Joan of Arcadia
Created byBarbara Hall
Opening theme"One of Us" by Joan Osborne
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes45
Executive producers
  • Barbara Hall (2003-2004)
  • Jim Hayman (2003-2004)
  • Peter Schindler (2003-2004)
  • Stephen Nathan (2004-2005)
Running time45 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseSeptember 26, 2003 (2003-09-26) –
April 22, 2005 (2005-04-22)

Joan of Arcadia is an American fantasy family drama television series telling the story of teenager Joan Girardi (Amber Tamblyn), who sees and speaks with God and performs tasks she is given. The series originally aired on Fridays on CBS for two seasons, from September 26, 2003, to April 22, 2005.

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 a fictionalized version of the town Arcadia, Maryland.


Joan Girardi is a 16-year-old teenager living in the town of Arcadia in Maryland. She is the middle child of her family which includes elder brother Kevin, a former jock who has been left a paraplegic after a car accident, and younger brother Luke, a brainy nerd. Joan's father Will is the town's police chief. In the pilot episode, God appears to Joan and reminds her that she promised to do anything he wanted if he would let Kevin survive the car crash. He appears to Joan 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 inconsequential—such as enrolling in an AP Chemistry class or building a boat—but always end up positively improving a larger situation.

These plot lines are interwoven with more realistic matters, such as the relationships between the Girardi family.[1] Various storylines that spanned multiple episodes dealt with the consequences of Kevin's accident, Will's job as a police officer, mother Helen's career as an art teacher, and Luke's aspirations to be a scientist.

Characterization of God

God is portrayed with a very human personality, and does not appear to favor any one particular religion, saying there are "different ways to share the same truth."[2] He quotes Bob Dylan, Emily Dickinson and the Beatles rather than any scripture or verses. The series examines God from a more metaphysical standpoint instead of a religious perspective.[3]

God is also depicted as having a sharp sense of humor.[4] In the episode "Touch Move", He tells Joan that He has to send her "down there". When Joan is worried He means Hell, He laughs and clarifies He meant the school basement.[5] In another instance, He appears in the form of a woman exercising and says, "Why do people always try and discern my deeper meanings? This is the kind of thinking that starts wars."[6]

Cast and characters

Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast

Incarnations of God

Further information: Portrayals of God in popular media

The many incarnations included:

  1. ^ Marquette is credited as guest stars throughout season 1, even though he appeared in every episode of the series except the pilot.
  2. ^ Wahlstrom is credited as guest stars throughout season 1, even though he appeared in every episode of the series except the pilot.
  3. ^ 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.

Theme song

The opening credits roll with the song "One of Us" written by Eric Bazilian and performed by Joan Osborne.[10] It was a hit single for Osborne in the United States from her 1995 album Relish:

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 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).



The idea for Joan of Arcadia took shape during Barbara Hall’s time as a producer on Chicago Hope in the mid-1990s and evolved while she was an executive producer on CBS drama Judging Amy.[3] Hall said "the concept meshed her fascination with Joan of Arc...her longtime interest in physics and metaphysics, and her desire to use drama and comedy to explore the existence of God in a 'scary, not benign universe.'"[3] Hall added, "I started thinking, what would it look like if God tried to contact a teenager today? I made the decision that God would have to come to a teenage girl visually. Joan of Arc heard voices, but kids today aren’t going to hear voices because you’d have to get the iPods off their heads.”[11]

When Hall pitched the series to CBS, she and executives agreed they were not looking to make another Touched by an Angel.[3] Among the differences between the former show and Joan is that the character of Joan is not religious and "the show’s tone is grittier.”[3]

CBS greenlit the show in 2002 "when public discourse about spirituality seemed more gentle: post-9/11 prayer services rather than heated debates over 'The Passion of the Christ.'"[12] The acquisition was made as part of an effort by the network, which was known for its adult-skewing shows, to appeal to younger viewers.[3] Hall developed the series with Hart Hanson and Jim Hayman, her Judging Amy production associates.[7]

As a guideline for the series’ writing staff, Hall wrote a list of "Ten Commandments of Joan of Arcadia", which enumerated what God can and cannot do in the show. These guidelines included points like, "God can never identify one religion as being right," "The job of every human being is to fulfill his or her true nature," "God's purpose for talking to Joan, and to everyone, is to get her (us) to recognize the interconnectedness of all things," and "the exact nature of God is a mystery, and the mystery can never be solved."[7]


Though Arcadia itself is set in Maryland, the series was mostly filmed at various Los Angeles locations.[3] Establishing shots of Arcadia's skyline and other outdoor scenes were filmed in the city of Wilmington, Delaware.[13] Scenes at the fictional Arcadia High School were filmed at El Segundo High School in California.[14]


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
123September 26, 2003 (2003-09-26)May 21, 2004 (2004-05-21)
222September 24, 2004 (2004-09-24)April 22, 2005 (2005-04-22)

