Joan of Arcadia

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Joan of Arcadia
Joan of Arcadia (logo).png
Created byBarbara Hall
Opening theme"One of Us" by Joan Osborne
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes45
Executive producerBarbara Hall
Running time45 minutes
Production companies
DistributorCBS Television Distribution
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 26, 2003 (2003-09-26) –
April 22, 2005 (2005-04-22)

Joan of Arcadia is an American fantasy family drama television series telling the story of teenager Joan Girardi (Amber Tamblyn), who sees and speaks with God and performs tasks she is given. The series originally aired on Fridays on CBS for two seasons, from September 26, 2003, to April 22, 2005.

On initial release, the show was praised by critics and won the Humanitas Prize and the People's Choice Award. It was also nominated for an Emmy Award in its first season for Outstanding Drama Series. The title alludes to Joan of Arc and the show takes place in the fictional city of Arcadia, Maryland.

Plot [edit]

In the pilot episode, God appears to Joan (Amber Tamblyn) and reminds her that she promised to do anything he wanted if he would let her brother survive a car crash that left him a paraplegic. God appears in the form of various people including small children, teenage boys, elderly ladies, transients, or passersby. Joan is asked by God to perform tasks that often appear to be trivial or contrary, but always end up positively improving a larger situation.

One of the more obvious effects of Joan's actions occurs when she is asked to take a reclusive bully to the school dance. While both her mother and the assistant principal object, Joan follows through with God's task. At the dance, it is revealed that the bully has a bottle of alcohol with him, but Joan convinces him not to open it. Despite this, the assistant principal later reaches into his jacket, finds the alcohol and expels him. In his anger, the boy threatens the chief of police (Joan's father) with a handgun, and he is then arrested. Joan later finds out from God that, while this turn of events seems rather bleak, it was the lesser of two evils—without Joan's actions, he would have shot over a dozen students and teachers with a handgun, before turning the gun on himself. This ending is noticeably more direct than most episodes, since it is the only time God comments so clearly on "what would have happened" rather than primarily allowing events to speak for themselves.

The series starred actors Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen as Joan's parents Will and Helen, Jason Ritter as her paraplegic older brother Kevin, and Michael Welch as her younger brother Luke. The family relationships and plot situations were written more realistically than other shows with spiritual themes.[1] Various storylines that spanned multiple episodes dealt with the consequences of Kevin's accident, Will's job as a police officer, Helen's career as an art teacher, and Luke's aspirations to be a scientist. God quotes Bob Dylan, Emily Dickinson and the Beatles rather than any scripture or verses. Furthermore, God is portrayed with a very human personality. In "Touch Move", he tells Joan that he has to send her "down there", and laughs when she becomes worried he means Hell, when he meant the school basement. Also, in one episode, he hands Joan a book from a store they have just left. When Joan accuses him of stealing, he remarks "Well, technically everything's mine."

Christopher Marquette also stars as Adam Rove, a close friend of Joan's who has an on-and-off romantic relationship with her. Another of Joan's best friends is Grace Polk, played by Becky Wahlstrom.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main cast[edit]

  • Joe Mantegna as Will Girardi – Joan, Kevin and Luke's father. He moved his family from their home in Chicago when he was offered the job of Chief of Police in Arcadia, Maryland. After he busts wide open the internal corruption of the town of Arcadia's infrastructure, the Arcadia Police Department is disbanded and he becomes the Chief of Detectives of the Hogan County Sheriff's Department, which assumed the law enforcement responsibilities for the town. Since the leaving of Lt. Preston, Will serves as the acting head of the HCSD Arcadia Station. Mantegna had a development deal with CBS and liked the script so agreed to be part of the show. He was also involved in the casting of the other characters.[2]
  • Mary Steenburgen as Helen Girardi – Will's wife and mother of Kevin, Joan, Luke. An artist, Helen dropped out of art school after she was raped by an unknown perpetrator. She works as the secretary at Arcadia High School, and becomes the art teacher in "State of Grace". She was raised in the Catholic faith, but was never confirmed; after moving to Arcadia, she has considered going back to the Church.
  • Amber Tamblyn as Joan Girardi – Middle child of the Girardi family, Joan is a teenage girl who talks to God. He often gives her assignments or tasks that eventually have a (usually) positive outcome, but she is frequently exasperated by the randomness of His directives and His refusal to answer any direct questions. She is in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with Adam Rove; the two broke up in "Trial and Error". As seen in "Drive, He Said", Joan's middle name is Agnes, and her date of birth is November 24, 1987. She works part-time as a retail associate at a local bookstore.
  • Jason Ritter as Kevin Girardi – Eldest child in the Girardi family. A year and a half before the show begins, he became a paraplegic in a car accident after failing to stop a friend from drunk driving while in high school. A jock, he was supposed to attend the University of Arizona on a baseball scholarship prior to the accident. At first, he works for the local newspaper as a fact checker; later he pursues a career in journalism, and becomes a local news anchor.
  • Michael Welch as Luke Girardi – Youngest Girardi child. Science nerd, straight-A student. He had a brief romantic relationship with Glynis Figliola, and later began a relationship with Grace Polk which largely consisted of making out in the biology lab's closet.
  • Chris Marquette as Adam Rove (Recurring Season 1; Regular Season 2) – Only child of Elizabeth (deceased) and Carl Rove. Socially awkward and introverted. Joan's best friend/boyfriend, Grace's best friend since childhood. One of Helen's art students, talented artist.
  • Becky Wahlstrom as Grace Polk (Recurring Season 1; Regular Season 2) – Only child of Sarah and Rabbi Polanski. Adam and Joan's best friend and Luke's eventual girlfriend. An outspoken activist against all authority, has a particular hatred for school vice principal Gavin Price. She is highly intelligent despite her reputation. After years of putting it off, Grace finally had her bat mitzvah in "The Book of Questions".

