NBC’s ‘Ordinary Joe’ could’ve been a disaster, but instead it’s timeline-hopping fun

Life is filled with countless potentialities. Every of our paths might go a technique or one other with each determination we make. Television, too, has no restrict on the tales it could actually inform. So NBC determined to offer you three for the value of 1 this fall. 

New drama “Ordinary Joe” (premiering Monday, 10 EDT/PDT, ★★★ out of 4) is a high-concept collection that imagines the three totally different lives one man (James Wolk) may lead. In a single, he’s a single cop; in one other, a childless rock star married to political strategist Amy (Natalie Martinez); and in a 3rd he is a nurse with a son, married to paralegal Jenny (Elizabeth Lail, “You”), however their relationship is on the rocks.

With a lesser star, and lesser scripts, “Joe” could be a prepare wreck of convoluted storytelling and plot clichés. However the ambition of “Joe” is admirable: It is the form of present you wish to root for, creatively and commercially, partly as a result of Wolk is simply so darn likable. Future episodes could collapse below the burden of their very own timeline shenanigans, however at the least within the first two made obtainable for assessment, “Joe” feels prefer it could possibly be one thing particular. 

James Wolk as Joe in one of the three possible lives he has in NBC's "Ordinary Joe."

The writers illustrate every of Joe’s lives by incessantly leaping between them. On the identical evening within the three totally different variations, as an example, Joe is a cop saving a congressman from an assassination try, or he is the nurse saving the identical congressman on the hospital, or he is a rock star who is aware of the congressman, and so the congressman was by no means at risk as a result of his rally was pushed again to accommodate Joe’s live performance. 

It may be rather a lot for the informal viewer to maintain straight, and because the story progresses the method complicates issues additional. In every timeline our sort-of bizarre Joe goes via his personal trials and tribulations, whether or not it is grief, divorce or infertility. And the folks in Joe’s life tackle totally different roles, too. Every of his love pursuits seems in all three timelines, as do his mom (Anne Ramsay), uncle (David Warshofsky) and greatest good friend (Charlie Barnett). All of their lives are irrevocably affected by Joe’s. Permeating via all three storylines is a thriller about who tried to kill that congressman, Bobby Diaz (Adam Rodriguez). 

James Wolk as Joe Kimbreau and David Warshofsky as Uncle Frank in "Ordinary Joe."

It is a testomony to the sheer magnetism and expertise of Wolk, greatest recognized for CBS’ wild sci-fi collection “Zoo” and a stint on “Mad Males,” that the collection works in any respect. The scripts could zig and zag incessantly between timelines, however Wolk is assured sufficient in every of his personas (styled barely in a different way with hair, garments and glasses) that it’s usually immediately identifiable which Joe he’s taking part in. His co-stars aren’t fairly as adeptat the frequent modifications, but it surely issues much less. It is also useful that the writing is sound: It is clear creators Garrett Lerner and Russel Pal are doing every part they will to maintain the viewers within the loop. Two episodes in, it is profitable sufficient to be coherent and interesting. 

James Wolk as Joe Kimbreau and Elizabeth Lail as Jenny Banks in "Ordinary Joe."

“Joe” is immediately evocative of Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1998 movie “Sliding Doorways,” during which her protagonist lives out two totally different lives primarily based on whether or not she made a subway prepare earlier than the doorways closed sooner or later. “Joe” is much more bold, providing three alternate realities over the course of many episodes (nicely, if it would not get canceled) as an alternative of a decent two-hour movie. “Doorways” has a “watch out what you want for” message embedded in its plot, however “Joe” would not look like moralizing in any explicit method. The present is a thought experiment come to life, and thus far it is attention-grabbing sufficient to maintain fascinated about. 

Huynh Nguyen

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