Season 1 (2003–04)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
11"Pilot"Jack Bender & James HaymanBarbara HallSeptember 26, 2003 (2003-09-26)100
Sixteen-year-old Joan Girardi is approached by someone claiming to be God. He gives her a mission: get a job. Will Girardi, Joan's dad and new chief of police for Arcadia, is trying to solve the case of a serial killer.
22"The Fire and the Wood"James HaymanHart HansonOctober 3, 2003 (2003-10-03)101
Joan enrolls in advanced-placement chemistry, after God asks her to stop being an underachiever; Will ruffles feathers during an arson investigation.
33"Touch Move"Josh BrandBarbara HallOctober 10, 2003 (2003-10-10)102
God encourages Joan to learn how to play chess; Will must work with a psychic on a missing toddler case; Helen hopes a miracle will enable Kevin to walk again.
44"The Boat"Kevin DowlingRandy AndersonOctober 17, 2003 (2003-10-17)103
Helen fears Joan is becoming eccentric when she enthusiastically tackles her boat-building project; Will encourages Kevin to join a wheelchair basketball team.
55"Just Say No"Steve GomerTom GarrigusOctober 24, 2003 (2003-10-24)104
Joan learns from God that she's holding a garage sale on Saturday, which doesn't leave her much time to sort through her family's unwanted belongings. Among the items she unearths are paintings created by Helen during a dark period in her life. Elsewhere, Will goes to bat for a rape victim even though the district attorney feels the case isn't strong enough. Also, Joan catches the interest of a class charmer and a newspaper job falls right into Kevin's lap.
66"Bringeth It On"David PetrarcaJoy GregoryOctober 31, 2003 (2003-10-31)105
Joan gets a lesson in popularity when God tells her to try out for the cheerleading squad, and her efforts to impress two pom-pom girls pay off with an invite to hang out together outside of school. Meanwhile, Will's first case working with Det. Toni Williams involves an abandoned newborn left in a trash bin, presumably by a student from Arcadia High. Another story line has a classmate sensing a gay vibe in Luke.
77"Death Be Not Whatever"Peter LevinBarbara HallNovember 7, 2003 (2003-11-07)106
Joan baby-sits for an 8-year-old boy (David Dorfman) who is obsessed with death; officers assault a black man at a gas station.
88"The Devil Made Me Do It"James HaymanHart HansonNovember 14, 2003 (2003-11-14)107
God's mysterious ways once again bewilder Joan, when He asks her to volunteer at the high-school art show, so that she can keep Adam Rove's sculpture from being exhibited. Elsewhere, Will feels pressure from the DA's office to call a man a hero after he shoots and kills a home intruder. Meanwhile, Kevin grows weary of receiving special treatment because he uses a wheelchair.
99"St. Joan"Martha MitchellRandy AndersonNovember 21, 2003 (2003-11-21)108
God wants Joan to score an "A" on a test about French saint Joan of Arc. As the teen hits the books, she draws comparisons to the life of the young heroine who claimed to hear divine voices and was burnt at the stake. Helen finds her daughter's newest obsession troublesome and urges Will to have the entire family visit a therapist. Meanwhile, Will is unjustly raked over the coals for shutting down a crack house.
1010"Drive, He Said"Ron LagomarsinoTom GarrigusDecember 5, 2003 (2003-12-05)109
Each of the Girardis deal with crises of varying seriousness, the worst of which puts Will at the mercy of a crazed gunman. The day also finds Helen reacting with mixed emotions after getting a positive result on a home-pregnancy test. Meanwhile, Joan dreads having to take her driver's exam, and Luke is presented with a major distraction just before he's supposed to compete in a high-stakes competition.
1111"The Uncertainty Principle"Helen ShaverJoy GregoryDecember 12, 2003 (2003-12-12)110
God instructs Joan to ask a troublemaker to the winter formal. Will uncovers secrets that could prove unfavorable to the former Chief of Police and other members of the city's government.
1212"Jump"Timothy BusfieldHart HansonJanuary 9, 2004 (2004-01-09)111
Joan is saddened when she learns Rocky (David Dorfman) ("Death Be Not Whatever") has died, causing her to further question God about life and death. Will loses his job when his discovery and public revelation of the town's political corruption causes the city government (including the police department) to be dissolved by the State Governor. Luke continues to work on his science fair project and his growing attraction to Grace, while Kevin is injured in a game of wheelchair basketball.
1313"Recreation"Elodie KeeneBarbara HallJanuary 16, 2004 (2004-01-16)112
