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I have to say that I became pretty upset when I discovered that CBS had cancelled JOAN OF ARCADIA.  For this reviewer, JOAN OF ARCADIA was one of those little glimmers of light that one finds in the midst of an otherwise dreary television programming schedule- and unfortunately, that light has been extinguished.  While the viewership numbers may have slipped in the show’s sophomore season, I really think the network gave up too soon on JOAN OF ARCADIA.  For me, Friday nights have never been conducive for television viewing and I think JOAN OF ARCADIA might have done considerably better if it had been somewhere else in the television schedule, where it could have been given a chance to connect and reconnect with its audience.

What I really liked about JOAN OF ARCADIA was the fact that the show was about faith, but it never got preachy and never tried to force feed any particular religious point of view.  God was a central character in JOAN OF ARCADIA, but God wore the face of the everyman, or should I say the everywoman or the everychild.  Like the lyrics of the Joan Osbourne song, JOAN OF ARCADIA depicts "What if God was one of us" and whenever the character of God appeared it was always in the guise of someone we were all likely to meet on the street.

The basic premise of JOAN OF ARCADIA follows the life of Joan Girardi (Amber Tamblyn), an average teenage girl, who lives with her parents Will (Joe Mantegna) and Helen (Mary Steenburgen), as well as her brothers Kevin (Jason Ritter) and Luke (Michael Welch) and has a close inner circle of friends that includes Adam (Christopher Marquette) and Grace (Becky Wahlstrom).  However, unlike your average teenage girl, Joan finds herself having regular conversations with the almighty, who appears to her wearing any number of ordinary faces. Through their conversations, Joan finds herself asked to perform various tasks by the almighty, with the cryptic meaning of the particular odd or mundane task becoming apparent to Joan only after it has been completed.

JOAN OF ARCADIA: THE FIRST SEASON ($55) comes to DVD in a six-disc set that features all twenty-three episodes that were aired in year one. The twenty-three featured episodes are as follows: Pilot, The Fire And The Wood, Touch Move, The Boat, Just Say No, Bringeth It On, Death Be Not Whatever, The Devil Made Me Do It, St. Joan, Drive, He Said, The Uncertainty Principle, Jump, Recreation, State Of Grace, Night Without Stars, Double Dutch, No Bad Guy, Requiem For A Third Grade Ashtray, Do The Math, Anonymous, Vanity, Thy Name Is Human, The Gift and Silence.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made all twenty-four episodes from JOAN OF ARCADIA: THE FIRST SEASON in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio of its HD simulcasts, and the episodes have been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The shows look really good on DVD and having the episodes in widescreen is a big improvement over the 4:3 standard broadcast versions that appeared on CBS. Image quality is strong, with a fairly sharp image being supported by a nice level of detail. Colors are fairly vibrant and flesh tones are appealing. Blacks are solid, whites are stable and shadow detail and contrast are just fine for a television production. The picture is pretty much free from noticeable defects and grain is never really an issue. Even with four episodes encoded onto a dual layered DVD, digital compression artifacts are well concealed.

JOAN OF ARCADIA: THE FIRST SEASON comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 channel stereo soundtracks that decode to standard surround. Sound quality is very good for a television production, with solid musical fidelity and realistic sounding effects. Not surprisingly, the forward soundstage dominates the mix, with some nice separations in the front, and the surround channels adding mostly ambient fill. Another non-surprise is the fact that certain "music has been changed for this home entertainment version," which is most notable in the fact the opening credit sequence and Joan Osbourne theme song only appears on the first episode to each disc. No other language tracks or subtitles are included on the DVD, however captions have been provided.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard episode selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials that have been scattered throughout the set. Five of the episodes on the set feature cast & crew commentaries: Pilot and Silence feature series creator Barbara Hall and executive producer James Hayman, while the duo are joined by producer Hart Hanson on Jump, and finally, Amber Tamblyn, Mary Steenburgen, Michael Welch, Jason Ritter and Joe Mantegna chime in on Recreation.

Next, there are Deleted Scenes offered for about half of the episodes. In the featurette department, one will find The Creation Of Joan of Arcadia, a nine-minute program with series creator Barbara Hall, who discusses the show’s origins, and Joan of Arcadia - A Look At Season One, which clocks in at eighteen minutes and features the cast and crew talking about the series freshman year. Finally, the God Gallery features a look at the guises that God appears in during season one.

JOAN OF ARCADIA is one of the best, most inspired series to hit television in quite some time. The show’s untimely cancellation shows the truly sad state in which network television has found itself. As for JOAN OF ARCADIA: THE FIRST SEASON, the DVD set offers the series a very nice presentation on DVD, which fans should definitely appreciate. JOAN OF ARCADIA, the series comes highly recommended, as does the DVD collection.

Hopefully JOAN OF ARCADIA will find its way back to the airwaves; otherwise I would imagine those responsible for its cancellation will find themselves with rather warm accommodations for the afterlife.



Joan Of Arcadia - The First Season


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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