Her theory seems to be that a show about religion -- Joan is an ordinary teenager to whom God speaks -- is being spurned by all the many Americans who are appalled by the great strength of religion in America. But if religion is so popular, why wouldn't there be plenty of people eager to take in a well-made show about a young person struggling to understand and live up to the requirements of religion?
I'd say it is Hall and her co-writers who are appalled by the strength of religion in our political culture, and they've imbued the show with their own politics, thus putting off the natural audience for their show: ordinary Americans struggling to understand and live up to the requirements of religion. Hall and her co-writers wrongly imagined that the audience was made up of people with Hollywood-style values.
The first episode of Season 2 featured a gratuitous dirty joke (suitably deniable). As I wrote at the time:
In the first episode of this season's "Joan of Arcadia," Joan's boyfriend Adam is telling her about his summer spent working full-time in a hotel and the caption reads: "What do you want to know about plaster, grout, or unclogging toilets? And don't get me started on caulk 'cause that's my passion." But the actor clearly mispronounces the screenplay's word "caulk" in the most hilarious way possible.
I'm sure in Hollywood they fell on the floor laughing, but I think a lot of regular viewers felt uneasy. The NYT article linked above reports:
Barbara Hall ... said in a recent telephone interview that CBS bought the show in 2002 when public discourse about spirituality seemed more gentle: post-9/11 prayer services rather than heated debates over "The Passion of the Christ."
So Hall, concerned about the success of "The Passion of the Christ," set us straight with Episode 1 about what the real passion is: cock.
The season proceeded on the theme of teenage sex. Will Joan sleep with her boyfriend? What if he has another girlfriend? What if she has another boyfriend? Religion had very little to do with the problems Joan faced in these dreary episodes. I was one of the people who stopped watching midway through the season.
And it wasn't just all the Hollywood sex rained down on the sweet, earnest teenager we came to love the year before. It was also the Hollywood politics. Two weeks after Bush won reelection last November, I wrote about another early episode in Season 2:
On last night's episode of "Joan of Arcadia," Joan's boyfriend said to her: "So what if you don't make Ivy League? Is it really that big of a deal? If George Bush is any indication..."And now that the show has lost two million viewers and faces cancellation, Barbara Hall blames America's devotion to religion? Why not blame yourself for losing faith in the deep religious component of your own show?
The actor says "George Bush" with a mild but scoffing inflection that invokes the Bush-is-dumb opinion it's assumed we share. But this a big, popular network show, and Bush just won a decisive re-election. Who do they think watches the show?
UPDATE: The Anchoress approves.