Monday, April 25, 2005

Fave TV Shows of all time Vol 1

Favorite TV Shows of all time Series:
In this series starting now and extending until I get tired of it, I will pick one of my absolute favorite shows of all time and do an extended post on why I like it so much.

In part one I will dissect Joan of Arcadia.
This post is going to be a serious post, but the rest of the posts in the series will be funny because they will cover comedic shows.

THE STATS:
Status among my favorite shows of all time: Joan of Arcadia, according to the ranking of my top 10 favorite TV shows of all time I compiled in order to get my thoughts together for this series, is my 3rd favorite TV show of all time.
First time I saw an episode: Around January 2004, so a little over a year ago.
Last time I saw an episode: This Friday, April 22nd.
Favorite episode of all time: In the companion list of my favorite episodes of all time which I also constructed to get my thoughts together for this series, and episode of this show entitled "Only Connect" finished at number 5. A number of other episodes including "Friday Night", "Silence", and "Touch Move" would be in my top 30-50 episodes of all time.

Do I suffer from a lack of perspective on this show, ranking the more recent show over the ones that I haven't seen for a while? Maybe, but when you read the fanboy-level rant below, you'll see that I really do care for this show a great deal.

JOAN OF ARCADIA

Joan of Arcadia is my favorite show on television today. No question about it. And I will be very, very sad if it gets cancelled.
The thing is, everything was working against this show for me. When I first heard about this show, I was completely certain I would dislike it, for a few reasons. First of all, the concept of another show about God on TV sounded horrible. There is already Touched by an Angel and 7th Heaven, two of the worst shows on TV (7th Heaven is entertaining to watch), and I just was naturally biased against TV shows with a “religious” theme, because I almost always find their depictions of God and religious ideas to be ridiculous and offensive. Also, for some reason at the time I did not like Mary Steenburgen. Probably the most important reason I felt that I would not like the show is that I do not like any television dramas. At the time I started watching JOA, I literally had never been a regular watcher of a dramatic TV show, except Sliders if that counts. I just don’t like TV dramas and usually find them to be boring and uninteresting. But JOA took a show that I was dead certain I would hate and made me love it. I caught it a few times during the school year when I had nothing better to do on Fridays, and then fell in love with it watching reruns over the summer.


The cast on this show is truly first-rate, in my opinion the best ensemble cast on any TV drama. Mary Steenburgen has taken my initial dislike of her and made me into a big fan, and Joe Mantegna as her husband is equally brilliant, in a role that is somewhat against type for him. Michael Welch plays Joan’s younger brother Luke in a wonderfully understated way, and always manages to avoid making the character a stereotype science nerd, the likes of which there have been hundreds of in the history of TV.
As for Amber Tamblyn, the star of the show, I don’t even know where to begin with her. She is the best actor in crying scenes that I’ve ever seen. The range of emotion and scenes she is able to portray are stunning, playing joyous, disgusted, sad; comedy scenes, tragic scenes, and serious philosophical scenes all convincingly. She manages to take this character and make her into a normal teenager who wants to lead a normal life…I really don’t know what to say about Amber. Her acting is brilliant, and she is extremely attractive. I absolutely adore her on this show; I have to say that I am more smitten with her than I have ever been of any other actress except for Audrey. Amber takes what would otherwise still be a very good show and just brings it into the stratosphere into one of my favorite shows of all time. I have to say that even if this show does get cancelled (hopefully not) I still fully expect that Amber will have a long and successful career in Hollywood, and I will be paying attention to her projects throughout that career.
Fun Fact: While I was looking something up for this article I came across Amber's address and wrote her a fan letter
PS I love Amber Tamblyn
All of the other actors on the show are excellent too, as each brings their own nuances into the characters that they play…I just don’t have room to go over every actor individually.
The characters and writing on the show are also fantastic, particularly in the episodes written by Barbara Hall, who was the creator of the show.
The portrayal of God on this show is outstanding; (almost) always resisting the urge to have God directly interfering in people’s lives, rather leaving things up to free will.

