Family has all kinds of different definitions according to this week’s episode of Ordinary Joe, which touched on the poignant topic of ambition vs. devotion but also ended up being a great showcase for the show’s supporting characters.
The NBC series is in its fourth week now, so we’re seeing the writers find their rhythm and the characters fall into their long-term patterns. “Shooting Star” was very telling as to how the writers are going to use all of the supporting players around the Joes, Jenny, Amy and Eric—which is important because sometimes that second line is where a series can struggle. Some shows spend so much time with their main characters that the people in their lives aren’t as well developed or fall by the wayside. That’s not the case with Ordinary Joe.
The best development came with Dr. Banks (Jack Coleman), Jenny’s father. In the Nurse Joe storyline, Banks found out about Joe forging his signature and called him out on it, but didn’t fire him because Joe’s married to his daughter. That scene could have been so throwaway—either Dr. Banks is an overbearing jerk to his son-in-law, or just gives him a free pass. Ordinary Joe kept it feeling real. While Banks did cut Joe some slack because of his marriage to Jenny, he also gave him the talking-to he deserved, and conceded that Joe was right.
Then in the Rock Star Joe storyline, we saw Dr. Banks comforting his daughter when Jenny showed up on his doorstep after learning that Joe had located the son they gave up for adoption. It’s really nice to see a father who isn’t portrayed as either hypercritical or problematic for their family. It’s particularly nice to see it coming with Coleman whose Bob Ruzek on Chicago PD is pretty much the example of that character type, constantly being a problem in his son’s life. Ordinary Joe is giving him something more complex to work with.
The flip side of that is what’s going on with Congressman Diaz (Adam Rodriguez) and his wife. It would be worthwhile to explore what made their marriage fall apart, because right now she’s basically a typical political spouse and we haven’t seen much out of Christine Adams. Adams was excellent in Black Lightning, where even though she played the ex-wife/love interest of the main character, her character was strong and had her own life. That’s a slightly different situation because she was a series regular there as opposed to a recurring on this show but there’s a lot of potential in her. There’s no family at all there except for the cameras.
That being said, Adam Rodriguez has quickly drawn the “characters getting a rough edit” card. In no time at all Ordinary Joe has turned his character from an affable Congressman to another philandering politician who may have killed an intern and is trying to make a move on Amy in two of the three timelines. This is the one aspect of the show that doesn’t draw my interest. Ordinary Joe is unique, nuanced and uplifting, and Diaz and his story are none of those things. One could argue that he’s supposed to be an antagonist for the show, which is fine, but this is like watching Scandal all over again. It could be on any other series.
Let’s give the storyline the benefit of the doubt and see how it plays out going forward. Especially if Regina gets more definition, there could be more to say with Diaz; what about doing a genuine portrayal of a guy who spins out of control under his own ambition and contrasting that with Joe and Amy trying to move their own careers and relationship forward?
Oh, and Christopher (John Gluck) is still smarter than both of his parents. Kudos to Gluck and to Ordinary Joe for not treating the TV child as an accessory for their parents, and also specifically in this case, not defining the character solely by his disability. But that’s something to dive deeper into as we continue to see more of his own other life now that we’ve met Zeke.
Some other ruminations from this episode:
- Sometimes things have to be cut from TV episodes for time and pacing, and Ordinary Joe had a few of those moments this week. It would have been a lot more interesting to see Jenny and Nurse Joe’s first session in therapy than to hear the postmortem they gave Amy and Eric (“show, don’t tell” as the saying goes), but that would have slowed down the episode. And deprived us of another witty Charlie Barnett moment.
- I know Amy and Joe is the pairing we’re supposed to be rooting for in Cop Joe and Rock Star Joe’s worlds, but Amy and Eric are pretty darn interesting, too.
- It was impressive how Ordinary Joe didn’t let Cop Joe off the hook when it came to his mandatory therapy. Other police series would have had Uncle Frank agree to Joe’s request to bend the rules for him, or glossed over the therapy part, but Frank held firm and we actually got to see a moment of Cop Joe in a session. It showed that this series is taking mental health issues seriously and not just introducing them for dramatic effect.
- Nurse Joe’s suggestion that the whole family move to Atlanta in order for Jenny to pursue her law school grant was a sniffle-worthy moment and it’d be awesome if the show actually let them go through with that. But considering how every other part of the series is set in New York, I’m going to guess they might end up staying somehow.
- It was immediately obvious that selfie was going to come back to haunt Rock Star Joe and Jenny. And by extension Amy—Eric’s little speech about Joe being “the husband of the candidate” was foreshadowing at its best.
- We’re four episodes into this show and I already want a soundtrack album. Or at least a Spotify playlist.
Ordinary Joe airs Mondays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.