Note: Marquette and Wahlstrom are credited as guest stars throughout season 1, even though they appeared in every episode of the series except the pilot.

Recurring cast[edit]

  • David Burke as Father Ken Mallory – Helen's friend and pastor of a nearby church.
  • Haylie Duff as Stevie Marx
  • Patrick Fabian as Gavin Price – The Vice Principal of Arcadia High School. Very unpopular among students.
  • John Getz as District Attorney Gabe Fellowes – A corrupt public servant who was later arrested during the investigation of corruption into the Arcadia city government.
  • April Grace as Detective Toni Williams – Will Girardi's partner on the Arcadia Police Department and later the Hogan County Sheriff's Department in Season One.
  • Sprague Grayden as Judith Montgomery – Joan's friend from the summer psychiatric camp.
  • Elaine Hendrix as Ms. Lischak – Chemistry and Physics teacher.
  • Aaron Himelstein as Friedman – Luke's best friend.
  • Wentworth Miller as Ryan Hunter – a young, charming dot com millionaire who also talks to God, but with his own sinister agenda.
  • Derek Morgan as Hogan County Undersheriff Roy Roebuck – He previously served as head of the Arcadia Police Department Internal Affairs Division before being forced to transfer to the Arcadia Fire Department as the arson investigator. After the dissolution of the Arcadia city government, Roy became the Commanding Officer of the Hogan County Sheriff's Department Arcadia Station. He resigned after learning that two of his officers were dirty and had murdered a witness.
  • Erik Palladino as Lt. Michael Daghlian, the senior detective of the Arcadia PD under Chief Will Girardi. He was fired after removing evidence from an official report.
  • Sydney Tamiia Poitier as Rebecca Askew, a reporter at the newspaper where Kevin works. Dated Kevin.
  • Annie Potts as Lt. Lucy Preston – Formerly the head of the Hogan County Sheriff's Department's Internal Affairs Division, she replaced Undersheriff Roy Roebuck as Commanding Officer of the Hogan County Sheriff's Department. She and Will quickly got close, both professionally and personally, but Will soon became uncomfortable with her methods of policing – and her apparent complicity in the death of Judith Montgomery's murderer. In "Romancing the Joan", Preston transfers to Washington, D.C. for a job with the United States Department of Justice.
  • Kevin Rahm as Dana Tuchman, guidance counselor at Arcadia High School.
  • Paul Sand as Rabbi Polanski, Grace's father.
  • Mark Totty as Detective Carlisle – Will Girardi's junk food-addicted partner on the Hogan County Sheriff's Department.
  • Mageina Tovah as Glynis Figliola – Luke's friend and one-time girlfriend.
  • Constance Zimmer as Sister Lilly Watters, a former nun who helps advise Helen Girardi, also Kevin's girlfriend.

Guest cast[edit]

Incarnations of God[edit]

The many incarnations included:

  1. ^ A reference to the actress' role as Mrs. Landingham on The West Wing. She also frequently visits the book store where Joan works and is a candy striper at the hospital.


  • Barbara Hall, Executive Producer
  • Jim Hayman, Executive Producer
  • Stephen Nathan, Executive Producer
  • Hart Hanson, Consulting Producer
  • Peter Schindler, Co-Executive Producer
  • Randy Anderson, Co-Executive Producer

Theme song [edit]

The opening credits roll with the song "One of Us" written by Eric Bazilian and performed by Joan Osborne. It was a hit single for Osborne in the United States from her 1995 album Relish:

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home (repeated)

Osborne re-recorded the song (with a noticeably less rough quality) specifically for the show. To fit the lyrics of the song, Joan first meets God as a teenage boy riding to school on the bus with her (although they don't actually speak to each other at the time).


