Friday, April 22, 2005

Of "Joan," promos and the season finale

I sat through most of tonight's season finale of ''Joan of Arcadia'' wishing that I had not seen any of the promotional spots for the episode. And wishing that a subtler song than ''Sympathy for the Devil'' had been used a week ago in introducing a new character to Joan's life, one who will cause a lot of tension for the show's third season. Assuming there is a third season.
I understand that the promos -- which emphasized the scary aspects of Ryan Hunter, Joan's new nemesis -- were meant to bring viewers back to the show, so that CBS might be more inclined to renew it. But the promos so emphasized one element of the episode that there were times when some viewers were undoubtedly wondering when the show was going to get to the good part.
And in thinking that, it was possible to miss some really good parts. The humor that has always been so important to the show, for one. And the wonderful emotional range Jason Ritter brought to that last scene in the church. The interplay between Joan and the many versions of God. The way the show keeps blending faith with science and literature.
In the finale, all that fought for attention with dream sequences, and the overuse of the ill wind that followed Ryan, and a tonal shift that made this less ''Joan of Arcadia'' and more ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer.'' (Are we really going to see Joan's friends remade into a team like Buffy's gang?) We have had ''Buffy,'' after all, and if I want to see it again, I can pull the DVDs off the shelf.
I want ''Joan'' to be its own creation. I want the hope back. And even as I say that, I know I would probably watch the beginning of a third season just because I might find a moment or two when the show will be as good as it has been before. But I don't know how long I would stick around, if the price for those moments is a lot of melodrama.

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