JOAN OF ARCADIA: THE SECOND SEASON
As far as I am concerned, the cancellation of JOAN OF ARCADIA after its second season remains one of network televisionís greatest blunders. This was a great television show that was only beginning to fulfill its promise. Not surprisingly, it was the bean counters that killed JOAN OF ARCADIA with their lack of faith in the show ratings, as opposed to a decline in the quality of the series. I remain of the opinion that JOAN OF ARCADIA was one of those little glimmers of light that one finds in the midst a sea of an otherwise dreary television programming. Not only was JOAN OF ARCADIA an excellent family drama that promoted strong values, it was a show about faith that did not try to force feed any particular ideology to its audience.
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. Season two provides the characters with numerous opportunities for growth and the storylines began to elevate the show towards another level of greatness, which remains unfulfilled due to its cancellation.
JOAN OF ARCADIA: THE SECOND SEASON ($55) comes to DVD in a six-disc set that features all twenty-two episodes that were aired in year two. The twenty-two featured episodes are as follows: Only Connect, Out Of Sight, Back To The Garden, The Cat, The Election, Wealth Of Nations, P.O.V., Friday Night, No Future, The Book Of Questions, Dive, Game Theory, Queen Of The Zombies, The Rise & Fall Of Joan Girardi, Romancing The Joan, Independence Day, Shadows And Light, Secret Service, Trial And Error, Spring Cleaning, Common Thread and Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Season two starts off with Joan returning from a summer of "crazy camp" and trying to ignore the almighty, who has begun appearing to her again. Family turmoil arises when the Girardis find themselves embroiled in a lawsuit with the person responsible for Kevin being in a wheelchair. Additionally, romance blossoms in unlikely places for the Girardi sons, while Helen rediscovers her faith and Will finds himself dealing with a new lady boss, who may have more than a professional interest in him. In addition to seeking the greater purpose, Joan also faces her own personal trials as her relationship with Adam unravels. Unfortunately, season two ends leaving fans with a lot of questions that may never be resolved- topping them off is a new acquaintance of Joan, who also speaks to the almighty, but this new aquaintance displays a darker side, one may put Joan to the test.
CBS/Paramount Home Entertainment has made all twenty-four episodes from JOAN OF ARCADIA: THE SECOND SEASON in the 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and the episodes have been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The episodes look pretty sweet on DVD and produce a generally sharp image, with a more than respectable level of detail. Occasional shots are mildly soft, but itís never a problem. Colors rare well rendered, producing vivid hues and appealing flesh tones. Blacks are accurate, the whites appear stable and the level of contrast is good for a television production. The film elements from which the episodes are transferred appear clean, although one will notice a grain structure in places throughout the episodes. Digital compression artifacts are a non-issue.
JOAN OF ARCADIA: THE SECOND SEASON comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 channel stereo soundtracks that decode to standard surround. My preference for discrete 5.1 channel soundtracks remains unchanged, but considering that JOAN OF ARCADIA is a talky drama, the matrixed mixes are just fine. As expected, the forward soundstage maintains dominance, with a smattering of ambience and musical fill finding its way into the rear channels. The musical component has a strong stereo presence and a very nice level of fidelity. Like season one, this collection comes with the disclaimer that "some music has been changed for this home entertainment version." This disclaimer is evidenced in the fact the opening credit sequence and Joan Osbourne theme song only appears on a limited number of episodes. No other language tracks or subtitles are included on the DVD, however captions have been provided.
The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as a few nice extra features. Four running audio commentaries provided on the following episodes: Only Connect features series creator/executive producer Barbara Hall and executive producer James Hayman, Friday Night features executive producer Stephan Nathan and James Hayman, Common Thread features Stephan Nathan and James Hayman, and Something Wicked This Way Comes features Barbara Hall and James Hayman. A Look At Season 2 is a fifteen-minute program that features interviews with members of the cast and crew. The Making Of Queen Of The Zombies is an eleven-minute look behind-the-scenes at the episode with musical aspirations. A Tour Of Joan's High School is a nine-minute set tour featuring production designer Bill Eigenbrodt. Common Thread: A Table Read clocks in at twenty-four minutes and shows the actors coming together for the first time reading that particular script.
As I stated above, the cancellation of JOAN OF ARCADIA remains one of network televisionís greatest blunders. Personally, I would love to see the series brought back to television, if not on a weekly basis, then perhaps as a miniseries of series of TV movies that would tie up the lose ends. As for this DVD release, CBS/Paramountís DVD collection looks really good and sounds just fine. If you are a fan, JOAN OF ARCADIA: THE SECOND SEASON is a must have and comes highly recommended.
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