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Joan of Arcadia is an American television fantasy/family drama telling the story of a teenage girl who communicates with God and performs tasks she is given. The series originally aired on Fridays, 8-9 p.m. on CBS from September 26, 2003 until April 22, 2005.

On initial release, the show was praised by critics and won the prestigious Humanitas Prize and the People's Choice Award. It became one of the few television shows to be nominated for an Emmy Award in its first season, for "Best Dramatic Series". The title alludes to Joan of Arc and the show takes place in fictional Arcadia, Marylandmarker.


Joan of Arcadia is about teenager Joan Girardi (played by Amber Tamblyn), who sees and speaks with God.

In the pilot, God appears to Joan and reminds her that she promised to do anything he wanted if he would let her brother survive a car crash that left him a paraplegic. God appears in the form of various people such as small children, teenage boys, elderly ladies, transients, passers by, etc. Joan is asked by God to perform tasks that often appear to be trivial or contrary, but always end up positively improving a larger situation.

One of the more obvious effects of Joan's actions occurs when she is asked to take a reclusive bully to the school dance. While both her mother and the assistant principal object, Joan follows through with God's task. At the dance, it is revealed that the bully has a bottle of alcohol with him, but Joan convinces him not to open it. Despite this, the assistant principal later reaches into his jacket, finds the alcohol and expels him. In his anger, the boy threatens the chief of police (Joan's father) with a handgun, and he is then arrested. Joan later finds out from God that, while this turn of events seems rather bleak, it was the lesser of two evils—without Joan's actions, he would have shot over a dozen students and teachers with a handgun, before turning the gun on himself. This ending is noticeably more direct than most episodes, since it is the only time God comments so clearly on "what would have happened" rather than primarily allowing events to speak for themselves.

The series starred actors Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen as Joan's parents Will and Helen, Jason Ritter as her paraplegic older brother Kevin, and Michael Welch as her younger brother Luke. The family relationships and plot situations were written more realistically than other shows with spiritual themes. Various story-lines that spanned multiple episodes dealt with the consequences of Kevin's accident, Will's job as a police officer, Helen's career as an art teacher, and Luke's aspirations to be a scientist. No specific mention of any "true" religion is ever made, and God quotes Bob Dylan, Emily Dickinson and the Beatles rather than any scripture or verses. Furthermore, God is portrayed with a very human personality. In "Touch Move", he tells Joan that he has to send her "down There", and laughs when she becomes worried he means Hell (he meant the school basement). Also, in one episode, he hands Joan a book from a store they have just left. When Joan accuses him of stealing, he remarks "Well, technically everything's mine."

Christopher Marquette also stars as Adam Rove, a close friend of Joan's who has an on-and-off romantic relationship with her. Another of Joan's best friends is Grace Polk, played by Becky Wahlstrom.


  • Amber Tamblyn as Joan Girardi - Middle child of the Girardi family. Teenage girl who talks to God
  • Joe Mantegna as Will Girardi - Joan, Kevin and Luke's father. Police chief of Arcadia PD, eventually chooses to return to detective work after he is kidnapped. Mantegna had a development deal with CBS and liked the script so agreed to be part of the show. He was also involved in the casting of the other characters.
  • Mary Steenburgen as Helen Girardi - Joan, Kevin and Luke's mother. Secretary and eventually art teacher at Arcadia High School
  • Jason Ritter as Kevin Girardi - Eldest child in the Girardi family. Works for the local newspaper. Became a paraplegic in a car accident while in high school
  • Michael Welch as Luke Girardi - Youngest Girardi child. Science nerd, straight A student
  • Chris Marquette as Adam Rove - Only child of Elizabeth and Carl Rove. Joan's best friend/boyfriend, Grace's lifelong best friend. One of Helen's art students, talented artist
  • Becky Wahlstrom as Grace Polk - Only child of Sarah and Rabbi Polanski. Adam and Joan's best friend and Luke's eventual girlfriend.

Recurring cast

  • Aaron Himelstein as Friedman - Luke's best friend
  • Mageina Tovah as Glynis Figliola - Luke's friend and one-time girlfriend
  • Sprague Grayden as Judith Montgomery - Joan's friend from the summer psychiatric camp.
  • Mark Totty as Detective Carlisle - Will Girardi's junk food addicted partner on the Arcadia Police Department.
  • Elaine Hendrix as Ms. Lischak - Chemistry and Physics teacher
  • Patrick Fabian as Gavin Price - Assistant Principal, Arcadia High School
  • Annie Potts as Lucy Preston - Lieutenant, Arcadia Police Department
  • Derek Morgan as Roy Roebuck - Arcadia Police Department
  • Wentworth Miller as Ryan Hunter - a young, charming dot com millionaire who also talks to God, but with his own sinister agenda. Introduced at the end of Season Two in the episode Common Thread it was planned for him to be a recurring character in the third season.
  • David Burke as Fr. Ken Mallory - Helen's friend and pastor of a nearby church.
  • Constance Zimmer as Sister Lilly Watters, a former nun who helps advise Helen Girardi, also Kevin's girlfriend.