At Helen's insistence, she and Will take a getaway to a spa, but all does not go well when Will cannot forget about his job. And with the parents away, the kids are up to a little recreation of their own; Kevin and his boss, Rebecca, find it hard to ignore their mutual attraction; Joan, as she is trying to sort out her feelings for Adam, is instructed by God to throw a party while her parents are away; Luke helps Joan pull off a successful party.
1414"State of Grace"Steve GomerJoshua RavetchFebruary 6, 2004 (2004-02-06)113
God tells Joan to join the debate team, where her partner is a person who stutters. A new security system is implemented at Arcadia High School. After the art teacher quits, Helen wonders if she would be right for the job. Both Kevin and Luke separately deal with the aftermath of a kiss. And Will and Toni deal with a case involving a reverend accused of child molestation.
1515"Night Without Stars"Kevin DowlingDavid GraeFebruary 13, 2004 (2004-02-13)115
Joan's newest mission from God is to work with kids, so she volunteers to help babysit children of abused mothers; Joan becomes jealous when Adam falls for one of the volunteers; Kevin starts to get cocky again and sleeps with his girlfriend, Rebecca; previous events emotionally catch up with Will; and Luke makes a shocking admission to Kevin.
1616"Double Dutch"Alan MyersonTom GarrigusFebruary 20, 2004 (2004-02-20)116
God tells Joan to learn to jump rope with a group of inner-city teens, one of whom Joan discovers is homeless. Kevin goes on a date, but not with who you think.
1717"No Bad Guy"James HaymanSibyl GardnerFebruary 27, 2004 (2004-02-27)114
A picture of Joan in the locker room in her underwear, taken with a picture phone, is rapidly spread around school. God instructs Joan to join the band. Will must deal with an elderly driver who accidentally killed several people.
1818"Requiem for a Third Grade Ashtray"Kevin DowlingJoy GregoryMarch 12, 2004 (2004-03-12)117
God instructs Joan to help out with the a chaotic Girardi household; Adam has his first art show; Will and Toni witness a carjacking. Will and Toni, while making an arrest, get stuck in an elevator with a pregnant woman who is about to give birth; Kevin believes he might be recovering some sensation in his stomach area and gets an EMG (a nerve conduction) test done.
1919"Do the Math"Rob MorrowAntoinette StellaApril 2, 2004 (2004-04-02)118
God tells Joan to take piano lessons; Joan helps her piano teacher deal with her past; Joan learns a painful secret Will and Helen have been keeping from the family; Iris becomes suspicious of Adam and Joan closeness.
2020"Anonymous"Steve GomerDavid GraeApril 30, 2004 (2004-04-30)119
Joan joins the yearbook staff, per God's request, and decides to use this assignment as a means of impressing Adam... Feeling threatened that Iris and Adam continue to share a bond over their passion for art, Joan vows to discover a hidden talent that Adam will admire. However, her disastrous attempt to be the yearbook's star photographer soon adds to her insecurities about losing him. Meanwhile, Will and Toni attempt to set up a sting for a man who is planning to hire a hitman to murder his wife.
2121"Vanity, Thy Name Is Human"Jerry LevineRobert GirardiMay 7, 2004 (2004-05-07)120
Joan takes a cosmetics class, per God's request, and Kevin doesn't react well to crossing paths with the last girlfriend he dated before his disabling accident. Glynis' flattering makeover attracts a great deal of positive attention at school, which only adds to Joan's disappointment when Adam fails to notice her own new look. Meanwhile, Kevin, who remains bitter with the belief that he had been dumped by Beth because he had become a paraplegic, harshly rebuffs her efforts to make peace with him.
2222"The Gift"Martha MitchellStephen NathanMay 14, 2004 (2004-05-14)121
After God tells Joan to give Adam a gift, she finds something that leads her to wonder if God's suggesting she have sex with him... While secretly searching through Adam's backpack for gift ideas, Joan is stunned to find a condom there. She soon wonders if sex is the "gift" God had in mind, and she nervously ponders whether or not she'd be ready for such a big step. Meanwhile, Kevin begins covering court proceedings for the paper and ends up causing a stir in one of Will's cases.
2323"Silence"James HaymanBarbara HallMay 21, 2004 (2004-05-21)122
Upon hearing that Joan may have been suffering from the symptoms of Lyme disease for months, a somewhat relieved Will and Helen believe this news may explain Joan's mood swings and atypical behavior, while a concerned Adam wonders if Joan will be different upon her recovery. Meanwhile, the hospitalized Joan experiences a crisis of faith – and considers revealing to someone close to her that she's been talking to God. In separate circumstances, Helen and Will begin to rethink their belief systems after, respectively, experiencing spiritual dreams and miraculous events.

