For Joe Kimbreau, an indecisive New Yorker portrayed by James Wolk, the drama ties together three parallel life paths — nurse, policeman, and rock star.
Ordinary Joe on NBC has to be either the greatest or least attractive concept ever devised for a TV programme for the chronically
On the one hand, the hour-long play suggests that a seemingly little choice like who to have dinner with on a particular night may
have far-reaching consequences.
On the other hand, it implies that there are no absolute right or wrong solutions — and that, in any event, the fates always seem to
return to the same characters, storylines, and concerns about the job, romance, and parenting, as well as emotional themes about
life’s beauty and unpredictability.
It’s difficult to determine where any of this is going in the long run based on the first two episodes
that were sent to reviewers for evaluation.
For the time being, though, the series finds itself in the sweet spot of being just out-there enough to pique interest while
still being familiar enough to qualify as comfort watching.
Joe Kimbreau (James Wolk) is the average Joe of Ordinary Joe, who graduates from college in the first episode and is faced with
three options for how to spend the remainder of his day:
He may ask Amy (Natalie Martinez), a beautiful student he just met, out on a date; he can go to the beach with Jenny (Elizabeth Lail),
his best friend with benefits; or he can celebrate with his family, which includes his police officer uncle Frank (David Warshofsky).
A sensible individual in the real world would point out that it is quite feasible for one person to do all three tasks in one evening.
Ordinary Joe, on the other hand, follows TV logic.
thus the chronology splits into three parallel pathways, each leading to three radically different but equally TV-friendly professions for Joe. Joe, who chased Amy ten years ago, is now married to her and has an amazing rock star career.
Joe, the nurse who was discovering Jenny, is married to her
and they have a kid (Chris, portrayed by John Gluck), and Joe is working
double shifts as a night shift nurse.
And the Joe who left with his family is a policeman who is still unmarried but hasn’t forgotten
Amy or Jenny, despite the fact that they haven’t seen each other in years.
Before the narrative can begin.
there is a lot of foundation to be laid, and the series sometimes struggles to keep up. The pilot begins
with Joe’s corny narration musing on Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” which sounds precisely like a “college application essay.”
(Frost, in Joe’s view, had it easy since he only discovered two paths diverging in the woods as opposed to three on a college quad, I suppose.)
The next episode, fortunately, does away with the narration in favour of sentimentality that alternates between sweet and
Even with clear editing and colour coding.
the timelines may get confused, resulting in situations where it takes a minute to recall.
what Amy is doing in this timeline vs that one.
or sequences where two distinct versions of Joe seem to collide at the hospital.
Ordinary Joe, on the other hand, isn’t that sort of programme. In Sliding Doors, he’s Gwyneth Paltrow, not Loki.
For the time being, it all works, thanks in large part to Wolk’s endearing performance as the protagonist. It’s as if the TV gods, seeing
how many wasted leading-man TV parts Wolk has had, decided to give him three more opportunities all at once, and he makes the most of them.
Joe’s three personalities are worn in, comfy, and flattering in their flaws, and Wolk wears them like old favourite shirts. And he has
such amiable chemistry with all of his co-stars — particularly Charlie Barnett as Joe’s boyhood BFF Eric, who counters Joe’s shy uncertainty with caustic humour and a take-charge attitude that it’s easy to think they’re all meant to be in one other’s circle.
Even the glitter of a rock-star lifestyle does not seem to obscure the more realistic problems that Joe
confronts across all three pathways, such as the push-pull between family and work, in the first two
However, it has yet to giving its other characters the same degree of agency, since they are still regarded as simple props in Joe’s exploits rather than people in control of their lives.
Their happiness and professional success seem to be solely influenced by his decision a decade ago.
However, the series is still in its early stages, and there are a lot of different directions Ordinary Joe could take from here — some toward clumsy plotting or an excess of sappiness, others toward ambitious storylines that get to something meaningful about the
fate and free will, and many more.
that fall somewhere in the middle of solid ideas that eventually lose their way But, if part of the pleasure of watching Ordinary Joe is not knowing
how all three of his choices play out (a luxury, not even Joe himself is granting, given that each Joe is trapping on the route he selected), part of the fun of watching it is not knowing what happens next and choosing to stay and find out.