Scenes of Arcadia's skyline and other outdoor scenes were actually the city of Wilmington, Delaware. Arcadia itself is set in Maryland. Joan's high school is El Segundo High School, California.[4]


Season 1 (2003–04)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
11"Pilot"Jack Bender & James HaymanBarbara HallSeptember 26, 2003 (2003-09-26)100
Sixteen-year-old Joan Girardi is approached by someone claiming to be God. He gives her a mission: get a job. Will Girardi, Joan's dad and new chief of police for Arcadia, is trying to solve the case of a serial killer.
22"The Fire and the Wood"James HaymanHart HansonOctober 3, 2003 (2003-10-03)101
Joan enrolls in advanced-placement chemistry, after God asks her to stop being an underachiever; Will ruffles feathers during an arson investigation.
33"Touch Move"Josh BrandBarbara HallOctober 10, 2003 (2003-10-10)102
God encourages Joan to learn how to play chess; Will must work with a psychic on a missing toddler case; Helen hopes a miracle will enable Kevin to walk again.
44"The Boat"Kevin DowlingRandy AndersonOctober 17, 2003 (2003-10-17)103
Helen fears Joan is becoming eccentric when she enthusiastically tackles her boat-building project; Will encourages Kevin to join a wheelchair basketball team.
55"Just Say No"Steve GomerTom GarrigusOctober 24, 2003 (2003-10-24)104
Joan learns from God that she's holding a garage sale on Saturday, which doesn't leave her much time to sort through her family's unwanted belongings. Among the items she unearths are paintings created by Helen during a dark period in her life. Elsewhere, Will goes to bat for a rape victim even though the district attorney feels the case isn't strong enough. Also, Joan catches the interest of a class charmer and a newspaper job falls right into Kevin's lap.
66"Bringeth It On"David PetrarcaJoy GregoryOctober 31, 2003 (2003-10-31)105
Joan gets a lesson in popularity when God tells her to try out for the cheerleading squad, and her efforts to impress two pom-pom girls pay off with an invite to hang out together outside of school. Meanwhile, Will's first case working with Det. Toni Williams involves an abandoned newborn left in a trash bin, presumably by a student from Arcadia High. Another story line has a classmate sensing a gay vibe in Luke.
77"Death Be Not Whatever"Peter LevinBarbara HallNovember 7, 2003 (2003-11-07)106
Joan baby-sits for an 8-year-old boy (David Dorfman) who is obsessed with death; officers assault a black man at a gas station.
88"The Devil Made Me Do It"James HaymanHart HansonNovember 14, 2003 (2003-11-14)107
God's mysterious ways once again bewilder Joan, when He asks her to volunteer at the high-school art show, so that she can keep Adam Rove's sculpture from being exhibited. Elsewhere, Will feels pressure from the DA's office to call a man a hero after he shoots and kills a home intruder. Meanwhile, Kevin grows weary of receiving special treatment because he uses a wheelchair.
99"St. Joan"Martha MitchellRandy AndersonNovember 21, 2003 (2003-11-21)108
God wants Joan to score an "A" on a test about French saint Joan of Arc. As the teen hits the books, she draws comparisons to the life of the young heroine who claimed to hear divine voices and was burnt at the stake. Helen finds her daughter's newest obsession troublesome and urges Will to have the entire family visit a therapist. Meanwhile, Will is unjustly raked over the coals for shutting down a crack house.
1010"Drive, He Said"Ron LagomarsinoTom GarrigusDecember 5, 2003 (2003-12-05)109
Each of the Girardis deal with crises of varying seriousness, the worst of which puts Will at the mercy of a crazed gunman. The day also finds Helen reacting with mixed emotions after getting a positive result on a home-pregnancy test. Meanwhile, Joan dreads having to take her driver's exam, and Luke is presented with a major distraction just before he's supposed to compete in a high-stakes competition.
1111"The Uncertainty Principle"Helen ShaverJoy GregoryDecember 12, 2003 (2003-12-12)110
God instructs Joan to ask a troublemaker to the winter formal. Will uncovers secrets that could prove unfavorable to the former Chief of Police and other members of the city's government.
1212"Jump"Timothy BusfieldHart HansonJanuary 9, 2004 (2004-01-09)111
Joan is saddened when she learns Rocky (David Dorfman) ("Death Be Not Whatever") has died, causing her to further question God about life and death. Will loses his job when his discovery and public revelation of the town's political corruption causes the city government (including the police department) to be dissolved by the State Governor. Luke continues to work on his science fair project and his growing attraction to Grace, while Kevin is injured in a game of wheelchair basketball.
1313"Recreation"Elodie KeeneBarbara HallJanuary 16, 2004 (2004-01-16)112
