Mr Corman season 1, episodes 1 & 2 recap – “Good Luck” & “Don’t Panic”

August 6, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Apple TV+, Weekly TV
3.5

Summary

Mr. Corman isn’t an easy show to like, but it’s one that feels as if it’s on the cusp of saying something much more interesting than first impressions suggest.

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3.5

Summary

Mr. Corman isn’t an easy show to like, but it’s one that feels as if it’s on the cusp of saying something much more interesting than first impressions suggest.

This recap of Mr Corman season 1, episode 1, “Good Luck”, and Mr Corman season 1, episode 2, “Don’t Panic”, contains spoilers.


First impressions aren’t everything, but Mr. Corman, the new Apple TV+ dramedy starring and also created and partially written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, makes a bad one. The first episode, titled “Good Luck”, feels like one of those cult loser comedies about a guy in his ‘30s realizing he hasn’t made anything of his life. Gordon-Levitt’s character, the titular Josh Corman, fits that description. He’s a failed musician turned fifth-grade teacher longing for a better professional and social life while newfound anxiety cripples the modest one he has. The show’s trying to be much funnier than it is here. It isn’t until the second episode, “Don’t Panic”, that the show becomes serious, and the viewer realizes it’s much better when it is.

Mr. Corman season 1, episodes 1 & 2 recap

It’s hard to imagine two episodes more distinct from one another outside of an anthology series, so I’m glad that Apple TV+ elected to drop the first two at once and roll the rest out weekly. While the opening half-hour is off-putting, the second is rawer and more real and builds to a conclusion that moved me. In all that, though, Josh doesn’t necessarily become more interesting, and it seems that part of his arc is going to be discovering that about himself. He’s one of those people who imagines much better, more grandiose things for himself without noticing that he has many of the things he thinks he wants already.

It’s difficult to take to Josh. In Mr. Corman episode 1 we learn some things about him, such as his career change and the fact he’s reeling from a relatively long-ago breakup that has killed his sense of love. He has a roommate named Victor (Arturo Castro) who is super likable but the opposite of him in a way that brings his perceived failings into starker relief. He enjoys teaching, but he doesn’t love teaching, and he’s visibly stumped when an 11-year-old confronts him about using the term “female God” instead of just “God”. Mr. Corman has a sense of contemporary social politics, a progressivism that Josh seems alternately confused and frightened by. It’s just another thing for him to be inadequate at, like one-night-stands, something he attempts in the first episode with a nice girl who is quickly put off by his abrasive self-loathing. I liked the show the most when these two were arguing; it’s a nicely-acted sequence, and it’s difficult to see where it’s going until Josh delivers an unexpectedly nasty zinger and gets punched through a window in a surrealist vignette.

That brief flirtation with “arty” flourishes wasn’t a good sign for me, one of those scenes that confuses weirdness for profundity. The show’s a lot better when it’s playing straighter, not trying to be as funny. In Mr. Corman episode 2, “Don’t Panic”, Josh ignores the advice of the episode’s title and spends the entire runtime having a panic attack he doesn’t know how to deal with. He eventually tries a breathing class, and after agonizing over how much to pay – participants are advised to pay what they can afford, and he just doesn’t know how to take this – he shares quite a lovely moment with an older lady who is moved to tears by the experience. It’s the first moment in these two episodes during which Josh seems to realize that there are other people in the world besides him.

That’s the risk you run when you build a show around a pessimistic protagonist – especially a straight white one. I raise that point only because how Josh sees the world is integral to how he sees his own place within it, and the show is “woke” enough to recognize and emphasize how narrow his perspective is. Josh has a great bickering session with Victor in the second episode during which he goes to great lengths to exaggerate all of his problems while Victor patiently explains that they’re not as bad as he’s making out. Of course, it’s easy for him to say that, and Josh is obviously struggling, but this isn’t just a friend coming to Josh’s aid but someone reminding him of how much worse things might be if he were just slightly different.

There’s something in Mr. Corman, though after two episodes it’s hard to say what. It’s a unique and ambitious show, obviously, and while I’m not on board with all of its creative decisions and think the premiere is dangerously off-putting, I’m convinced there’s something worthwhile to come. We’ll have to wait and see.

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