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One of my personal philosophies is that I would watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt in absolutely anything. I don’t even know why – he always pretty much plays “brooding guy wearing a nice shirt, maybe sometimes glasses” – but he does seem to have an inherent good taste for projects, from Brick to 50/50 to 500 Days of Summer to Inception. We don’t have to talk about Don Jon! There is no reason to bring Don Jon into this!
Anyway, the latest of those tasting notes is Mr Corman (Friday, Apple TV+), a show where Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a brooding guy wearing a nice shirt, maybe sometimes glasses. Gordon-Levitt writes and directs as well as stars, and it’s all overseen by A24 – another of my philosophies is: I’d watch anything A24 produce, especially when it’s just “this guy is having a really bad night” – so, all in all, it feels like the stars are aligning here. Hold on, just reading through the press relea… Ah, no, see. Someone’s got it wrong. They’ve written that it’s a “comedy”. It’s not a comedy. They have to go back and redo that.
Mr Corman follows Josh (Gordon-Levitt) as he … well, does nothing, really. He’s a middle-school teacher who doesn’t seem to have much love for the game. He lives in a sure, fine stucco apartment with his sure, fine housemate (the always-great Arturo Castro). He’s still stinging after Juno Temple dumped him a year ago. His mother is more of a semi-distant friend than a parent. He has given up his music career and has a creative block when it comes to touching a Moog. Occasionally he starts daydreaming and Technicolor surrealism takes over from the day-to-day reality of him crashing a beat-up Toyota at an intersection, but that’s it. I don’t really know how it’s even possible in the TV industry today to start a pitch with: “There’s this guy, right? And he’s in his early 30s or something. But things aren’t going right for him …” without security marching you firmly out of the building, but, listen: Joseph Gordon-Levitt has managed it.
But what marks Mr Corman out from its predecessors (every sitcom ever made) is that it follows this woozy unstructure, more film than TV, which – blended with Apple’s insistence on ensuring every programme it makes is as gloriously overfunded as possible – actually makes for something fascinating. In the opening episode, we see Gordon-Levitt go to the bar and try and chat up women, and the ensuing conversation in the smoking area – a long single take, the camera weaving around the tables, the whole scene minutes longer than any other drama–comedy would have written it – has this “indie-film-you-breathlessly-recommend-to-your-friends” quality about it rather than a pilot half-hour. An episode where Josh suffers a panic attack starts to genuinely feel like one as the minutes tick on. But then a moment of comedy, too: he agonises over how much to spend on a pay-what-you-want breath workshop.
Is Mr Corman funny? I still don’t know. Is it about something? Again, a little unsure. But you’ll have a very good time watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt tucking his nice shirt in, figuring it out along the way.