At Helen's insistence, she and Will take a getaway to a spa, but all does not go well when Will cannot forget about his job. And with the parents away, the kids are up to a little recreation of their own; Kevin and his boss, Rebecca, find it hard to ignore their mutual attraction; Joan, as she is trying to sort out her feelings for Adam, is instructed by God to throw a party while her parents are away; Luke helps Joan pull off a successful party.
1414"State of Grace"Steve GomerJoshua RavetchFebruary 6, 2004 (2004-02-06)113
God tells Joan to join the debate team, where her partner is a person who stutters. A new security system is implemented at Arcadia High School. After the art teacher quits, Helen wonders if she would be right for the job. Both Kevin and Luke separately deal with the aftermath of a kiss. And Will and Toni deal with a case involving a reverend accused of child molestation.
1515"Night Without Stars"Kevin DowlingDavid GraeFebruary 13, 2004 (2004-02-13)115
Joan's newest mission from God is to work with kids, so she volunteers to help babysit children of abused mothers; Joan becomes jealous when Adam falls for one of the volunteers; Kevin starts to get cocky again and sleeps with his girlfriend, Rebecca; previous events emotionally catch up with Will; and Luke makes a shocking admission to Kevin.
1616"Double Dutch"Alan MyersonTom GarrigusFebruary 20, 2004 (2004-02-20)116
God tells Joan to learn to jump rope with a group of inner-city teens, one of whom Joan discovers is homeless. Kevin goes on a date, but not with who you think.
1717"No Bad Guy"James HaymanSibyl GardnerFebruary 27, 2004 (2004-02-27)114
A picture of Joan in the locker room in her underwear, taken with a picture phone, is rapidly spread around school. God instructs Joan to join the band. Will must deal with an elderly driver who accidentally killed several people.
1818"Requiem for a Third Grade Ashtray"Kevin DowlingJoy GregoryMarch 12, 2004 (2004-03-12)117
God instructs Joan to help out with the a chaotic Girardi household; Adam has his first art show; Will and Toni witness a carjacking. Will and Toni, while making an arrest, get stuck in an elevator with a pregnant woman who is about to give birth; Kevin believes he might be recovering some sensation in his stomach area and gets an EMG (a nerve conduction) test done.
1919"Do the Math"Rob MorrowAntoinette StellaApril 2, 2004 (2004-04-02)118
God tells Joan to take piano lessons; Joan helps her piano teacher deal with her past; Joan learns a painful secret Will and Helen have been keeping from the family; Iris becomes suspicious of Adam and Joan closeness.
2020"Anonymous"Steve GomerDavid GraeApril 30, 2004 (2004-04-30)119
Joan joins the yearbook staff, per God's request, and decides to use this assignment as a means of impressing Adam... Feeling threatened that Iris and Adam continue to share a bond over their passion for art, Joan vows to discover a hidden talent that Adam will admire. However, her disastrous attempt to be the yearbook's star photographer soon adds to her insecurities about losing him. Meanwhile, Will and Toni attempt to set up a sting for a man who is planning to hire a hitman to murder his wife.
2121"Vanity, Thy Name Is Human"Jerry LevineRobert GirardiMay 7, 2004 (2004-05-07)120
Joan takes a cosmetics class, per God's request, and Kevin doesn't react well to crossing paths with the last girlfriend he dated before his disabling accident. Glynis' flattering makeover attracts a great deal of positive attention at school, which only adds to Joan's disappointment when Adam fails to notice her own new look. Meanwhile, Kevin, who remains bitter with the belief that he had been dumped by Beth because he had become a paraplegic, harshly rebuffs her efforts to make peace with him.
2222"The Gift"Martha MitchellStephen NathanMay 14, 2004 (2004-05-14)121
After God tells Joan to give Adam a gift, she finds something that leads her to wonder if God's suggesting she have sex with him... While secretly searching through Adam's backpack for gift ideas, Joan is stunned to find a condom there. She soon wonders if sex is the "gift" God had in mind, and she nervously ponders whether or not she'd be ready for such a big step. Meanwhile, Kevin begins covering court proceedings for the paper and ends up causing a stir in one of Will's cases.
2323"Silence"James HaymanBarbara HallMay 21, 2004 (2004-05-21)122
Upon hearing that Joan may have been suffering from the symptoms of Lyme disease for months, a somewhat relieved Will and Helen believe this news may explain Joan's mood swings and atypical behavior, while a concerned Adam wonders if Joan will be different upon her recovery. Meanwhile, the hospitalized Joan experiences a crisis of faith – and considers revealing to someone close to her that she's been talking to God. In separate circumstances, Helen and Will begin to rethink their belief systems after, respectively, experiencing spiritual dreams and miraculous events.

