atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#7386: The best line in television history.

Joan of Arcadia, first episode, the first time Joan and God talk, God says this to her:
Let me explain something to you, Joan. It goes like this:

I don't look like this. I don't look like anything you'd recognize. You can't see me. I don't sound like this. I don't sound like anything you'd recognize. You see, I'm beyond your experience. I take this form because you're comfortable with it; it makes sense to you--and if I'm snippy, it's because you understand "snippy". You get it?
That entire scene is a marvel, because it handles the obvious problem so well: someone tells you he's God, but how does he prove it without pulling a miracle?

The original concept drew me in: God talks to a girl in high school and asks her to run errands for Him. I watched the pilot, not really expecting much, but damn that first real interaction between Joan and God sucked me right into the whole series, it was so well-done.

You see, I was expecting the usual Hollywood crap, and instead of that, I got...something wonderful. The depiction of God in this series is perfect. The depiction of religion--one character is a priest and they don't make him a creepy, societal reject. Joan herself is a good kid, who has some modicum of respect for her parents.

...and later, when she gets a boyfriend, and has an opportunity to lose her virginity, she refuses it, because she doesn't want the event to take place in the back of a pickup truck.

All the main characters are decent people. None of them are on drugs. There's no rampant adultery or crass sexuality. There is one main character whose parents are not together, and I'm not sure they're divorced. It's been long enough since I saw it that I don't remember if his parents got divorced or his mother died, but I'm leaning towards the latter. I seem to remember that being the case.

In the second episode, Joan has her first encounter with "Little Girl God" and that's when she gets the explanation of why God doesn't fix things for everyone. We get this in the context of Joan's older brother being a paraplegic after a drunken car wreck.

The first time I saw it, I thought that they were overplaying the "crippled kid" schtick, and I thought Jason Ritter was chewing the scenery a bit. But on subsequent viewings I realized that no, his performance was actually pretty good; and in fact no one in this series ever phones it in. And there are scenes where the actors really get to act.

And when Joan runs one of God's errands, it doesn't improve or fix just one thing. You see how it causes ripples--and in fact that very metaphor is used to explain what God is doing in a later episode. So Joan gets a job, and (SPOILER) not only does it lead to a serial killer getting arrested, but it also leads Joan's brother to bestir himself from the ennui in which he's mired. (That spoils the first ep. Only that.)

Amber Tamblyn plays Joan Girardi. At this point in her career she was basically in the same kind of place Sally Field was when she was doing Gidget. The vibe is similar. Joan is a good girl, underachieving in school, kind of drifting through her life...until one day God talks to her.

Becky Wahlstrom plays Grace Polk. Grace is Jewish (which figures more in the second season) but she's into left-wing politics and has a poster of Che on her bedroom wall, among other things. Short hair, abrasive personality, but it's mostly a front.

Chris Marquette plays Adam Rove, budding sculptor, who ends up being a love interest for Joan. The writers loved making his father, Karl Rove, be a janitor for the police department. (Bush era, remember.)

Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen play Joan's parents, Will and Helen. Jason Ritter plays Kevin, her older brother, and Michael Welch plays Luke, her younger brother.

The cast worked very well together. Having watched the first two eps back-to-back as I wrote this, again I'm amazed at how good--not just in quality, but in how positive--this series is. It's wholesome, it's warm, it's entertaining.

We have two whole seasons. They always cancel series I like. *sigh*

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