The new fall season officially kicks off for the broadcast networks on Monday. And NBC is coming out of the gate strong with the most original show I’ve seen in a while, the new drama “Ordinary Joe.”
On the day of his college graduation, Joe Kimbreau (James Wolk) finds himself at a crossroads. He can go to the beach with his friend with benefits, Jenny (Elizabeth Lail); go to dinner with his family, who wants him to be a cop like his father; or ask out Amy (Natalie Martinez), the girl he just met. Instead of just asking what if, the series actually shows us what happened with each choice.
Choosing Jenny leads to a career as a doctor, but a rocky marriage with Jenny. Choosing his family means being a cop, but single. When he chooses Amy, her support leads him to a successful music career. The show flips back and forth between each version as the stories begin to mirror each other as we find out what kind of life Joe would have had with each choice on that fateful day.
In the premiere, all three versions of Joe’s story end up in the same place — his 10-year college reunion. Doctor Joe uses the reunion to work on his marriage to Jenny. Cop Joe reconnects with Amy and rocker Joe meets back up with Jenny.
Doing a show like this can’t be easy, but you never see the difficulty on-screen. The fact that we’re able to slip back and forth between Joe’s lives so effortlessly is a huge credit to the writers and everyone responsible for the look and feel of the show.
What’s truly fascinating are the common threads and characters in each story. All of the same people are in all three, but who they are and what they do are based on Joe’s choices. The show could become complicated, but it works because of an incredible cast, all of whom end up playing three different characters in the same show. As the lead, Wolk carries most of the burden to make the series work and he does so beautifully, hitting all the right notes — both figuratively and literally.
There’s always the possibility with a show as high concept as this one that the premiere could grow tiresome. But each story is so compelling, it’s hard not to get sucked into all of them. You won’t find yourself rooting for one version of Joe. You’ll want them all to succeed, as this “Ordinary Joe” is anything but ordinary.
“Ordinary Joe” premieres at 10 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20, on NBC.