Season 2 (2004–05)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
241"Only Connect"James HaymanBarbara HallSeptember 24, 2004 (2004-09-24)201
After a summer of therapy and with school resuming Joan tries to return to a "normal" life even as she ignores God, who keeps reappearing; Will is sued for emotional distress by Andy Baker, whose drunk driving caused the accident that paralyzed Kevin; Luke and Grace try to adjust to their relationship.
252"Out of Sight"Rob MorrowStephen NathanOctober 1, 2004 (2004-10-01)202
Judith, a wild friend of Joan's from summer camp, starts school at Arcadia High; Will investigates a drive-by shooting; Kevin confronts Andy about the ongoing lawsuit.
263"Back to the Garden"Kevin DowlingJoy GregoryOctober 8, 2004 (2004-10-08)203
God instructs Joan to start a community garden; Judith continues her downward spiral; Luke puts up a strong front with Grace; a former police informant is killed setting Will and Carlisle on a mission to find corrupt cops and Kevin gets let in on the lawsuit.
274"The Cat"Steve GomerDavid GraeOctober 15, 2004 (2004-10-15)204
God wants Joan to adopt a stray cat; Aunt Olive gets a stroke which paralyses her from the waist down; Will again starts an internal investigation; Grace finally lets Luke in and Judith gets 'coerced' into a possible date.
285"The Election"Rob MorrowEllie HermanOctober 22, 2004 (2004-10-22)205
God wants Joan to make a difference in the election; Will has problems with the new head of the police department and asks his son to find dirt, as does Joan to try win the election for the one who fired her from the yearbook club.
296"Wealth of Nations"Kevin DowlingTom GarrigusOctober 29, 2004 (2004-10-29)206
God wants Joan to get everyone a piece of the pie and get Joan to use her new-found knowledge to make money; Kevin meets an old friend; Grace and Luke meet twice to 'study'; Will wants to countersue the Bakers, and Joan finds out there are things God can't do right.
307"P.O.V."Graeme CliffordLindsay SturmanNovember 5, 2004 (2004-11-05)207
Joan struggles with the pressures of Junior year; God assigns Joan to work on a videography; Adam and Judith work on a project together; Will, Kevin, and Helen meet with a lawyer to discuss a counter-lawsuit.
318"Friday Night"Elodie KeeneStephen NathanNovember 12, 2004 (2004-11-12)208
After being prodded by Judith to go on a real date, Joan and Adam nervously prepare for a romantic night at a fancy French restaurant. Little do they know that Judith has subsequently made some misguided plans for herself for that evening, which later causes the guilt-ridden Joan to wonder if she could have prevented her friend's misfortune.
329"No Future"James HaymanBarbara HallNovember 19, 2004 (2004-11-19)209
As Joan begins to deal with Judith's death, she faces the added pressure of having to relive the day of Kevin's accident during her deposition. Meanwhile, Will feels guilty as he recalls how poorly he treated Kevin in the hours preceding his accident. Additionally, Grace reluctantly agrees to join Luke for dinner at the Girardi's on his birthday.
3310"The Book of Questions"Steve GomerEllie HermanNovember 26, 2004 (2004-11-26)210
While helping Grace shop for a dress for the occasion, Joan is delighted to finally meet Grace's seemingly perfect mother, Sarah. However, when Sarah's drinking problem becomes evident, Joan begins to understand why Grace is so private – and why she's long been avoiding having her bat mitzvah. Meanwhile, Luke racks his brain to come up with a meaningful bat mitzvah gift for Grace. Additionally, Adam and Joan have different ways of coping with Judith's death. Will supports Lucy's less-than-legal means of trying to get one of Judith's friends to describe Judith's on-the-run killer, and Kevin's ex-girlfriend is deposed for the trial.
3411"Dive"Martha MitchellDavid GraeDecember 10, 2004 (2004-12-10)211
As Joan tries to work her way up to the high dive despite her acrophobia, Luke attempts to overcome his paralyzing fear of undertaking an activity at which he might fail. Meanwhile, Will continues his quest to find Judith's killer, and Kevin goes on a date with Beth. Additionally, while reflecting on Judith's death and Kevin's accident, Helen becomes overwhelmed with concern about her family being in harm's way.
3512"Game Theory"Gloria MuzioTom GarrigusJanuary 7, 2005 (2005-01-07)212
Despite everyone's protests, Joan allows her snobby, Ivy League-educated guidance counselor to advise her against applying to college. However, after Joan relays her plans to Roger, an engaging college student on the campus she's visiting, he tells her that college is attainable and persuades her to hire him as a tutor. Meanwhile, Adam becomes jealous of Joan's rapport with Roger; Will sees a dark side of Lucy; Helen questions her commitment to Catholicism, and Beth finds it difficult to resume a relationship with the wheelchair-bound Kevin.
3613"Queen of the Zombies"Graeme CliffordJoy GregoryJanuary 14, 2005 (2005-01-14)213
God instructs Joan to try out for the school play; Adam builds the sets for the play; Grace becomes jealous of Luke and Glynis.
3714"The Rise & Fall of Joan Girardi"Martha MitchellLindsay SturmanJanuary 28, 2005 (2005-01-28)214
