Joan of Arcadia, Season 1


Joan of Arcadia box set coverAs promised, I am moving my reviews over to this blog, and I'm really going to write some. I swear. Due to my current lazy mindset, however, they are likely to all be for television shows. Oh well, we do what we can.

After watching "Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants" on a plane in October, I got interested in Amber Tamblyn (whom I remembered from "General Hospital") and thus in seeing "Joan of Arcadia." It had been recommended to me before, but I'd never bothered to check it out. So I Netflixed the first DVD, sat on it for several months, then finally watched it.

Wow. It's so good.

The story centers around (duh) Joan (Amber Tamblyn), a sixteen year-old girl who recently moved with her family to a new city, Arcadia (I don't think it specifies where Arcadia is, but something makes me think it's in Michigan).

Joan of Arcadia family pictureJoan's family is comprised of her cop dad and teacher mom (brilliantly played by Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen), dorky younger brother (Michael Welch) and newly paralyzed older brother (Jason Ritter, who is just fantastic). Not long after Joan starts school in Arcadia, God starts talking to her. God appears in the form of any of various humans, and s/he gives Joan tasks to do, most of which end up helping her family or other people around her. It's difficult to give a better explanation for the premise than that, but that really doesn't do it justice.

In the meantime, Joan makes friends with a couple of "social misfits" at her high school, Grace (Becky Wahlstrom, who is hilarious) and Adam (Christopher Marquette, who I now want to marry), whom she eventually dates.

Joan and Adam pictureThe show moves fairly seemlessly between Joan's relationships with the people in her life and her relationship with God. The God thing isn't really all that strange. Rarely is the viewer compelled to question Joan's sanity, or wonder if she is really seeing God. She is, and it's just part of her life.

Which isn't to say that the show isn't tackling big issues, religion and faith being the biggest. It's rare that you see religion come up even peripherally on prime time network television, and I am really impressed that CBS had the backbone to play "Joan of Arcadia" for that reason. There had to have been backlash. And the issues taken up by the show that are not directly religious are no less serious--particularly Kevin's learning to deal with his paralysis.

The only thing that really disappointed me about the first season of the show was the season finale. In this episode, Joan is diagnosed with Lyme's Disease, and the doctor says that she may have been hallucinating for months. Handy way to explain God. There is, however, a second season (which I haven't been able to procure yet, but I will), so hopefully they'll make up for the lousy season finale with a good Season 2 opener.

Getting into this show reminded me that there are occaisonally good things on TV. I haven't really watched any network TV for several years, so this was heartening. I have Netflixed or requested from the library the first season of "The Gilmore Girls" (watched four episodes already, loving it), the first and only season of "My So-Called Life" (nostalgia...), "Wonderfalls," and "Freaks and Geeks." Maybe I should pay more attention to the stuff people recommend.

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