Sometimes a good show goes bad, and it makes you sad. At other times, a good show goes bad in a way that makes you start to question whether or not it was ever good. There are so many things wrong with Joan of Arcadia’s second season that it made me wonder if I had been hoodwinked by the goofy concept into thinking it didn’t suck.

There were lots of little problems with the series that only the best of concepts could overcome: poor pacing, intrusive music, character assassination (both figurative and literal), and plot points so leadenly obvious that they might as well have big flashing arrows over them saying “AN IMPORTANT MORAL LESSON IS NOW BEING TAUGHT.” That last point gets to the real problem with the series. God and the missions he sent Joan on used to feel pleasantly ambiguous, slightly mysterious, and kind of absurd. Now, though, God talks about little more than Him/Her/Itself, and the tone of the show has shifted from a nondenominational vagueness that permitted the viewer a range of readings to an ever-more doctrinaire line that starts to read like “Liberal Catholicism for Dummies.” This is where I start to wonder if the first season was as spiritually complex as I thought when I watched it, or if it was just doing a better job of hiding its message.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the fantastic acting. At times, the only thing saving Joan of Arcadia from getting its Season Pass revoked was the way in which the cast could take a horribly flat and obvious scene and add entire extra layers of dialogue with little more than a shift in posture or a sidelong glance. What I really want is for someone to take these actors and put them on a show that can make use of their abilities.

Maybe the third season of Joan of Arcadia (if there is one; ratings have been sketchy for a while, and getting the season finale out of the way before May sweeps even starts doesn’t suggest a whole lot of confidence on CBS’s part) will be that show. Otherwise, I’ll just stick to reading Deborah’s recaps on Television Without Pity, which are really fantastic: all the snark and wit you expect from TWoP, coupled with a religious complexity and personal voice that the actual show is missing. It’s great stuff.