After saving a girl's life Joan suddenly becomes famous but she soon learns fame is fleeting and can even turn against you; Adam has a job interview that doesn't quite go the way he wants; tension builds between Lucy and Will; as Luke prepares to get his driver's license Grace tries to educate him on the harmful impact vehicles have on the environment.
3815"Romancing the Joan"Joanna KernsBarbara HallFebruary 11, 2005 (2005-02-11)215
God wants Joan to do an extra credit assignment on Romantic poetry; Adam takes on a perky and cute assistant (special guest star Haylie Duff); Lucy gets a promotion; Helen takes a break from her Catholic studies; Kevin decides to get back into the dating game.
3916"Independence Day"James HaymanEllie Herman & Stephen NathanFebruary 18, 2005 (2005-02-18)216
Incensed that Will and Helen have forbidden her to go to a concert with Adam and stay overnight with him in his father's camper, Joan goes anyway. After Joan has a conversation with God about free will, she decides to use it as a rationale for lying to her mother in order to go on the trip as she's convinced that Helen simply wants her to remain a dependent little girl. Meanwhile, Luke is shocked when the nerdy, girl-obsessed Friedman rebuffs the advances of the surprisingly infatuated Stevie.
4017"Shadows and Light"Kevin DowlingTom Garrigus & David GraeFebruary 25, 2005 (2005-02-25)217
Joan is convinced that she's meant to help Stevie keep her part-time job with Adam, despite Stevie's mother's order that she quit. In an effort to supply Stevie with the Social Security number that Stevie's mother is withholding, Joan gets Kevin to use his investigative reporting skills. Kevin's findings end up leading Will to make a discovery that quickly turns Stevie's world upside-down. Meanwhile, Adam is upset with Joan for telling Helen that he tried to have sex with her, and Kevin is conflicted when the local television station asks him to do a report that pertains to paralysis.
4118"Secret Service"Michael FrescoStory by : Ben Eicher
Teleplay by : Joy Gregory & Lindsay Sturman
March 4, 2005 (2005-03-04)218
After Price discovers Joan holding an empty egg carton near his freshly egged car, he wrongly assumes she's the culprit and punishes her with a weekend of community service. Without more direction from God than to rise above the injustice, Joan tries to figure out if she's meant to help a bitter former nun, Lilly, who is overseeing the service project, or one of the social outcasts who are serving as a result of their own offenses. Meanwhile, Joan's also upset that her reluctance to begin a sexual relationship with Adam is driving a wedge between them. Also, Adam meets a troubled artist at the community center; Joan gets Luke a job at the bookstore; Kevin has another car accident.
4219"Trial and Error"Neal IsraelStory by : Matthew Donlan & Jeremy Martin
Teleplay by : Marc Flanagan
April 1, 2005 (2005-04-01)219
Joan prepares to prosecute a case for a mock trial at school, per God's request, while enthusiastically planning a way to celebrate her one-year anniversary with Adam, who has secretly betrayed her. Joan surprises everyone with her passion in prosecuting a mock case against the equally motivated defense attorney, Grace. Meanwhile, while trying to hide his guilt from Joan as she plans a special anniversary night out with him, Adam decides to confess his wrongdoing to an appalled Grace. Meanwhile, Will investigates the murder of a girl and Helen continues her study of Catholicism.
4320"Spring Cleaning"Bethany RooneyLyla OliverApril 8, 2005 (2005-04-08)220
In the wake of Joan's difficult breakup with Adam, God tells her to do some therapeutic cleaning, which ends up putting her in the middle of a scandal involving her guidance counselor... As part of Joan's clean sweep, she returns everything Adam ever gave her, which only adds to the awkwardness between them. Meanwhile, when Joan returns some items to Mr. Tuchman that he loaned her, a jealous student with feelings for Tuchman vindictively tells the school authorities that Tuchman initiated intimate relationships with both her and Joan. Also, Kevin considers getting a place of his own.
4421"Common Thread"Elodie KeeneStephen NathanApril 15, 2005 (2005-04-15)221
Before a storm will hit the town. Adam and Joan have a falling out with each other. Adam leaves and heads into the woods to avoid the approaching storm. But when the storm hits, Adam gets lost. When Joan becomes worried that Adam might be in danger. She calls her father and every one searches for Adam while the storm dies down. In the end of the show, Adam is rescued by Ryan Hunter – a young, charming dot com millionaire who also talks to God.
4522"Something Wicked This Way Comes"James HaymanBarbara HallApril 22, 2005 (2005-04-22)222
God tells Joan that her last two years were just practice for her greatest challenge, which will be to face off against a mysterious man who, though he also talks to God, has a sinister agenda. Initially, Joan is simply curious about Ryan Hunter, the charming, wealthy and influential man who revealed to her that he also speaks to God, and who rescued Adam from the woods during a storm. However, she soon discovers Ryan's dark side and is alarmed that he's insinuated himself into the lives of her loved ones, who are quick to dismiss Joan's qualms about him. He smiles in a very sinister way at Joan before the credits roll. End of series.

