‘Ordinary Joe’ Review

For the final indecision, NBC’s Ordinary Joe must be the most compelling or least compelling premise ever created for a television show. On the other hand, the hour-long film suggests that a seemingly insignificant decision like who to have dinner with on a given night can set the course for the rest of one’s life. On the other hand, it suggests that there is no real right or wrong answer – and in any case, fates have a way back to the same people, the same plots, the same worries about work and love. affection, fatherhood, and the same heartfelt theme of life’s beauty and unpredictability.

It’s hard to say, out of the first two episodes that were put out for review by critics, which of these will head in the long run. But for now, the series is in an intriguing position, where it’s just enough to spark curiosity, and familiar enough to qualify for comfortable viewing.

Key point

Struggling but winning, thanks to the endless charisma of James Wolk.

Release date: Monday, September 20

Cast: James Wolk, Natalie Martinez, Elizabeth Lail, Charlie Barnett, Anne Ramsay, David Warshofsky, Kai A. Ealy, John Gluck, Adam Rodriguez

Creator: Matt Reeves

Developed by: Russell Friend and Garrett Lerner

Ordinary Joe of Ordinary Joe is Joe Kimbreau (James Wolk), who graduates from college in the first episode and quickly finds himself with three choices to do for the rest of his day: He can approach Amy (Natalie Martinez), a person charming classmate he had just met, and asked for a date; he can follow Jenny (Elizabeth Lail), his best friend with benefits, to the beach to chat; or he might meet his family, including police uncle Frank (David Warshofsky), to celebrate.

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At this point, a reasonable person in the real world might point out that, in fact, it’s very possible that one person could complete all three in just one evening. But Ordinary Joe follows television logic, so the timeline splits into three parallel paths that lead Joe to three distinctly different but all television-friendly careers. Ten years later, the Joe who pursued Amy has married her and enjoys an enviable career as a rock star. Joe finds Jenny married to her and they have a son (Chris, played by John Gluck), and Joe is lighting a candle at both ends as a night shift nurse. And Joe with his family is a cop who is still single, but hasn’t forgotten Amy or Jenny despite having lost contact with both of them two years ago.

There’s a lot more ground to lay before the plot can begin, and the series sometimes struggles under the weight. The pilot opens with Joe’s courtesy narration reflecting on Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” which is exactly the “college application essay” as it sounds. (In Joe’s opinion, Frost was easy because he found only two separate roads in a forest – as opposed to three on a college campus, I guess). And even with sharp editing and color coding, the timelines can become confusing, resulting in scenes where it takes a minute to remember what Amy is doing in this timeline versus the other times or scenes that seem as brief as two different versions of Joe. They met by chance at the hospital.

But Ordinary Joe that’s not the kind of program. He’s Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding doornot Loki in Loki. It’s all worked out well enough for now, in large part because Wolk has forged such a lovely celebrity lead. It’s as if the TV gods, realizing how many lead roles Wolk has had to endure, decided to give him three more chances at once, and he certainly made the most of it. many of them. Wolk wears three of Joe’s personalities like old favorite shirts: wear in, be comfortable, highlight their flaws. And he shares such a friendly chemistry with all of his co-stars – especially Charlie Barnett as Joe’s childhood BFF Eric, who balances Joe’s indecisiveness with sarcastic humor satire and in-charge attitude – so much so that it’s easy to believe that all of these people are destined to be in each other’s orbits.

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In the first two volumes, the series has done an admirable job of balancing empathy and caring across all three timelines; not even the glamor of the rock star lifestyle seems to overshadow the more grounded dilemmas Joe faces on all three paths, like the jostling between family and career. But it has yet to offer the same level of autonomy to its other characters, who have so far not been seen as individuals in charge of their own adventures but merely accessories in Joe’s. Their relative level of happiness and career success seems to have been determined entirely by his choice a decade ago.

And again, the series is still in its early days and can create many different paths Ordinary Joe could go down from here – some towards messy plot or too much unhappiness, others towards ambitious plots towards something meaningful about fate and free will, and Many people fall into the alternating zone of solid ideas that end up losing their way. But if the draw of Ordinary Joe is finding out how all three of his choices play out (a privilege not even for Joe himself, as each Joe is stuck on whichever path he chooses), part of his faith. It’s fun to watch it is not knowing what will happen next, and to make the choice to follow along and find out.

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