Mr Corman: Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s indie comedy funny? It’s complicated …

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<span>Photograph: Apple</span>
Photograph: Apple

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!

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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.

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