Reception and cancellation[edit]

Joan of Arcadia debuted on the heels of Touched by an Angel, which had ended its nine-year run in April 2003.

While Joan of Arcadia was one of the highest-rated new shows of the 2003–2004 television season, its ratings declined in the second season, in spite of continued critical acclaim. The show was cancelled by CBS on May 18, 2005.[5] Fan campaigns were created in response, in an effort to have the show reinstated.[6] Only two episodes "No Future" and "The Rise and Fall of Joan Girardi" from the second season were repeated by CBS, and remaining reruns were pulled from the schedule. Near the end of the second season, a menacing character was introduced to the series, an amoral "tempter" (aka "The Adversary" with Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" as his musical motif), seemingly destined to cause a significant amount of conflict in the show's characters. The show's cancellation left that premise unexplored. Ghost Whisperer took over the show's Friday time slot in September 2005.[5][6]

After the show's cancellation, props such as pieces of Adam's artwork and Joan's signature messenger bag and costume pieces belonging to cast members were sold on eBay. Grace's trademark leather jacket was not included as the jacket was brought in by actress Becky Wahlstrom from her own teenage years.[7]

Viewers by season[edit]

USA Today summarized Joan of Arcadia's ratings as follows: "During its first season, Joan of Arcadia averaged 10.1 million viewers, respectable numbers for Friday, a quiet night for television. [The following] year, viewership sank to 8 million, according to Nielsen Media Research."[6]

Nielsen ratings [edit]

Season Episodes Premiere Season finale Viewers
(in millions)
1 2003–2004 23 September 26, 2003 May 21, 2004 9.9[8] #54[8]
2 2004–2005 22 September 24, 2004 April 22, 2005 8.0[9] #70[9]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Assiciation Category / Recipient Results Ref
2003 Online Film & Television Association Best Actress in a Drama Series / Amber Tamblyn Nominated [10]
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series / Mary Steenburgen Nominated
2004 America Film Institute Awards TV Program of the Year / Joan of Arcadia Won
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Top TV Series

(composer) Jonathan Grossman

Casting Society of America Best Casting for TV, Dramatic Pilot

(casting director) Vicki Rosenberg for ("Pilot")

