Beloved for his supporting role on “Will &Grace,” Sean Hayes is back in an NBC sitcom, this time as the leading man whose name is in the title: “Sean Saves the World.”
The new multicamera comedy, debuting at 9 tonight, takes full advantage of Hayes’ manic style and skilled comic timing, qualities that set this show apart more than its basic premise: a divorced father of a teenage daughter with a pushy mother, hectic workplace in online retailing and peculiar boss.
The freshest element of the show: like the actor who plays him, sitcom-Sean happens to be gay.
“If you’re gay,” asks his daughter (Samantha Isler) in the premiere, “then how did you and Mom have sex?”
To this, Sean replies with a staccato, shorthand answer: “Gay. Tried not to be. Was. Was again. Was one more time because it was not unpleasant. Am.”
Sitcom veteran Linda Lavin (“Alice”) adds grounding as his harshly devoted mom. Megan Hilty is retrieved from last season’s noble failure “Smash” as a loopy office worker.
But the surprise ingredient that just might push “Sean” over the top is Max, the owner of the company. Mustachioed and stone-faced, he is played by Thomas Lennon (formerly of “Reno 911!” and a co-founder of the comedy troupe The State).
The inscrutably bizarre way with which he interacts with his employees first addles the viewer (the same as his employees), then becomes a treat you look forward to: He could become the show’s breakout star.
Even so, “Sean” is clearly built around Sean with its breakneck, almost breathless pacing, a heavy dose of physical comedy and plenty of silliness.
If it mostly steers clear of old-line sitcom shtick, the reason may be its creator, Victor Fresco.
His credits include the short-lived but admirably oddball comedies “Better off Ted” and “Andy Richter Controls the Universe.”
It’s a track record that suggests “Sean” could evolve beyond silly and squarely into smart.
And keep Max a scene-stealer.
“Sean Saves the World” premieres at 9 tonight on NBC.