Joan of Arcadia (“Vanity, Thy Name is Human”)

Season 1, Episode 21
Date of airing: May 7, 2004 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 8.2 million viewers, 5.7/11 in Households, 2.1/9 with Adults 18-49

It seems like all the fun and excitement and pure drama of the first few episodes has vanished, now that the show has gotten average or slightly above average with its stories that don’t excite a lot of the characters any longer. Episodes that have God tell Joan to do something with a larger-than-expected outcome, as well as episodes like the one with Ramsey almost shooting up a school were exciting, because they were dramatic and emotional, but when JOAN OF ARCADIA was renewed for a back-9 order, it’s like the writers decided to tone down the show and go at the stories with a softer tone, because apparently not every episode of the show can be this highly dramatic and emotional, and every once in a while Joan doesn’t need to be the social worker and instead just has to learn a specific lesson, even when I don’t know why Joan needed to learn that lesson about superficial looks and beauty ad make-up.

Joan going to make-up class wasn’t at all exciting for me, even if I could identify the morale of the story here. The thing is just, beauty standards will almost always exist, and not even a show like JOAN OF ARCADIA can make me think otherwise or different for an hour, simply because the show itself is quickly forgotten after being watched, and the morale of the story gets lost in the shuffle, especially when you have tons of other shows to watch, and definitely when the morale wasn’t that strong to begin with. Even more so, I don’t even believe the story changed Joan at all, especially since it only seemed to have been an attempt at making Joan grow as a character (when it comes to God’s mission), as well as making the Joan/Adam relationship more complex and faulty, maybe even give it some ripples here and there (when it comes to the writers’ missions). So, maybe this episode was here to give Joan and Adam’s relationship some color, or maybe this episode was here to give Joan a perspective on a human standard she wasn’t even aware of to begin with. In retrospect, it was an easy story to get past an episode and get closer to the season finale, because maybe something else was supposed to happen then, but not now, and all the show needed to do at this point was waste some time.

Making your eye darker gets so much shocked excitement out of the women.

At least the other stories were a bit more meaningful. Luke goes through his first break-up, and shockingly it wasn’t even that dramatic, although I am expecting Glynis to be part of the equation at one point and “give back” to Luke for what he did here, even if I never believe that Glynis is the person to dish out as it was given to her. It would be nice and funny though if Glynis happens to become a more popular girl at school, simply because she puts make up on (delivering the morale of “hide your true self, become more mainstream, and maybe you become popular”) and discontinues being herself. By the way, if Friedman really becomes Luke’s successor in Glynis’s love life, there is a good chance that a conflict between Luke and Friedman is being created, and I wouldn’t say no to that. As the season is about to close, and the writers were figuring which recurring characters to carry over to the next season, there is an idea to escalate Luke and Friedman’s friendship, in case the latter is about to be written out of the show during the season finale.

Meanwhile, Kevin apparently had a girlfriend during senior year of high school, and now he hates her. Beth seemed like a character created to deliver back story, and while I don’t mind, it did come over a bit stereotypically, especially after Kevin realized he didn’t know something he maybe should have know. On the other hand, the writers sort of created a premise, in case they needed more stories to come back for and haunt Kevin – up until this episode it hasn’t been established that Kevin can’t remember what happened in the days around the accident. So, he dropped his girlfriend after he was cheating on her, and he behaved like an asshole. The question is, what else could have happened around that time that might come back to bite him in the butt later? And is Beth potentially a character ready to return and give Kevin a run for his money? Maybe a sexy reunion or something like that? Will she be a recurring character in the very near future (as in: the season finale), just so Kevin can get back to being himself (he kind of lost himself after the accident), and we can all forget that Rebecca ever existed, like Kevin has?

There are always tears during a break-up scene.

Helen and Will also had stories, but neither of them were interesting enough for me. Granted, Will’s TV interview brought back some previous story moments, making the show look like it has a bigger level of continuity than it might have appeared during the beginning of the show, but it’s not like blowing up a teenage prostitution ring was changing Will’s life or career. In addition, Helen didn’t go through much either. Here I was, wondering if the sudden realization of being an overnight painter slash artist would change her life, but at the end of the day she retreated. Maybe because she was scared, maybe because she might not be an artist at all, and everything she brought to paper was sheer luck. Fact is that the writers tried making it look like the lives of the parents were about to change, but then nothing happened. She just burned the painting and she was back to status quo. What did she get out of the experience at the end of the day?

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