Season 2 (2004–05)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
241"Only Connect"James HaymanBarbara HallSeptember 24, 2004 (2004-09-24)201
After a summer of therapy and with school resuming Joan tries to return to a "normal" life even as she ignores God, who keeps reappearing; Will is sued for emotional distress by Andy Baker, whose drunk driving caused the accident that paralyzed Kevin; Luke and Grace try to adjust to their relationship.
252"Out of Sight"Rob MorrowStephen NathanOctober 1, 2004 (2004-10-01)202
Judith, a wild friend of Joan's from summer camp, starts school at Arcadia High; Will investigates a drive-by shooting; Kevin confronts Andy about the ongoing lawsuit.
263"Back to the Garden"Kevin DowlingJoy GregoryOctober 8, 2004 (2004-10-08)203
God instructs Joan to start a community garden; Judith continues her downward spiral; Luke puts up a strong front with Grace; a former police informant is killed setting Will and Carlisle on a mission to find corrupt cops and Kevin gets let in on the lawsuit.
274"The Cat"Steve GomerDavid GraeOctober 15, 2004 (2004-10-15)204
God wants Joan to adopt a stray cat; Aunt Olive gets a stroke which paralyses her from the waist down; Will again starts an internal investigation; Grace finally lets Luke in and Judith gets 'coerced' into a possible date.
285"The Election"Rob MorrowEllie HermanOctober 22, 2004 (2004-10-22)205
God wants Joan to make a difference in the election; Will has problems with the new head of the police department and asks his son to find dirt, as does Joan to try win the election for the one who fired her from the yearbook club.
296"Wealth of Nations"Kevin DowlingTom GarrigusOctober 29, 2004 (2004-10-29)206
God wants Joan to get everyone a piece of the pie and get Joan to use her new-found knowledge to make money; Kevin meets an old friend; Grace and Luke meet twice to 'study'; Will wants to countersue the Bakers, and Joan finds out there are things God can't do right.
307"P.O.V."Graeme CliffordLindsay SturmanNovember 5, 2004 (2004-11-05)207
Joan struggles with the pressures of Junior year; God assigns Joan to work on a videography; Adam and Judith work on a project together; Will, Kevin, and Helen meet with a lawyer to discuss a counter-lawsuit.
318"Friday Night"Elodie KeeneStephen NathanNovember 12, 2004 (2004-11-12)208
After being prodded by Judith to go on a real date, Joan and Adam nervously prepare for a romantic night at a fancy French restaurant. Little do they know that Judith has subsequently made some misguided plans for herself for that evening, which later causes the guilt-ridden Joan to wonder if she could have prevented her friend's misfortune.
329"No Future"James HaymanBarbara HallNovember 19, 2004 (2004-11-19)209
As Joan begins to deal with Judith's death, she faces the added pressure of having to relive the day of Kevin's accident during her deposition. Meanwhile, Will feels guilty as he recalls how poorly he treated Kevin in the hours preceding his accident. Additionally, Grace reluctantly agrees to join Luke for dinner at the Girardi's on his birthday.
3310"The Book of Questions"Steve GomerEllie HermanNovember 26, 2004 (2004-11-26)210
While helping Grace shop for a dress for the occasion, Joan is delighted to finally meet Grace's seemingly perfect mother, Sarah. However, when Sarah's drinking problem becomes evident, Joan begins to understand why Grace is so private – and why she's long been avoiding having her bat mitzvah. Meanwhile, Luke racks his brain to come up with a meaningful bat mitzvah gift for Grace. Additionally, Adam and Joan have different ways of coping with Judith's death. Will supports Lucy's less-than-legal means of trying to get one of Judith's friends to describe Judith's on-the-run killer, and Kevin's ex-girlfriend is deposed for the trial.
3411"Dive"Martha MitchellDavid GraeDecember 10, 2004 (2004-12-10)211
As Joan tries to work her way up to the high dive despite her acrophobia, Luke attempts to overcome his paralyzing fear of undertaking an activity at which he might fail. Meanwhile, Will continues his quest to find Judith's killer, and Kevin goes on a date with Beth. Additionally, while reflecting on Judith's death and Kevin's accident, Helen becomes overwhelmed with concern about her family being in harm's way.
3512"Game Theory"Gloria MuzioTom GarrigusJanuary 7, 2005 (2005-01-07)212
Despite everyone's protests, Joan allows her snobby, Ivy League-educated guidance counselor to advise her against applying to college. However, after Joan relays her plans to Roger, an engaging college student on the campus she's visiting, he tells her that college is attainable and persuades her to hire him as a tutor. Meanwhile, Adam becomes jealous of Joan's rapport with Roger; Will sees a dark side of Lucy; Helen questions her commitment to Catholicism, and Beth finds it difficult to resume a relationship with Kevin.
3613"Queen of the Zombies"Graeme CliffordJoy GregoryJanuary 14, 2005 (2005-01-14)213
God instructs Joan to try out for the school play; Adam builds the sets for the play; Grace becomes jealous of Luke and Glynis.
3714"The Rise & Fall of Joan Girardi"Martha MitchellLindsay SturmanJanuary 28, 2005 (2005-01-28)214
