What You Should Be Watching On TV: Joan Of Arcadia


Joan of Arcadia
By: Matthew Romanada

Joan of Arcadia is named after the famous historical figure Joan of Arc. The show centres around teenager Joan Girardi. Like her name sake Joan talks to God. Whereas God told Joan of Arc how to defeat the British what God tells Joan Girardi is not quite as ambitious.

Joan lives in Arcadia with her family which includes one older and one younger brother. Joan is portrayed by Amber Tamblyn. who has been nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her role in the series.

The Characters

Joan’s parents are both well known actors. Joe Mantegna (The Godfather III, voice of Fat Tony in The Simpsons) plays Joan’s Dad, Will Gerardi. He is a police detective for the small town of Arcadia. Joan’s mother, Helen Girardi, is portrayed by Mary Steenburgen (Parenthood and Back to the Future 3. Helen is an art-teacher at Joan’s high school.

Joan’s older brother Kevin is confined to a wheelchair after a drunk driving accident of which he was a passenger in a car. He is now pursuing a career as a journalist. Joan’s younger brother, Luke, is a year younger then her but they have very different personalities. Luke is a super smart science geek who at times does not seem to fit in the family.

Adam Rove is Joan’s sensitive boyfriend who also happens to be Helen’s most promising art student. Joan’s best friend is the rebellious and introverted Grace Polk, who recently started dating Joan’s brother in a match of complete opposites.

The Premise

As previously mentioned Joan has another “character” in her life, God. God appears to Joan in various forms from a hot football jock to a three-card-monte dealer to an old homeless woman. Each episode Joan is given at least one, sometimes more then one, “task” from God.

The problem being is that God is not always clear as to what he/she wants Joan to learn or accomplish. There are other subplots weaved into each show and somehow these subplots are tied into Joan’s “lesson” from God.

In many ways it seems like the show would be preachy. On the surface it sounds like a series that only features those really annoying “lesson” episodes from 80’s sitcoms where at the end of the episode the cast get together and tell the audience something about the important message the show just talked about. Don’t worry it is NOTHING like that.

The “tasks” Joan is sent on can vary from bringing a feral cat into her home, despite the fact she hates cats, or building a garden at the school.

The God portrayed in the show is not a demanding or even religious figure. The morals of this God are ones that would be consistent from religion to religion. The lesson Joan is taught can be very controversial. Also God does not tell Joan what to do he/she more gives her hints, which she invariably messes up from time to time. God also emphasizes Joan’s free will and independence and does not force her to do anything.

The one that really sticks out in my mind is the episode where Joan befriends the school bully. God hints that this bully just needs a friend. The bully had just gone after her friend Adam (they started dating afterwards) but Joan, on God’s request, takes this bully to a school semi-formal.

All hell breaks loose at the dance as the principal finds a mickey of booze on the bully and expels him from school. The bully ends up driving away from the dance with Joan in tow. He has a gun with him and they stop at some deserted lot where he takes out the gun and starts to shoot cans. They are cornered by Arcadia police, led by Joan’s father. The bully is eventually taken into custody. Joan feels like she failed in her attempts to “save” the bully. God tells Joan that other people’s lives were at stake and starts to point out the people at school who would have died had she not befriended the bully. Basically telling her the bully was going to go “Columbine” and kill his fellow students but now because of Joan he is now in jail.

The message I got from this was that some people can’t be saved and have to be sacrificed to save others.

Why Should You Watch It?

Joan of Arcadia is a breath of fresh air from all of the other teen shows out there. It has more depth and intelligence then The O.C. While it may not have the “drama” of other shows it does not go to the lowest common denominator like many others show do. It deals with serious issues in a serious way.

Joan of Arcadia is a show that will grow on you if you give it a chance. It may not be as addictive as many other popular show but it also does not have the false hype that always fail to live up to expectations those shows thrive on.

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