s a single gay dad whose wise, wisecracking teen daughter (from a previous marriage) has moved in with him. As he struggles to be the best dad he can be, he also searches for Mr. Right, deals with the boss from hell, and spars with Lorna, his overbearing but loving mom (Lavin). Hilty plays Liz, Sean’s best friend.
“Sean Saves the World is an identifiable story about a gay single dad as he balances his home and work life,” says Lavin. “I’m delighted to be a part of it. It’s a terrific company filled with talented people and talented writers.”
“Sean Hayes is magical, incredibly funny, and a nice guy,” says Hilty. “Liz is kind of a mess. She talks before she thinks, but she has the best intentions. They met at his wedding to a woman, and she outed him!”
The fast-paced trailer now posted at nbc.com gives potential viewers a glimpse of what to expect when they tune in to Sean Saves the World.
“If you’re gay, then how did you and Mom have sex?” inquires daughter Ellie (Samantha Isler), as Sean nervously drops a pile of dishes. “Fish have the right idea,” says mom Lorna. “You just drop them and go!”
“She’s a force of nature,” Lavin says of Lorna. “She’s a very energetic, funny woman, with a strong affection for her son. They see life the same way, and she’s very committed to his happiness.”
Hilty feels that Sean’s gayness is incidental to the story. “It’s just another detail of who he is,” she says. “It’s not ‘OMG, he’s gay!’ He just is. That says a lot about where we are now.”
In the aftermath of the New Normal/Smash failures, we’ll have to wait and see whether or not Sean Saves the World clicks with viewers. The online trailer is genuinely funny, and the buzz around the show has been positive, so perhaps this time the Peacock Network will enjoy the kind of success they saw with Will and Grace.
“When you start a new show, you hope for a long life,” says Lavin. “You hope for growth, and for a substantial income for those working on the show.”
Tune in to NBC on Thursday, October 3, at 9 p.m., for the premiere of Sean Saves the World.
David-Elijah Nahmod lives in San Francisco. His eclectic writing career includes LGBT publications, monster magazines, and the Times of Israel.