After saving a girl's life Joan suddenly becomes famous but she soon learns fame is fleeting and can even turn against you; Adam has a job interview that doesn't quite go the way he wants; tension builds between Lucy and Will; as Luke prepares to get his driver's license Grace tries to educate him on the harmful impact vehicles have on the environment.
3815"Romancing the Joan"Joanna KernsBarbara HallFebruary 11, 2005 (2005-02-11)215
God wants Joan to do an extra credit assignment on Romantic poetry; Adam takes on a perky and cute assistant (special guest star Haylie Duff); Lucy gets a promotion; Helen takes a break from her Catholic studies; Kevin decides to get back into the dating game.
3916"Independence Day"James HaymanEllie Herman & Stephen NathanFebruary 18, 2005 (2005-02-18)216
Incensed that Will and Helen have forbidden her to go to a concert with Adam and stay overnight with him in his father's camper, Joan goes anyway. After Joan has a conversation with God about free will, she decides to use it as a rationale for lying to her mother in order to go on the trip as she's convinced that Helen simply wants her to remain a dependent little girl. Meanwhile, Luke is shocked when the nerdy, girl-obsessed Friedman rebuffs the advances of the surprisingly infatuated Stevie.
4017"Shadows and Light"Kevin DowlingTom Garrigus & David GraeFebruary 25, 2005 (2005-02-25)217
Joan is convinced that she's meant to help Stevie keep her part-time job with Adam, despite Stevie's mother's order that she quit. In an effort to supply Stevie with the Social Security number that Stevie's mother is withholding, Joan gets Kevin to use his investigative reporting skills. Kevin's findings end up leading Will to make a discovery that quickly turns Stevie's world upside-down. Meanwhile, Adam is upset with Joan for telling Helen that he tried to have sex with her, and Kevin is conflicted when the local television station asks him to do a report that pertains to paralysis.
4118"Secret Service"Michael FrescoStory by : Ben Eicher
Teleplay by : Joy Gregory & Lindsay Sturman
March 4, 2005 (2005-03-04)218
After Price discovers Joan holding an empty egg carton near his freshly egged car, he wrongly assumes she's the culprit and punishes her with a weekend of community service. Without more direction from God than to rise above the injustice, Joan tries to figure out if she's meant to help a bitter former nun, Lilly, who is overseeing the service project, or one of the social outcasts who are serving as a result of their own offenses. Meanwhile, Joan's also upset that her reluctance to begin a sexual relationship with Adam is driving a wedge between them. Also, Adam meets a troubled artist at the community center; Joan gets Luke a job at the bookstore; Kevin has another car accident.
4219"Trial and Error"Neal IsraelStory by : Matthew Donlan & Jeremy Martin
Teleplay by : Marc Flanagan
April 1, 2005 (2005-04-01)219
Joan prepares to prosecute a case for a mock trial at school, per God's request, while enthusiastically planning a way to celebrate her one-year anniversary with Adam, who has secretly betrayed her. Joan surprises everyone with her passion in prosecuting a mock case against the equally motivated defense attorney, Grace. Meanwhile, while trying to hide his guilt from Joan as she plans a special anniversary night out with him, Adam decides to confess his wrongdoing to an appalled Grace. Meanwhile, Will investigates the murder of a girl and Helen continues her study of Catholicism.
4320"Spring Cleaning"Bethany RooneyLyla OliverApril 8, 2005 (2005-04-08)220
In the wake of Joan's difficult breakup with Adam, God tells her to do some therapeutic cleaning, which ends up putting her in the middle of a scandal involving her guidance counselor... As part of Joan's clean sweep, she returns everything Adam ever gave her, which only adds to the awkwardness between them. Meanwhile, when Joan returns some items to Mr. Tuchman that he loaned her, a jealous student with feelings for Tuchman vindictively tells the school authorities that Tuchman initiated intimate relationships with both her and Joan. Also, Kevin considers getting a place of his own.
4421"Common Thread"Elodie KeeneStephen NathanApril 15, 2005 (2005-04-15)221
Before a storm will hit the town. Adam and Joan have a falling out with each other. Adam leaves and heads into the woods to avoid the approaching storm. But when the storm hits, Adam gets lost. When Joan becomes worried that Adam might be in danger. She calls her father and every one searches for Adam while the storm dies down. In the end of the show, Adam is rescued by Ryan Hunter – a young, charming dot com millionaire who also talks to God.
4522"Something Wicked This Way Comes"James HaymanBarbara HallApril 22, 2005 (2005-04-22)222
God tells Joan that her last two years were just practice for her greatest challenge, which will be to face off against a mysterious man who, though he also talks to God, has a sinister agenda. Initially, Joan is simply curious about Ryan Hunter, the charming, wealthy and influential man who revealed to her that he also speaks to God, and who rescued Adam from the woods during a storm. However, she soon discovers Ryan's dark side and is alarmed that he's insinuated himself into the lives of her loved ones, who are quick to dismiss Joan's qualms about him. He smiles in a very sinister way at Joan before the credits roll, and the series concludes.


