The logline of AppleTV+’s forthcoming series Mr. Corman reads like the logline of 2021 life for just about every millennial: Anxiety-ridden, the titular Mr. Corman questions what he’s doing with his life and whether he’s a good person that deserves good things. Who can’t relate?
Josh Corman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a fifth grade teacher and a failed musician who is still reeling from a recent breakup, and his anxieties about the world and his life translate into behavior that feels destructive, though not on purpose. He has tense relationships with his family, his friends, and even random women he meets out at bars, and is prone to making a crass statement without thinking about its impact. Josh is the type of person who bites into a string cheese instead of pulling it apart piece by piece, and it’s a great metaphor for his blunt demeanor. He doesn’t seem to savor anything anymore, and as people in his life ask him to show up in various ways in their life, he constantly disappoints them.
An A24 production, the 10-episode series is upfront about its darker themes, and forces its audience to ride along as the main character begins to spiral. Occasionally, the hyper-focus on pessimism gives way to unnatural dialogue, which tries too hard to prove everyone’s anxieties are lurking underneath. At the same time, there are quite a few affecting sequences that bring us into Josh’s mind, and we feel the claustrophobia of anxiety closing in on him. Mr. Corman is a very internal show; we’re there through Josh’s highs and lows, we witness his calculated moves alongside his accidental mishaps, and we are even treated to the musical theater productions that flash across his brain during various minute interactions.
Mr. Corman doesn’t fall into the expected tropes about Josh resurrecting a failed musical career, but it does speak to the idea of rediscovering things that bring you joy. While it initially felt like a bit of a misdirect, ultimately the fact that the series didn’t go down an expected path was a much larger risk that pays off. Josh is an unhappy person trying to figure it out, and like many of us, the thing he’s passionate about doesn’t necessarily equate to prodigal-level skills that can save him from himself. No, Josh just has to deal with the fact that he’s a mediocre pessimist who has stumbled into a life he doesn’t quite recognize.
While triple-threat Joseph Gordon-Levitt was involved in all aspects of creation, the standout performance belongs to Arturo Castro who plays Josh’s best friend and roommate Victor Morales. Castro, who is most recognizable for his turn on Broad City as Ilana’s flamboyant friend Jaime, plays a completely different role here, stretching the boundaries of what’s expected of him as an actor. He has perfect line delivery and comedic timing, and embodies the warm, reliable type of best friend who is often relegated to the sidelines.
It makes sense, then, that the series seems to know better than to keep Castro in the shadows. Mr. Corman plays into a recent trend of swapping the focus in a single episode to follow the POV of a secondary character, and in this decision the series finds its one flaw. When Mr. Corman becomes “Mr. Morales” and focuses in on Castro’s character, the show becomes arguably more interesting than it is when it’s following Josh. Juxtaposed against Josh’s mundane life, Victor’s episode is filled with tangible problems that provide a playground for much more textured storytelling than the rest of the show.
Still, Mr. Corman is painfully relatable to anyone who has ever looked around at their life and wondered how they got there. It’s quite the opposite of its fellow AppleTV+ show Ted Lasso, but it’s still a character study that’s worth firing up.
Mr. Corman premieres Friday, August 6th on Apple TV+
Radhika Menon is a pop culture-obsessed writer and filmmaker living in New York City. Her work has appeared in NY Post’s Decider, Teen Vogue, and will be featured in Brown Girl Magazine‘s first ever print anthology. She is a proud alumna of the University of Michigan and thinks she’s funny on Twitter.
For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.