Nominated [11]
Environmental Media Awards Primetime Television for ("Bringeth It On") Won
Gold Derby Awards Drama Lead Actress / Amber Tamblyn Won [12]
Drama Supporting Actress / Mary Steenburgen Nominated
Golden Globes Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama / Amber Tamblyn Nominated [13]
Humanitas Prize Awards 60 Minute Category
(creator) Barbara Hall for ("Pilot")
60 Minute Category
(director) Joy Gregory for ("The Uncertainty Principle")
Online Film & Television Association Best Writing in a Drama Series
(writer) Randy Anderson
(writer) Sibyl Gardner
(writer) Tom Garrigus
(writer) Robert Girardi
(writer) David Grae
(writer) Joy Gregory)
(writer) Barbara Hall
(writer) Hart Hanson
(writer) Stephen Nathan
(writer) Joshua Ravetch
(writer) Antoinette Stella
Nominated [14]
Best Actress in a Drama Series / Amber Tamblyn Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series / Mary Steenburgen Nominated
People's Choice Awards Favorite Television New Dramatic Series / Joan of Arcadia Won
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Drama Series / Joan of Arcadia
(producer) Tom Garrigus
(executive producer) Barbara Hall
(executive producer) James Hayman
(co-executive producer) Peter Schindler
(co-executive producer) Randy Anderson
Nominated [15]
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series / Amber Tamblyn for ("Pilot") Nominated
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series / Louise Fletcher for ("Do the Math") Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Series, Drama / Amber Tamblyn Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Drama / Mary Steenburgen Won
Saturn Awards Best Actress in a Television Series / Amber Tamblyn Won
Teen Choice Awards Choice Breakout TV Show / Joan of Arcadia Nominated
Choice TV Show – Drama/Action-Adventure / Joan of Arcadia Nominated
Choice Breakout TV Star — Male / Jason Ritter Nominated
Choice Breakout TV Star — Female / Amber Tamblyn Nominated
Choice TV Actress — Drama/Action-Adventure / Amber Tamblyn Nominated
TCA Awards Outstanding New Program of the Year / Joan of Arcadia Nominated [16]
Young Artist Awards Best Family Television Series (Comedy or Drama) / Joan or Arcadia Nominated
Best Young Adult Performer in a Teenage Role / Amber Tamblyn Nominated
Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) — Supporting Young Actor / Michael Welch Won
2005 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series / Cloris Leachman for ("The Cat") Nominated [15]
Saturn Awards Best Actress on a Television / Amber Tamblyn Nominated

Home media[edit]

CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) released both seasons on DVD in Region 1 in 2005/2006.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released all seasons in Region 2.

On June 6, 2017, CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) released Joan of Arcadia: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.[17]

Season DVD Cover Discs Release Date Ep# Additional Information
1 Joan of Arcadia (season 1).jpg 6 May 10, 2005 23 Deleted Scenes, Audio commentaries by the Filmmakers and Cast
Behind-The-Scenes Featurettes: The Creation of Joan of Arcadia and Joan of Arcadia – A Look at Season One
God Gallery
2 Joan of Arcadia (season 2).jpg 6 November 28, 2006 22 Audio Commentaries on selected episodes
A Look at Season 2 featurette
The Making of Queen of the Zombies
A Tour of Joan's High School
Common Thread Table Read
Complete Series 12 June 6, 2017 45

Note: each disc in the season, except the last, contains 4 episodes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Binns (September 2004). "For God's Sake". TV Zone (180): 42–45. Like Joan of Arcadia and unlike Touched by an Angel, Quantum Leap feels more like a drama in which God plays a role, rather than a piece of religious instruction in dramatic form.
  2. ^ Nathan Rabin (April 21, 2009). "Joe Mantegna". Retrieved November 28, 2009. Ultimately, we ran two seasons, and it’s one of the proudest things I’ve done.
  3. ^ a b Season 2 Episode 14 "The Rise & Fall of Joan Girardi"
  4. ^ Mullinax, Gary (October 31, 2003). "TV version of God hanging out in Wilmington". The News Journal. Wilmington, Delaware: Gannett Company. pp. A1. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Fans make last try to save 'Joan of Arcadia'. Older audience demographic, low ratings led to cancellation". May 29, 2005.
  6. ^ a b c "Fans demand 'Joan', fight CBS over cancellation". USA Today. Gannett Company. May 30, 2005. Retrieved November 28, 2009.
  7. ^ Buying TV Show Clothing Props
  8. ^ a b "I. T. R. S. Ranking Report: 01 Thru 210". ABC Medianet. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved May 25, 2007.
  9. ^ a b "Primetime series". The Hollywood Reporter. Nielsen Business Media. May 27, 2005. Archived from the original on August 21, 2009. Retrieved September 12, 2009.
  10. ^ "7th Annual TV Awards (2002-03) - Online Film & Television Association". Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  11. ^ "2004 Artios Awards". Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  12. ^ Derby, Gold (March 7, 2016). "2004 GOLDDERBY TV AWARDS". GoldDerby. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  13. ^ "Joan of Arcadia". Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  14. ^ "8th Annual TV Awards (2004) - Online Film & Television Association". Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Joan Of Arcadia". Television Academy. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  16. ^ "Television Critics Association Announces 2004 Award Nominees". Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  17. ^ 'The Complete Series' Starring Amber Tamblyn, Jason Ritter, Mary Steenburgen, Joe Mantegna Archived March 29, 2017, at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

  • Coker, Stephanie L. "Joan of Arcadia: A Modern Maiden on Trial" (in Part 1. Personal and Political Desires). In: Pagès, Meriem and Karolyn Kinane (editors). The Middle Ages on Television: Critical Essays. McFarland & Company, April 16, 2015. ISBN 0786479418, 9780786479412. Start: p. 31.

External links[edit]