HTF REVIEW: Joan of Arcadia - The First Season

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Scott Kimball, May 15, 2005.

  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 8, 2000
    Messages:
    1,500
    Likes Received:
    0
    [​IMG]

    Joan of Arcadia - The First Season





    Studio: Paramount

    Year: 2003 - 2004

    Rated: NR

    Length: 17 Hours, 8 Minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, Anamorphically enhanced

    Audio: Dolby Digital English 2.0

    Subtitles: None

    Closed Captioned

    Special Features:Featurettes, Commentaries

    Street Price, around $45 USD


    Release Date: May 10, 2005

    I had never seen Joan of Arcadia prior to receiving this first season DVD set for review. I had heard of it, in vague terms, as a show where the main character talks to God on a regular basis. That’s all I knew.

    I assumed, based upon the limited description I had heard, that the show would be similar to Touched by an Angel, Highway to Heaven or 7th Heaven. Those programs were all fairly well received and have a definite audience. For me, though, they were all either too preachy or saccharine. That’s a personal opinion, and I respect the opinions of those who disagree.

    What’s nice about Joan of Arcadia is that the approach is accessible across a wide spectrum of belief systems. It doesn’t pigeonhole a single faith - although it is definitely angled toward Judeo-Christian beliefs. It has a smattering of references to other belief systems, as well. It is also accessible to those with agnostic views, as that appears to be the viewpoint of the main characters - the members of the Girardi family. Even the titular character, Joan, who is the one who speaks with God every day, has doubts.

    Executive Producer Barbara Hall (Judging Amy) got the idea for Joan of Arcadia years before it hit the small screen. She wanted to pattern a character after Joan of Arc. She delayed pitching the show on the advice of her agent.

    Hall claims that 9/11 changed people’s attitudes toward spirituality, and that it was a good time to pitch the show. Before the program was even discussed with CBS, Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen were already signed on. With recognizable star power on board, CBS gave the green light.

    Joan Girardi is played by Amber Tamblyn. She’s a 16 year old high school student - average in almost every way. Until the day that God appears to her in the form of a teenaged boy and asks her to do something. This is the running circumstance of the show. In each episode, God (appearing in many different guises) asks Joan to do something - take piano lessons, build a boat, join the band, join the debate team, volunteer to work with children, take a job in a bookstore... The requests always seem benign and Joan can never figure out what good complying with the request will do. This makes it more difficult when the requests lower her status among her friends at school. Join the debate team?!? The program proves again and again, in its own way, that God works in mysterious ways. Joan’s acts, however benign, set in motion a series of events that will help others in some way. It’s like a Rube Goldberg collection of connections that lead to something good in ways that can’t be predicted. Of course, Joan can’t tell anyone about her talks with God. Not only does He not want her to, but nobody would believe her, anyway.

    Will Girardi (Mantegna) is Joan’s father. He’s a cop. He has a good sense of morality - he knows what’s right and wrong - but he is not a religious man.

    Helen Girardi (Steenburgen), Joan’s mother, is a teacher at Joan’s school. She is constantly trying to find herself, spiritually and artistically.

    Kevin (Jason Ritter) is Joan’s older brother. He’s confined to a wheelchair after a car accident, and he’s still adjusting to his disability.

    Luke (Michael Welch) is the younger brother - a serious science geek.

    The show is consistently well-written, with interesting connections and unanticipated results. Performances are strong all around. Joan and her friends at school all exhibit the angst that you expect from kids that age... they seem realistically drawn. Mantegna and Steenburgen are solid anchors as the adult figures in the show. They don’t come across as clueless as parents so often do on television.

    I didn’t expect to enjoy this show, but I found it very easy to watch three or four episodes in a sitting. It’s a well-crafted and compelling show.

    The Transfers
    Anamorphically enhanced, 1.78:1, this show looks quite good for a television show. There is adequate detail, nicely saturated color, good contrast, strong black levels... there is really nothing to complain about. For many, the DVD set will be, I imagine, the first time they can enjoy the show in a widescreen format.

    The sound is a basic Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. It sounds pretty good, with good frequency response and clear dialog. Channel separation is good, and the soundtrack works well in Pro-Logic mode, offering up some added ambience. I heard a rare instance of distortion on some dialog - but overall it is clean. Music sounds good.

