There’s probably no better time than this review to talk about the music Josh Corman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has been creating throughout the first season of Mr. Corman.

What we know about the character from the start is that his passions clearly lie in music, but when he gave it up to become a fifth-grade teacher, Josh seemed to deliberately avoid playing music again. (Remember, in the first episode all of his musical gear is in a room he seems to dread going into.) But throughout the season Josh has created music at one point and for a purpose. mysterious. What does all this mean? What is the reason? What’s the big picture?

Well, “The Big Picture” is coincidentally enough the title of the season finale of Mr. Corman, referencing a famous image of a small part of the known universe that you can see in the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles. And yet, Josh’s big picture is still largely unknown.

As was the case in the last two episodes, “The Big Picture” takes place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, somewhere around the summer of last year. The gist of the episode centers around one of the pandemic’s many digital changes: Zoom encounters. Because Josh’s mother (Debra Winger, barely seen here) works with the mother of a young single woman, she asks Josh to make a Zoom date with said young woman, Emily (Jamie Chung). While this doesn’t quite look like a normal date, it can be a good thing. While Josh and Emily don’t share a ton of the same interests, they seem to get along.

This is despite Josh being … well, Josh. (Again, I can’t stress enough how much it pained me to criticize a lead character named Josh when my name is Josh too.) Emily notices a Josh guitar in the background of her Zoom screen , and the simple question “Are you a musician?” sends him on a neurotic tangent, in which he talks about the way he has thought and reflected on whether or not to put the guitar in sight. Somehow, by magic, Josh and Emily are able to have something akin to a more normal conversation, which extends well beyond the hour or two of the dates. you regular with Zoom. In fact, they talk for so long that they move from their desks to their kitchen to eat together, then to their respective bedrooms where they chat until Emily falls asleep.

Jamie Chung in 'Mr.  Corman '

Jamie Chung in ‘Mr. Corman ‘ (Image credit: Apple TV +)

In the morning Josh is in a more bitter mood (mainly because he’s… well, Josh) even as Emily wants to meet him virtually for breakfast. When they do, Josh and Emily end up talking about the current state of the world, and Josh is mystified that Emily isn’t as nihilistic or existentially terrified as he is. When Emily finds that white men like Josh panic more than others and it’s because “you have a little bit of torment and it just throws you into disarray”, he angrily ends the call. It’s not that Emily is wrong on a larger scale, but Josh is convinced that his own issues are more than just the standard privilege of white men. (On the one hand, I’m also a white man, but on the other hand, I’ve been through this whole season and I’m here to say that this guy’s problems are more than not making it for once because of pandemic.)

Emily also notes that Josh, who has mentioned his musical opus a few times, doesn’t seem to finish things off, perhaps because he thinks he’ll never get there. Although Josh ends up doing the right thing and apologizes to Emily (at least via a long voicemail, he acknowledges that she might not hear if she avoids listening to her voicemail in general), he takes also on him to complete the most difficult part of the musical tracks he has compiled, the drums section, which has to be made with real drums.

That leads into the final cut, where we step in between Josh on drums playing along with the great song he’s been making all season, and then between moments in the season that have already happened. Everything from glimpses of Josh’s father (Hugo Weaving) to his mother to his friends and students seems to have inspired him on this auditory soul journey.

But what is the big picture? What is the interest of Josh’s music? Listening to it in full, I can’t help but make the same comparison I made last week, although I’m adding a new one here just for good measure. The first is one of the many great pieces of Friends, in which Ross Geller reveals he used to play music with his keyboard when he was younger. When his friends push him to pull out the keyboard and play some of his tracks, they are bewildered and horrified to hear that it’s musically scrambled nonsense, with a cacophony of tinkered with each other meaningless. with the others. Now it would be unfair of me to say that Josh Corman’s music is as bad as Ross Geller’s. It’s not. It is close to real music and avoids any noise of farm animals. But for all the build-up, it’s a bit low.

Jamie Chung and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 'Mr.  Corman '

Jamie Chung and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in ‘Mr. Corman ‘ (Image credit: Apple TV +)

Which leads to the other comparison, Mr. Holland’s opus, the 1995 film starring Richard Dreyfuss as a musician-turned-teacher who spends his teaching career writing a piece of classical music meant to sum up his life. When he forcibly retired after decades of teaching, many of his adult students return to send him away playing that same piece of music to an adoring crowd. And it’s, you know, very good. It’s OK. But for a film that relies on the idea that such a piece of music is a grand and triumphant thing, it’s a bummer.

This is the case with Mr. Corman. Josh Corman’s music is good. It’s OK. It has a reasonably OK vibe. But all the build-up and all the whispers and hints that Josh’s family and his past are the reason he had to let go of his true passion, one he’s pretty good at, led to a piece of music that didn’t. not really explain whether or not, I’m supposed to think he’s good at it.

During his date with Zoom, Josh becomes as lively when he talks about music as when he talks about the children he teaches. Does the show realize that Josh’s artistic past may be a notable aspect of his emotional makeup, but it’s not the only factor?

After 10 episodes you would think there would be a pretty clear answer, but alas. Looking at the season as a whole, it’s fair to say that the final episodes of Mr. Corman – ironically those produced during the pandemic and recognizing the real world – make a less squeaky and unpleasant finale. Yes, this show seems to be aware that Josh Corman is exhausting and selfish – Gordon-Levitt co-wrote and directed the finale, so he’s not so oblivious if any of the main characters are pointing out Josh’s privilege. But it’s still frustrating having to wait half a season for a show to finally become tolerable. This spectacle has become tolerable. It would have been nice if it started that way instead of ending up in a big picture.