Critical reception

Joan of Arcadia received widespread acclaim from critics. On review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has a rating of 92% based on 25 critics’ reviews,[15] while Season 2 has a rating of 100% based on 5 reviews.[16]

Greg Braxton of the Los Angeles Times said "the series is a veritable squeezebox of genres...[including] a family drama, a coming-of-age saga of a teenager, a high school drama and a gritty police show, all tossed together with a mix of fantasy and religion.”[3] Robert Lloyd, also of the LA Times, said "the real miracle here is how deftly the show avoids the soggy cliches of redemption so many of its forerunners have embraced."[17] Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it "the best new broadcast series of the season,"[18] and the Associated Press said the show has an "intelligent quirkiness."[19]

James Poniewozik of Time wrote, "[The series'] marriage of the sacred and the mundane has made Arcadia the rare TV show about spirituality to win over both audiences and critics. Whereas its predecessors have been either panned but popular marshmallow halos (Highway to Heaven) or controversial, swiftly canceled critical darlings (Nothing Sacred), Arcadia has avoided, Goldilocks-style, going too soft or too hard.”[20] He also noted that “by separating God from religion, Arcadia takes away what makes faith divisive—a reasonable goal for a major-network series that needs to draw a broad audience to thrive."[20]

Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said, "Only a few episodes into its season, 'Joan' has proved deserving of its growing reputation. It's alive with everything television so desperately lacks: genuine heart, wit devoid of crassness, dramatic situations mirroring so many of our realities that the Girardis sometimes feel more like neighbors than a television family.”[21] Nancy Franklin of The New Yorker opined the show is "both thought through and open-ended, and it should prove especially rewarding for those who think that belief has more to do with asking questions than with getting answers."[22]

Criticism of the series focused on the police procedural plots involving Will Girardi, which many said did not tonally fit with the show.[4][17] Devin Gordon of Newsweek said that the series' cop drama and its fantasy elements felt like “two shows stitched awkwardly together."[23] Tom Shales of The Washington Post said "the premiere suggests viewers are being asked to wade heart-deep into a drearily portentous muddle.”[24]

Though critics were divided about the show's tone and plot elements,[25][26] there was across the board praise for Amber Tamblyn.[24][27][28] Poniewozik wrote, "If God, however, is simply asking Joan to do what all teens have to do—develop an identity—Arcadia works because Tamblyn reminds us so well how tough that job is. Joan may talk to God, but she has to do the work her own, mortal self, from accepting life's unfairness to finding her niche at school...Unlike most prime-time teens, Joan is neither a babe nor a brain, neither a Goody Two-Shoes nor a sarcastic rebel. She's the most extraordinarily average teen to crop up on a TV show in years—yet after a few episodes, you realize you would watch her story even if God stopped showing up.”[20] Praise was also given for Mary Steenburgen[17] and Jason Ritter, the latter of whom Robert Bianco of USA Today wrote, "Indeed, the often painfully realistic treatment of the familial anguish that swirls around Kevin (Ritter), who lost the use of his legs in an auto accident, is one of the show's greatest achievements.”[4]

Critics have written retrospectively about the series. In 2015, Margaret Lyons of Vulture wrote, "Somehow Joan of Arcadia is one of vanishingly few shows to bring up two extremely common questions that shape the human condition: 'Is there a God?' and 'Am I a good person?' The answer to both is, it depends whom you ask. And you can only ask so many people in two seasons.”[2]

Writing for IndieWire, Alison Willmore said "the show balanced [Joan's] missions with the mistakes a well-meaning but impulsive high school girl might make, allowing the show to also be a very fine portrait of life at a certain age."[6]

Nielsen ratings

Season Episodes Premiere Season finale Viewers
(in millions)
1 2003–2004 23 September 26, 2003 May 21, 2004 9.9[29] #54[29]
2 2004–2005 22 September 24, 2004 April 22, 2005 8.0[30] #70[30]

Joan of Arcadia debuted on the heels of Touched by an Angel, which had ended its nine-year run in April 2003. An estimated 12 million viewers tuned into the series premiere in September 2003.[25] Though Joan was broadcast in the 8 p.m. time slot on Friday nights, a traditionally quiet night for TV, it became a modest hit for CBS and averaged 10.1 million viewers during its first season.[31] The show regularly drew in young adult viewers for its time slot, which led to NBC changing the schedule for the competing comedy-drama series, Miss Match.[11]

The following year, "viewership sank to 8 million, according to Nielsen Media Research,"[31] despite continued critical acclaim which included three Emmy nominations.[12] Partly at the request of the network, Barbara Hall introduced the character of Ryan, a menacing figure and amoral "tempter" (with The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" as his musical motif) seemingly destined to cause a significant amount of conflict for the show's characters.[31]


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 and it was cancelled by CBS on May 18, 2005.[32] Fan campaigns were created in response in an effort to have the show reinstated.[31] A promotional campaign by CBS sent street teams into cities to do good deeds, such as buying a cold person a cup of coffee.[33] Only two episodes from the second season, "No Future" and "The Rise and Fall of Joan Girardi", were repeated by CBS, with remaining reruns pulled from the schedule. The cancellation meant the show ended on a cliffhanger, with the Ryan character potentially facing off against Joan.[31][2] Ghost Whisperer took over the show's Friday time slot in September 2005.[32][31]