    Speaking of music...
    It is noted on the outer package that some music was replaced for this home video release. Not being overly familiar with the show, I certainly can’t confirm any deletions. I will say that there is a fair amount of “high profile” music still present in the episodes. One thing that is missing is the theme music (Joan Osborne’s One of Us) - on all but the first episode on each disc. I can only imagine this partial elimination was an effort to cut costs and keep the retail price of these sets at a point where they are a viable item in the marketplace. Purists will be upset about this, but at least the song is present on each disc. While I can’t verify, it seems likely that most, if not all of the rest of the music is still intact.

    Special Features

    The Creation of Joan of Arcadia (9:00)

    Barbara Hall relates how she came up with the idea for the show, and how it came into being. It took quite a while from concept to air.

    Joan of Arcadia - A Look at Season One (18:10)
    We hear from the entire main cast (the Girardi family) as well as the executive producers of the series, and hear their impressions of the show and the characters. The cast seems very honest in their expressions of love for the concept of this series.

    God Gallery
    A video gallery is available of six of the “Gods” from season one.

    Commentaries
    There are commentaries on the following episodes:

    “Pilot” commentary by Barbara Hall and James Hayman
    “Jump” commentary by Barbara Hall, James Hayman and Hart Hanson
    “Recreation” commentary by Amber Tamblyn, Mary Steenburgen, Michael Welch, Jason Ritter and Joe Mantegna
    “The Gift” commentary by Tom Garrigus, David Grae, Joy Gregory and Stephen Nathan
    “Silence” commentary by Barbara Hall and James Hayman

    I only had the time to listen to one commentary for this review. I think I picked the wrong one. I chose “Recreation,” with the cast commentary. The cast spent the whole time commenting on who was having a bad hair day and giggling about what they looked like, etc. It was humorous for a few minutes, but worthless as a commentary. I can only assume that the producer commentaries are more insightful.

    Deleted Scenes
    There are deleted scenes available for several episodes.

    Final Thoughts
    This is a show that I didn’t expect to like, but I was hooked rather quickly. With a couple of featurettes, deleted scenes on several episodes, and five commentaries, the viewer is presented with a decent stock of extras. Video is very good, and audio is an acceptable two channel mix. The elimination of three quarters of the theme music is the one blemish on an otherwise outstanding set.
     
  2. Joe Cortez

    Joe Cortez Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    May 29, 2002
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    0

    I felt the same way before I got into the show. Thanks for the review!
     
  3. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2002
    Messages:
    6,546
    Likes Received:
    1
    my interest was piqued in this show just due to the premise, and now after your review, i think this is definitely earmarked for a purchase (doggoneit, i wish DDD was going to be having a summer sale again, but i don't think its gonna happen).

    odd about the theme.
    why couldn't they just have one 'opening' per disc side and just seamlessly branch it in the proper place for every ep?
    i didn't realize that something like credits would would be a pay as you go type of liscensing arrangment.
     
  4. Richard Michael Clark

    Richard Michael Clark Second Unit

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2001
    Messages:
    373
    Likes Received:
    0
    Can you say what is there instead of the correct title music? Is it just some other generic 'tune' or is the title sequence removed from all but the first episode of each disc? (sorry to sound so confused!)
    I don't know how this can work really, seeing as on many episodes the "one of us" song begins under the end of the scene before it cuts to the titles.

    I never expected to even like this show (I guess I'm firmly in the agnostic camp) but it's very accessible and well written and hooked me in from the pilot.
     
  5. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 8, 2000
    Messages:
    1,500
    Likes Received:
    0
    The normal title sequence is dropped completely. The teaser scene is intact, ending without music... fade to black... fade to scene one. Credits appear immediately after the fade to black, over scene one.


    Doesn't matter, if they have all the video and audio tracks separate. They can remove the music easily.

    I'm saddened that the music was removed - but until it was called to my attention, I didn't even realize it - the edit is well done. I had thought, maybe it was cut for time on the original broadcast (it's been done before on other shows). Then, I found out it was cut for the DVD release.
     
  6. Eric DiPiazza

    Eric DiPiazza Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2002
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    0
    This show was just cancelled.
     
