I don’t watch a lot of TV, but often when I watch a new program, I immediately compare it to another one that I’ve seen. Some shows are obviously built upon the successes of others. This is okay.
My So-Called Life paved the way for shows that accurately depict the life of teenagers. I remember when I first saw this show. I was immediately captivated by the originality of it, the writing, and the lead actress. This show remained on the top of my all-time favourite television shows for quite some time. Most shows of this nature on television today owe a debt to My So-Called Life.
One show that did build upon that success was Joan of Arcadia. Like MSCL, this show focused around a young high school girl. God appeared to Joan and they had regular conversations. God would ask her to do something and Joan wouldn’t always know why he asked her to. She would struggle with the task but when she completed it, good things always seemed to happen. It was a great show.
Joan of Arcadia was on for two seasons and had a similar influence because I can think of four shows right off the top of my head that owe their existence to Joan of Arcadia. The first one actually took Joan’s time slot when it was cancelled. This time instead of God, a young girl spoke to ghosts. This show was Ghost Whisperer.
The next show flipped the concept a bit and had a young man who spoke to the devil. I never liked Ghost Whisperer; it seemed like a poor imitation of Joan and it just didn’t capture my attention. Reaper, however did. It felt like Joan of Arcadia in reverse but it was comical and it worked.
Eli Stone is another show built much around the same premise. This time, a lawyer gets visions and follows what they tell him. He has a acupuncturist who acts as his Guru and tells him that the visions might be from God. He coached Eli through his new role as prophet. It is a great show as well, but like most of the shows on this list, it has been cancelled.
The latest show to follow Joan of Arcadia is Being Erica. I just watched the second episode of it last night. The premiere episode was quite good but upon watching the second, I am sold on this show. It’s about a thirty-something woman starts talking to a mysterious therapist. He is somehow able to send her back in time to relive her of her regrets and try to change them.
Being Erica is a lot like Joan of Arcadia because Dr. Tom asks the lead character to do things and when she does, good things happen. She is starting to straighten out her life and learn some things about herself and the world.
I really enjoy well-written and original shows. Even though many of these shows were built upon the ideas and success of what came before, they were able to do it in a genuine way that really speaks to the viewer. Reaper, Eli Stone, and Being Erica all want to be Joan and seem to wear their influences on their sleeve. However, it doesn’t matter if all these characters want to be Joan. At least these shows are saying something and they are worth watching. I hope Being Erica stays on the air because I think it will be a great show. Who knows, I might need to update my list.