Guest cast

Incarnations of God

Some of the many incarnations included:


Theme song

The opening credits roll with the song "One of Us" by Joan Osborne, a hit single 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)
This was not the original version of the song, but was re-recorded by Osborne (with a noticeably less rough quality) 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).


Scenes of Arcadia's skyline and other outdoor scenes were actually the city of Wilmington, Delawaremarker. Arcadia itself is set in Marylandmarker.

Reception and cancellation

Joan of Arcadia debuted on the heels of Touched by an Angel, which had ended its nine-year run in April 2003.

While Joan of Arcadia was one of the highest rated new shows of the 2003-2004 TV season, its ratings declined in the second season, in spite of continued critical acclaim. The show was cancelled by CBS on May 18, 2005.Fan campaigns were created in response, in an effort to have the show reinstated.Only two episodes "No Future" and "The Rise and Fall of Joan Girardi" from the second season were repeated by CBS, and remaining reruns were pulled from the schedule. Near the end of the second season, a menacing character was introduced to the series, an amoral "tempter", seemingly destined to cause a significant amount of conflict in the show's characters. The show's cancellation left that premise unexplored. Ghost Whisperer took over the show's Friday time slot in September 2005.

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. Grace's trademark leather jacket was not included as the jacket was brought in by actress Becky Wahlstrom from her own teenage years.

Viewers by season

Season 1- 9.90 million viewers #54 (2003-2004)
Season 2- 7.78 million viewers #78 (2004-2005)

"During its first season, Joan of Arcadia averaged 10.1 million viewers, respectable numbers for Friday, a quiet night for television. This year, viewership sank to 8 million, according to Nielsen Media Research."


Season 1: 2003-2004

Episode # Production # Original Air Date Title
1 100 September 26, 2003 Pilot
2 101 October 3, 2003 The Fire and the Wood
3 102 October 10, 2003 Touch Move
4 103 October 17, 2003 The Boat
5 104 October 24, 2003 Just Say No
6 105 October 31, 2003 Bringeth It On
7 106 November 7, 2003 Death Be Not Whatever
8 107 November 14, 2003 The Devil Made Me Do It
9 108 November 21, 2003 St. Joan
10 109 December 5, 2003 Drive, He Said
11 110 December 12, 2003 The Uncertainty Principle
12 111 January 9, 2004 Jump
13 112 January 16, 2004 Recreation
14 113 February 6, 2004 State of Grace
15 115 February 13, 2004 Night Without Stars
16 116 February 20, 2004 Double Dutch
17 114 February 27, 2004 No Bad Guy
18 117 March 12, 2004 Requiem for a Third Grade Ashtray
19 118 April 2, 2004 Do The Math
20 119 April 30, 2004 Anonymous
21 120 May 7, 2004 Vanity, Thy Name Is Human
22 121 May 14, 2004 The Gift
23 122 May 21, 2004 Silence

Season 2: 2004-2005

Episode # Production # Original Air Date Title
24 201 September 24, 2004 Only Connect
25 202 October 1, 2004 Out of Sight
26 203 October 8, 2004 Back to the Garden
27 204 October 15, 2004 The Cat
28 205 October 22, 2004 The Election
29 206 October 29, 2004 Wealth of Nations
30 207 November 5, 2004 P.O.V.
31 208 November 12, 2004 Friday Night
32 209 November 19, 2004 No Future
33 210 November 26, 2004 The Book of Questions
34 211 December 10, 2004 Dive
35 212 January 7, 2005 Game Theory
36 213 January 14, 2005 Queen of the Zombies
37 214 January 28, 2005 The Rise and Fall of Joan Girardi
38 215 February 11, 2005 Romancing the Joan
39 216 February 18, 2005 Independence Day
40 217 February 25, 2005 Shadows and Light
41 218 March 4, 2005 Secret Service
42 219 April 1, 2005 Trial and Error
43 220 April 8, 2005 Spring Cleaning
44 221 April 15, 2005 Common Thread
45 222 April 22, 2005 Something Wicked This Way Comes

DVD releases

Season Discs Release Date Episode # 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
Note: each disc in the season, except the last, contains 4 episodes.


External links

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