A World of Speculation

I hope I don’t have to have watched an episode of the television show Joan of Arc to say that the New York Times DVD critic Kate Aurthur doesn’t seem to get it.

I don’t mean she doesn’t get the show. As I said, I haven’t watched it and just can’t seem to get around to watching TV series (except my one vice, Stargate SG1, which I constantly record and watch at my leisure).

But the conclusion Aurthur draws from the show’s loss of viewers is just weird.

Apparently, we were happier in 2002, with our “post-9/11 prayer services rather than heated debates over ‘The Passion of the Christ.'” Barbara Hall, the show’s creator, explained that the show debuted “before we lived in a theocracy,” when “God wasn’t quite as controversial . . . as he is now.”

Somebody stop my head spinning, please. Secularists (among others) go into an unholy snit about a religious movie, and it’s “the theocrats” who have made God controversial? How controversial is God in another theocracy, say, Iran?

I’ve heard good things about the show; people whose opinion I respect like it, and the description of the first season seems engaging enough that I’m sorry I missed it. Light-hearted events, the God of Bill Cosby’s old Noah routine, easy, friendly, sweet. The television of Mayberry and Leave It to Beaver. Nothing wrong with that.

In the second season, as Aurthur describes it, Joan questions whether her visions were real and she tries to ignore God. “She relented, but the mood of the second season was grimmer than the first, and Joan was increasingly isolated.”

The reviewer relates that the show lost 2 million viewers during its second season, and so it might not be renewed. “Whether CBS has decided that the show’s temperate, humanitarian approach to religion has lost its relevance will become clear when the network announces its fall schedule.”

By Aurthur’s own description, the show became grimmer during the second season. Maybe the viewers who liked the sunnier Joan of Arcadia didn’t like the grimmer Joan of Arcadia. Why does every problem, from fallen arches to falling ratings, end up getting thrown at the feet of the “theocrats”?

I don’t know if I’d have liked the second season or been disappointed with it. I know there have been TV shows I’ve liked that didn’t keep enough viewers to stay on the air, and others that I can’t understand how they keep going and going and going. I’ve always said, “Oh, well. There’s no accounting for taste” (or maybe, to be honest, launched a rant on occasion), but I never knew I could blame my cultural disappointments on the theocrats.

But now I know. The light turns red as I get close to it? The theocrats did it. It starts to rain when I left my umbrella at home? Theocrats. Article or story gets turned down? Theocrats. Puppy gets excited and piddles on the floor? Damned theocrats. Look at how much times and energy I’ve wasted trying to take responsibility and fix things for myself. But no more.

So, you lousy theocrats, I’m onto you now. I’ve been accused of being one of them, but that’s just a clever ruse to keep them from knowing that I’ve gone into deep cover.