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.[34]

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category / Recipient Results Ref.
2003 Online Film & Television Association Best Actress in a Drama Series / Amber Tamblyn Nominated [35]
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series / Mary Steenburgen Nominated
2004 America Film Institute Awards TV Program of the Year / Joan of Arcadia Won [36]
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Top TV Series

(composer) Jonathan Grossman

Won [37]
Casting Society of America Best Casting for TV, Dramatic Pilot

(casting director) Vicki Rosenberg for ("Pilot")

Nominated [38]
Environmental Media Awards Primetime Television for ("Bringeth It On") Won [39]
Gold Derby Awards Drama Lead Actress / Amber Tamblyn Won [40]
Drama Supporting Actress / Mary Steenburgen Nominated
Golden Globes Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama / Amber Tamblyn Nominated [41]
Humanitas Prize Awards 60 Minute Category
(creator) Barbara Hall for ("Pilot")
Won [42]
60 Minute Category
(director) Joy Gregory for ("The Uncertainty Principle")
Online Film & Television Association Best Writing in a Drama Series
(writer) Randy Anderson
(writer) Sibyl Gardner
(writer) Tom Garrigus
(writer) Robert Girardi
(writer) David Grae
(writer) Joy Gregory)
(writer) Barbara Hall
(writer) Hart Hanson
(writer) Stephen Nathan
(writer) Joshua Ravetch
(writer) Antoinette Stella
Nominated [43]
Best Actress in a Drama Series / Amber Tamblyn Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series / Mary Steenburgen Nominated
People's Choice Awards Favorite Television New Dramatic Series / Joan of Arcadia Won [44]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Drama Series / Joan of Arcadia
(producer) Tom Garrigus
(executive producer) Barbara Hall
(executive producer) James Hayman
(co-executive producer) Peter Schindler
(co-executive producer) Randy Anderson
Nominated [45]
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series / Amber Tamblyn for ("Pilot") Nominated
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series / Louise Fletcher for ("Do the Math") Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Series, Drama / Amber Tamblyn Nominated [36]
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Drama / Mary Steenburgen Won
Saturn Awards Best Actress in a Television Series / Amber Tamblyn Won [46]
Teen Choice Awards Choice Breakout TV Show / Joan of Arcadia Nominated [47]
Choice TV Show – Drama/Action-Adventure / Joan of Arcadia Nominated
Choice Breakout TV Star — Male / Jason Ritter Nominated
Choice Breakout TV Star — Female / Amber Tamblyn Nominated
Choice TV Actress — Drama/Action-Adventure / Amber Tamblyn Nominated
TCA Awards Outstanding New Program of the Year / Joan of Arcadia Nominated [48]
Young Artist Awards Best Family Television Series (Comedy or Drama) / Joan or Arcadia Nominated [49]
Best Young Adult Performer in a Teenage Role / Amber Tamblyn Nominated
Best Performance in a TV Series (Comedy or Drama) — Supporting Young Actor / Michael Welch Won
2005 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series / Cloris Leachman for ("The Cat") Nominated [45]
Saturn Awards Best Actress on a Television / Amber Tamblyn Nominated [50]

Home media

CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) released both seasons on DVD in Region 1 in 2005 and 2006.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released all seasons in Region 2.

On June 6, 2017, CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) released Joan of Arcadia: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.[51]

Season DVD Cover Discs Release Date Ep# Additional Information
1 6 May 10, 2005 23 Deleted Scenes, Audio commentaries by the Filmmakers and Cast
Behind-The-Scenes Featurettes: The Creation of Joan of Arcadia and Joan of Arcadia – A Look at Season One
God Gallery
2 6 November 28, 2006 22 Audio Commentaries on selected episodes
A Look at Season 2 featurette
The Making of Queen of the Zombies
A Tour of Joan's High School
Common Thread Table Read
Complete Series 12 June 6, 2017 45

Note: each disc in the season, except the last, contains 4 episodes.

