NBC cancels show after one season — and streaming couldn’t save it

Ordinary Joe poster featuring James Wolk
(Image credit: NBC)

Ordinary Joe's three lives have come to an end. NBC canceled the show after just one season. 

The drama was created by The Batman director Matt Reeves. It tells a Sliding Doors-like story, following Joe Kimbreau (James Wolk) in three parallel lives 10 years after he makes a pivotal decision on his college graduation day. 

In one scenario, Joe is a famous rock star married to Amy (Natalie Martinez). In another, he's a nurse married to Jenny (Elizabeth Lail) and they have a son who has spinal muscular atrophy. Amy is married to Joe's best friend, Eric (Charlie Barnett). And in the third life, Joe becomes a cop, just like his father who died on 9/11. In the line of duty, he reconnects with Amy. 

The season 1 finale, which aired in January, ended with all three Joes making another pivotal decision. Nurse Joe surprised Jenny in Atlanta and suggested a vow renewal; Cop Joe proposed to Amy; and Rock Star Joe left rehab and turned up on Amy's doorstep. Those cliffhangers will never get resolved now, as Ordinary Joe joins our list of the biggest canceled TV shows of the year.

Reeves, who co-created Felicity with J.J. Abrams, previously told Entertainment Weekly that he came up with the idea for Ordinary Joe after hitting a crossroads in his own life. 

"I was looking to do a story that was in the world of the kind of drama that Felicity was in. I love those kinds of serialized stories about the intimate moments in characters' lives," he explained. 

"Everybody has that moment where they look back and they think about certain crossroads. They think, 'God, I could have done this. I could've done that. And what would my life be like?' I really wanted to do a show that sort of embraced the idea of how we're not in control of our lives. You're in control of your choices, but you're not in control of the timing of things."

Analysis: Streaming can't save every show

The show's cancellation doesn't come as much of a surprise. Ordinary Joe averaged just 3.3 million viewers and a 0.5 rating in the key demo (both Live+7 numbers). That placed it dead last among the 10 dramas aired by NBC this season.

After the finale, Russel Friend told TVLine he was well-aware that his show was on the bubble.

"Our hope is to get the word out that come Monday, all 13 episodes of the show will be available on Hulu and Peacock," he said. "We’re really hoping that people discover the show streaming-wise. It’s such an bingeable show."

Alas, streaming did not end up saving the day this time. And it can't rescue every show. Netflix saved Manifest season 4 after it was cancelled by NBC, but these instances are getting more and more rare.

And frankly, not every show should be saved. I saw four or five episodes of Ordinary Joe and it was ... fine. Then, I kind of forgot to watch the rest of the season. The premise was intriguing and the acting was good, but there wasn't anything truly compelling about it. My opinion seems to be common, since Ordinary Joe never took off in the ratings and seemingly didn't catch on in streaming, either. 

As much as we knock on Netflix for cancelling shows left and right, it's actually normal for some projects to die. New ones rise in their place. Even the vastness of streaming is ruled by survival of the fittest.

Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.