Of ‘Jack & Bobby’

Apr 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Get that document a SAG card! The copy of the Declaration of Independence that was at center stage during the Democracy Plaza histori-ganza staged at Rockefeller Center during the run-up to the 2004 election will make another TV cameo in The WB’s “Jack & Bobby” Wednesday.

In addition to being a psychic marker on the fictional young Bobby’s (Logan Lerman) eventual road to the White House, it represents a key moment in the emotional life of those toiling on the series, which has not been able to convert raves from critics into ratings this season.

The copy of the precious document is owned by Declare Yourself, the vote-young campaign founded by “All In the Family” and “Maude” creator Norman Lear. His declaration that he is a fan of the show buoyed the spirits of the cast and crew of “J & B” and led to a lunch at Spago-Greg Berlanti, a creator and an executive producer, told The Insider he doesn’t remember who picked up the bill, but “I don’t know that I can ever express my gratitude.” Lunch with Mr. Lear, whom Mr. Berlanti characterized as “most TV writers’ hero,” led to the story line in which Bobby encounters the declaration on a school trip to Philadelphia.

It also led to Mr. Lear joining a stellar group of personalities making cameo appearances in the May 11 season finale, which Mr. Berlanti and crew were editing last week. Mr. Lear appears in a flash-forward sequence as the university president (John Slattery) who has been Bobby’s chess mentor.

Supplying the grown-up voice of Bobby is Tim Robbins. Gore Vidal checks in as the host of the “documentary” from which the flash-forwards have been lifted all season. And Lou Diamond Phillips appears as the boys’ absent father, about whom their mother (Christine Lahti) has thus far lied and/or stonewalled-displaying what The Insider regards as the least of her many flaws. His appearance is not the only twist in that plot line.

The Insider is not going to play spoiler here. She prefers the role of big tease.

Perhaps more important to those who’ve tuned in regularly to what is one of the most appealing newcomer casts in prime time: Mr. Berlanti promises that we will get more information and more questions about the cloud of doom that hangs over Bobby’s older brother Jack (Matt Long).

If the season finale proves to be the series’ finale, the faithful “won’t be left with an unsatisfied feeling,” said Mr. Berlanti. “The plan here was just to go out [for the season] with an artistic bang and reward the audience.”

… And ‘Joan’

Speaking of series that are on the bubble and could use a boost before next fall’s lineups are drawn up, it appears that “Joan of Arcadia” shouldn’t expect the Parents Television Council to lift a hand to help rally viewer support for the show about a teenager (Amber Tamblyn) trying to make sense of God, her family and adolescence.

In its freshman season, “Joan” qualified as a hit on Fridays, averaging 10.1 million viewers, but this year it’s riding just under 8 million viewers even after having made a concerted effort to lighten up.

Just in time for last week’s season finale, a dark, new character arrived in Arcadia to test Joan’s faith and wits.

Hmmm. Could we get any more metaphorical?

While “Joan” did earn one best-show-of-the-week mention in 2004, the PTC Web site currently gives it a yellow-light rating because story lines have introduced mild language, sex and violence. The PTC reviewer dubbed “Joan” “a fantastic family viewing choice for older kids and adults,” and said the edgier content “is not meant for gratuitous titillation, but it does warrant Joan a yellow light rating.”

“Joan” made the PTC’s “Best” list for the 2003-’04 season, but the annual listing of what the PTC thinks were the 10 best shows of the 2004-05 season won’t happen until at least July and possibly August, according to a PTC spokeswoman.

God in all his/her guises on “Joan” tends to stir the pot and then step back, issue the occasional inscrutable utterance and watch what happens.

The PTC seems similarly disinclined to influence “Joan’s” arc by rallying its constituency to register its support for the series. “We haven’t talked about it,” said the PTC spokeswoman.

The Insider will spend the next 2½ weeks with her arthritic fingers crossed.

Forgive us our typos.