Joan of Arcadia

Monday, November 3, 2003

I would like to go on record as saying this is the single hardest review I've ever had to write. As I've said in the past, I am a pretty strong proponent of sex and violence in the media, which generally means that things targeted to people like me are the complete opposite of things targeted to, say, soccer moms, elderly midwesterners, and their ilk. It may seem a little narrow-minded, but it's nice to be able to see promos for, say, Fastlane and know "This show wants me and people like me to watch it." Conversely, promos that advertise "From the Creators of JAG" provide a wonderful warning that I should stay far far away.

So, a show that can be described as "Girl talks to God, and, with his help, improves the life of her and her family" is pretty clearly aiming for Them, not Me. Add the use of Joan Osborne's excrable "One of Us" as the theme song, and you should have a show I am dying to make fun of at great length.

And yet...

This is my favorite show this season.

I know, I know....

Trust me, it hurts as much to admit this as it does to read it. But it's a really good show. Amber Tamblyn plays Joan and adds enough of a dose of smart-assiness to the role that it counteracts the show's tendencies to drift into Touched By An Angel territory. Any show in which a character mocks God to his face is a pretty good one in my book.

The show does have flaws, of course. Joan's father is the police chief (played by Joe "Fat Tony" Mantegna), so the show often devotes about 1/3 of its running time to resolving a crime story that is usually unrelated to the main story. I guess it's an attempt to prevent the show from getting too God-oriented, but 15 minutes doesn't really lend itself to a gripping crime drama, so it sort of feels like padding. On the other hand, 15 minutes of padding with Joe Mantegna is better than 15 minutes of padding with, say, Paul Rodriguez. Plus it's fun to listen to close your eyes and pretend that Fat Tony is interrogating suspects. Or chatting with his wife. Not as much fun as listening to Fat Tony sell you cars, but fun nonetheless.

It's worth watching. Even if the whole concept seems awful (and it does), it manages to not only overcome its premise, but to have a little fun with it.

Additional Thoughts 10/05/2003

All right, now I've got a beef with this show. Or at least with the music supervisor. Or the overzealous produver who's trying to cover costs by accepting promotional fees from music labels. Stop with the Matt Nathanson music already. It'll only encourage him to keep playing. It was bad enough that people came to see him play when he was in college, he doesn't need (or deserve) a national audience for his craptastical musical stylings.

Rating: A (Damn it)

Reviewed by Padgett Arango
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