Joan of Arcadia
|Joan of Arcadia|
|Created by||Barbara Hall|
|Opening theme||"One of Us" by Joan Osborne|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||45 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Barbara Hall|
|Running time||45 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Barbara Hall Productions
Sony Pictures Television
|Distributor||CBS Television Distribution (USA)
Sony Pictures Television (non-USA)
|Original release||September 26, 2003– April 22, 2005|
Joan of Arcadia is an American television fantasy/family drama telling the story of teenager Joan Girardi (played by Amber Tamblyn), who sees and speaks with God and performs tasks she is given. The series originally aired on Fridays, 8–9 p.m. on CBS and CTV 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 city of Arcadia, Maryland.
In the pilot episode, God appears to Joan 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. 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. No specific mention of any "true" religion is ever made, and 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".
Cast and characters
- Amber Tamblyn as Joan Girardi – Middle child of the Girardi family. Teenage girl who talks to God.
- Joe Mantegna as Will Girardi – Joan, Kevin and Luke's father. Police chief of Arcadia PD, eventually chooses to return to detective work after he is kidnapped and busts wide open the internal corruption of the town of Arcadia's infrastructure. 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.
- Mary Steenburgen as Helen Girardi – Joan, Kevin and Luke's mother. Secretary and eventually art teacher at Arcadia High School.
- Jason Ritter as Kevin Girardi – Eldest child in the Girardi family. Became a paraplegic in a car accident because of failing to stop a friend from drunk driving while in high school. A jock, he was supposed to attend college on a baseball scholarship prior to the accident. Works for the local newspaper as a fact checker at first; later pursuing a career in journalism, and going on to become a local news anchor.
- Michael Welch as Luke Girardi – Youngest Girardi child. Science nerd, straight-A student.
- 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 principal Gavin Price. She is highly intelligent despite her reputation.
- Aaron Himelstein as Friedman – Luke's best friend
- Mageina Tovah as Glynis Figliola – Luke's friend and one-time girlfriend
- Sprague Grayden as Judith Montgomery – Joan's friend from the summer psychiatric camp.
- Mark Totty as Detective Carlisle – Will Girardi's junk food addicted partner on the Arcadia Police Department.
- Elaine Hendrix as Ms. Lischak – Chemistry and Physics teacher.
- Patrick Fabian as Gavin Price – Assistant Principal, Arcadia High School. Very unpopular among students.
- Annie Potts as Lucy Preston – Lieutenant, Arcadia Police Department
- April Grace as Detective Toni Williams – Will Girardi's partner on the Arcadia Police Department in Season One.
- Derek Morgan as Roy Roebuck – Arcadia Police Department
- Wentworth Miller as Ryan Hunter – a young, charming dot com millionaire who also talks to God, but with his own sinister agenda.
- David Burke as Fr. Ken Mallory – Helen's friend and pastor of a nearby church.
- Sydney Tamiia Poitier as Rebecca Askew, a reporter at the newspaper where Kevin works. Dated Kevin.
- Constance Zimmer as Sister Lilly Watters, a former nun who helps advise Helen Girardi, also Kevin's girlfriend.
- Haylie Duff as Stevie Marx
- Erik Palladino as Lt. Michael Daghlian, Will Girardi's colleague
- Hilary Duff as Dylan Samuels
- Lauren Mayhew as Elle
- Alexis Dziena as Bonnie
- Shelley Long as Miss.Candy
- Tyler James Williams as hallway boy
Incarnations of God
The many incarnations included:
- Juliette Goglia – Little Girl God
- Kathryn Joosten – Old Lady God, or occasionally as Mrs. Landingham God[note 1]
- Russ Tamblyn (actress Amber Tamblyn's father) – Dog Walker God
- Kris Lemche – Cute Guy God
- Jeffrey Licon – Goth Kid God
- Keaton Tyndall and Kylie Tyndall – Twin Girl God
- Zachary Quinto – video assignment God
- Adam Richman (from Man v. Food) – a butcher God
- John Marshall Jones – commonly referred to as Chess Player God
- John Kassir – Mime God
- Robert Clendenin – Linesman God
- Roark Critchlow – Newscaster God
- Wendy Worthington – Mailwoman God
- Phill Lewis – Naval Officer God
- Candice Azzara – Housewife God
- David Doty – Businessman God
- Larry Hankin – Homeless Man God
- Chris Hogan – Sidewalk Vendor God
- Oliver Muirhead – Proctor God
- Alphonso McAuley – DJ God
- Thomas Kopache – Creepy Guy God
- Curtis Armstrong -Security Guard God II
- Lindsay Hollister – Computer/Library Girl God
- Fred Stoller – Pizza Delivery God
- Trevor Einhorn – Mascot God
- Ronnie Warner – Street Guitarist God
- Anastasia Baranova – Exchange Student God
- Brian Klugman – Cashier God
- Louis Mustillo – Garbage Man God
- George D. Wallace – Old Man Walker God
- Joel Murray – Balloon Sculptor God
- Erin Chambers – Majorette God
- Susan Sullivan – Rich Woman God
- John Patrick Amedori – Loner Loser Kid God
- Allyce Beasley – Woman with Cats God
- Rick Overton – Bad Stand-Up Comedian God
- Iqbal Theba – East Indian Sunglasses Salesman God
- Rae Allen – Fortune Teller God
- Christy Carlson Romano – Officious Hall Monitor God
- Mike Starr – Big Tough Guy God
- Sonya Eddy – Female Custodian God
- Veanne Cox – Personable Woman God
- Jack Kehler – Electrician God
- Al Mancini – Grandpa God
- Rolando Molina – Trash Man God
- Adam Wylie – Skinny Kid God
- Mark L. Taylor – Salesman God
- Shelly Cole – Punk Girl God
- Jane Morris – Substitute Teacher God
- James Martin Kelly – Sweeper God
- Michael N. Chinyamurind – Nigerian Doctor God
- John Del Regno – Locksmith God
- Michael Wyle – French Waiter God
- Cal Gibson – Groundskeeper God
- Todd Sherry – Gay Male Secretary God
- Jordan David – Geek God
- will.i.am – Three Card Monte Guy God
- 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 
- 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).
Reception and cancellation
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. Fan campaigns were created in response, in an effort to have the show reinstated. 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.
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.
Viewers by season
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."
Nielsen ratings 
|1||2003–2004||23||September 26, 2003||May 21, 2004||9.9||#54|
|2||2004–2005||22||September 24, 2004||April 22, 2005||8.0||#70|
Awards and nominations
Note: each disc in the season, except the last, contains 4 episodes.
- 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.
- 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.
- Season 2 Episode 14 "The Rise & Fall of Joan Girardi"
- Mullinax, Gary (October 31, 2003). "TV version of God hanging out in Wilmington". The News Journal (Wilmington, DE: Gannett Corporation). pp. A1. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- "Fans make last try to save ‘Joan of Arcadia’. Older audience demographic, low ratings led to cancellation". May 29, 2005.
- "Fans demand 'Joan', fight CBS over cancellation". USA Today. May 30, 2005. Retrieved November 28, 2009.
- Buying TV Show Clothing Props
- "I. T. R. S. Ranking Report: 01 Thru 210". ABC Medianet. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved May 25, 2007.
- "Primetime series". The Hollywood Reporter. Nielsen Business Media. May 27, 2005. Archived from the original on August 21, 2009. Retrieved September 12, 2009.
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