Picks and Pans Review: Joan of Arcadia

updated 10/06/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/06/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

CBS (Fridays, 8 p.m. ET)

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With the passing of Touched by an Angel, CBS probably needed something to fill the spirituality gap. But that's no reason to dismiss this offbeat series about a confused teen who gets messages from the Almighty.

In the Sept. 26 pilot, God first appears to Joan (appealing Amber Tamblyn) in the form of a cute boy on whom she fast develops a crush. Frankly, that's not the kind of divine love I'm looking for. But as the Creator speaks to Joan in other guises—cafeteria worker, truck driver—the show asks us, with a disarming lack of preachment, to ponder God's possible influence on ordinary lives.

Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen are fine as Joan's parents, but the series shouldn't go out of its way to play up the dad's role as small-city police chief. Keep the emphasis on God's plan, not man's law.

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