  7. Richard Michael Clark

    Richard Michael Clark Second Unit

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2001
    Messages:
    373
    Likes Received:
    0
    Cheers for the clarification, Scott. [​IMG]
    At least the edit has been done with a little care by the sound of it.
     
  8. Lee Jamilkowski

    Lee Jamilkowski Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2001
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, I've watched the show since episode two, and to me, One of Us is part of the episodes. Without it, the show just seems... incomplete. [​IMG]

    This is the way the episodes go. God gives Joan a task (usually), waves to her, leaving Joan speechless as the song starts to play. I just can't accept the episodes any other way. I knew I should have recorded the episodes. [​IMG]
     
  9. Natalie F

    Natalie F Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2003
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    0
    That's why I'm not thrilled about the credits. The teaser always had the music fading in, and it's just going to be weird like this.
     
  10. John_VI

    John_VI Second Unit

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2002
    Messages:
    268
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm really bummed that this show was cancelled. It was one of the few weekly dramas that my wife and I never missed (God bless TIVO!!). Too bad that the show could not have done better in the ratings.
     
  11. Wendy_L

    Wendy_L Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    May 26, 2005
    Messages:
    503
    Likes Received:
    0
    This is a show that I have on my "TV Shows on DVD I Want to Watch" list. I definitely want to check it out now after reading the review but I have a question....

    Since the show has been canceled is it still worth it to watch Season 1 and Season 2, that's assuming they release Season 2 on DVD also, even though there won't be a Season 3? In other words was the ending of Season 2 a cliff hanger and I'm just gonna be miffed cuz I won't get to see what happens next or did it have the sort of ending where I won't be salvating for more? Wanted to get the opinion of fans of the show if I should keep it on my list or not.
     
  12. Josh_HI

    Josh_HI Second Unit

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yes it is still totally worth it. Even is season 2 doesn't come out on dvd, I am so glad I bought season 1.

    By the way Joan may not be finished yet. The Associated Press is about to get involved. Go to SaveJoanofArcadia.com or Joanofarcadia.com for details.[​IMG]
     
  13. Wendy_L

    Wendy_L Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    May 26, 2005
    Messages:
    503
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, I hope they can save it for all you "Joan of Arcadia" fans out there. And I will keep Season 1 on my "wish list" and pray that they release Season 2 on DVD.
     
  14. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2001
    Messages:
    4,731
    Likes Received:
    1
    This is not meant to be a thread-fart, but, anything that helps that awful song get cut is ok by me.

    I don't like the idea that the whole set of cast credits now appears superimposed over the start of the first scene though, that must take awhile before they go away if they have to present them all -- is that what you're saying, or is it just the usual guest-star credits that always appear over the first scene?
     
  15. GarySa

    GarySa Auditioning

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0
    I was hooked on this show from the very first time I saw a commercial for it but I never remembered to watch it until recently and I think it is one of the best shows out there.

    I am so upset that it has been cancelled but news is that they are trying to sell it to other networks. UPN and The WB are two that people think would be most likely to pick it up since they have a habit of picking up cancelled shows from other networks, and Joan has a great fanbase.

    I love the season 1 DVD. I missed most of season 1, so this is all new to me, but I just absolutely love this show.

    On TVshowsondvd.com it says that season 2 is tentatively scheduled to be released in September. Is this still the tentative release or have they pulled it now that they cancelled the show?
     
  16. Josh_HI

    Josh_HI Second Unit

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2004
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    0
    SaveJoanOfArcadia.com
    As most of you have probably heard, on Wednesday, May 18th, 2005, CBS announced the cancellation of its sophomore drama, 'Joan of Arcadia,' a show about a girl who talks to God. Literally.

    We, the fans, however, are not going to let this show go without a fight. We will do everything in our power to bring this wonderful show--and its actors and writers, whom have touched our hearts so deeply--back on the air. Join us on our Mission/Crusade From God.


    Note: DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED! We ARE being heard! The AP article about our campaign has been on Yahoo news, MSN news and now CNN.com! Barbara Hall's sister has made mention of our efforts in her blog and has said she's heard a rumor that "something is in the works." Keep emailing, sending postcards, sending Grace's poem, buying the DVDs! Bug Sony about selling JoA to another network, write to NBC, ABC and FOX. This is what Barbara Hall's sister has told us to do! There is reason to hope!
     

Share This Page