See also


  1. ^ Binns, John (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.
  2. ^ a b c Lyons, Margaret (November 3, 2015). "Joan of Arcadia Was a Sharp Examination of the Human Condition — and TV Still Needs It". Vulture. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Braxton, Greg (September 14, 2003). "God help her". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 10, 2022. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c Bianco, Robert (September 25, 2003). "'Joan' asks: What if God was one of us?". USA Today. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
  5. ^ Hall, Barbara (writer); Brand, Joshua (director). "Touch Move." October 10, 2003. Joan of Arcadia. Season 1. Episode 3. CBS.
  6. ^ a b Willmore, Alison (May 23, 2013). "On a Mission From God: 7 TV Characters Who Believed They Had a Line to the Divine". IndieWire. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c Hill, Michael E. (November 9, 2003). "God Speaks, Viewers Watch". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
  8. ^ Rabin, Nathan (April 21, 2009). "Joe Mantegna". The A.V. Club. Retrieved November 28, 2009. Ultimately, we ran two seasons, and it's one of the proudest things I've done.
  9. ^ a b Hall, Barbara; Sturman, Lindsay (writers); Mitchell, Martha (director). "The Rise & Fall of Joan Girardi". January 28, 2005. Joan of Arcadia. Season 2. Episode 14. CBS.
  10. ^ Maddux, Blake (May 2, 2022). "Join Joan Osborne for a free show on Newburyport's waterfront". Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Rice, Lynette (October 31, 2003). "Why Joan of Arcadia is a heaven-sent gift for CBS". Retrieved June 9, 2022.
  12. ^ a b Aurthur, Kate (May 8, 2005). "When God Was Less Controversial". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 29, 2015. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
  13. ^ Mullinax, Gary (October 31, 2003). "TV version of God hanging out in Wilmington". The News Journal. Wilmington, Delaware: Gannett Company. pp. A1. Archived from the original on June 24, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
  14. ^ "We Are Gundo". HS Insider. February 3, 2015. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  15. ^ "Joan of Arcadia: Season 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
  16. ^ "Joan of Arcadia: Season 2". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
  17. ^ a b c Lloyd, Robert (September 26, 2003). "On a mission". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 12, 2021. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  18. ^ Owen, Rob (September 26, 2003). "On the tube: 'Joan of Arcadia' has it all". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  19. ^ "'Joan of Arcadia' has intelligent quirkiness". The Associated Press. March 5, 2004. Retrieved June 10, 2022 – via
  20. ^ a b c Poniewozik, James (November 3, 2003). "Television: Losing God's Religion". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  21. ^ McFarland, Melanie (October 31, 2003). "Cry hallelujah for this pair of TV families". Seattle PI. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  22. ^ Franklin, Nancy (October 6, 2003). "Down to Earth". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  23. ^ Gordon, Devin (September 21, 2003). "Hey, God, It's Me, Joan". Newsweek. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  24. ^ a b Shales, Tom (September 26, 2003). "'Joan of Arcadia': Blurred Visions". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  25. ^ a b Bunn, Austin (October 9, 2003). "Where's the religion in Joan of Arcadia?". Slate Magazine. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  26. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (September 26, 2003). "TV WEEKEND; Moody Loners Vs. Bad Guys". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  27. ^ Tucker, Ken (March 12, 2004). "Joan of Arcadia". Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  28. ^ Lowry, Brian (September 19, 2003). "Joan of Arcadia". Variety. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  29. ^ a b "I. T. R. S. Ranking Report: 01 Thru 210". ABC Medianet. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved May 25, 2007.
  30. ^ a b "Primetime series". The Hollywood Reporter. Nielsen Business Media. May 27, 2005. Archived from the original on August 21, 2009. Retrieved September 12, 2009.
  31. ^ a b c d e f "Fans demand 'Joan', fight CBS over cancellation". USA Today. Gannett Company. May 30, 2005. Retrieved November 28, 2009.
  32. ^ a b "Fans make last try to save 'Joan of Arcadia'. Older audience demographic, low ratings led to cancellation". May 29, 2005.
  33. ^ Pastorek, Whitney (February 7, 2005). "Joan of Arcadia's act of kindness". Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  34. ^ "Buying TV Show Clothing Props". Fash Blog. August 27, 2005. Archived from the original on April 27, 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  35. ^ "7th Annual TV Awards (2002-03) - Online Film & Television Association". Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  36. ^ a b "Youth News: Media with a Message: 'Joan of Arcadia'". Georgia Bulletin. April 22, 2004. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  37. ^ Gallo, Phil (April 22, 2004). "Film, TV composers score ASCAP honors". Variety. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  38. ^ "2004 Artios Awards". Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  39. ^ "EMA Awards - Past Recipients and Honorees". Environmental Media Association. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  40. ^ "2004 GOLDDERBY TV AWARDS". GoldDerby. March 7, 2016. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  41. ^ "Joan of Arcadia". Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  42. ^ "Past Winners & Nominees". Humanitas. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  43. ^ "8th Annual TV Awards (2004) - Online Film & Television Association". Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  44. ^ "Joan of Arcadia". Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  45. ^ a b "Joan Of Arcadia". Television Academy. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  46. ^ "Return of the King Cleans Up At Saturn Awards". Animation World Network. May 6, 2004. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  47. ^ "Teen Choice Awards (2004)". IMDb. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  48. ^ "Television Critics Association Announces 2004 Award Nominees". Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  49. ^ "Twenty-Fifth Annual Young Artist Awards". Young Artist Awards. Archived from the original on April 2, 2004. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  50. ^ "The 31st Annual Saturn Awards Nominations". Saturn Awards. Archived from the original on October 29, 2005. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  51. ^ "Joan of Arcadia - 'The Complete Series' Starring Amber Tamblyn, Jason Ritter, Mary Steenburgen, Joe Mantegna". March 27, 2017. Archived from the original on March 29, 2017.

Further reading