The best part about this show to me, the thing that sets it apart, the thing that allows me to like it despite my previous disposition against dramas is that it is a very intelligent show. I may complain about certain episodes, and some episodes in the 2 season run haven’t been that great, but every episode gives you something to think about. The weird thing is, I always associate shows with “morals” or “messages” with crappy shows like Full House that always have things wrap up in the end with a trite lesson, but this show really has good things to say. The conversations between Joan and God have almost universally been written exceptionally well, and provide great insight. Honestly, it seems weird for me to say this, but this show has really made me think about a lot of issues in different ways, and in some respects has given me new perspectives on different things in life. Example: My favorite line in the series is in an episode where God instructs Joan to learn how to play chess. While this is going on, Joan is submitting to the pressure of her friends to find out if a particular girl is a lesbian, and things are kind of spiraling out of control. So Joan and God are talking and playing chess and Joan touches a piece and then decides not to move it. But God tells her about the rule of “Touch Move” wherein you have to play a piece once you have touched it…
JOAN: Well that’s stupid. I can’t even change my mind?
GOD: Oh, you can change your mind. But you still have to play that piece.
Even though “Chess as a Metaphor for Life” is overused, this line still really rang true to me about how we can set off a series of events over which we have no control, and once we want to back out, it’s too late. Obviously I already knew that this was the case, but this really highlighted it for me really well. I have honestly thought about this often, and it really helps me to keep the perspective of how our actions can have consequences and we need to be very careful of what we say and do.
The thing is, almost every episode has a line or scene like this for me.
Here’s another funny line I was reminded of while writing this:
GOD: [about a book] Have you read this? JOAN: You stole that! GOD: Well, technically everything belongs to me.

The season premiere for season two, an episode entitled “Only Connect”, is one of my favorite episodes of any TV show of all time. In this episode Joan loses her connection with God and God's message to her is that to be human is to be in connection with other people and the world. The last scene between Amber Tamblyn and Kris Lemche (a fantastic actor who plays God in this episode and many Season One episodes) is truly heartbreaking and is possibly my favorite scene in TV history.

By the way, this show has such an interesting theology to it, that the Presbyterian Church USA website has posted a recommendation for people who want to base a Bible study on it.

As lame as it is to say it, and as womanly as this post as a whole has been, I truly love this show. I love everything about it. I love the drama and the comedy. I love the sad scenes, I love the touching scenes, and I love the joyous scenes. I love the family scenes, I love the scenes between Joan and Adam, I love the scenes between Luke and Grace. I love the philosophical scenes between Joan and God, I love it when God zings Joan and I love it when God is tender to Joan. I loved the second season, I loved the first season even more. I love the performance of Amber Tamblyn. I love the way that I connect with the characters on this show more that I feel I connect with the characters on any other show on TV. I love that even talking about the show now is reducing me to a rambling mess. I love the fact that even the bad episodes have good messages, non-obvious messages, that always give me something to think about and something to keep in mind. I love that this show has made me think twice about watching TV dramas and has shown me that good shows and good messages can come in the least expected passages. I really love this show and if it gets cancelled it will be a very sad day for me. I will miss you, Joan…
Even if it does get cancelled, I’m very surprised a show like this even got on TV in the first place, and it makes me hopeful that some networks are willing to take chance.
I fully completely absolutely adore this show and I am not ashamed to admit it.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Patrick said...

Hey Greg,

Your thoughts on Joan of Arcadia warrant a reaction from me. I had no idea you were such a fan of the show and I guess the cancellation really hurt. You may be interested to know that my sister was also a big fan of JoA. Even though I never really got into the show myself, it still disappointed me when they cancelled it because it was so much better than all the other crap that my sister watches (Gilmore Girls, Jack and Bobby, Charmed and yes, even 7th Heaven.) Fortunately, I was able to get her the complete Freaks and Geeks on DVD so she can have a better appreciation of quality television.

One other item of note, you may be wondering what my sister thought of the episode where Hilary Duff guest-starred. Immediately following the scene where Joan saves her from getting hit by a car, my sister remarked, "I would have just let her die." True story.

Later,
Patrick

10:34 PM  

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