Gordon-Levitt’s Josh Corman is introduced as a fifth-grade teacher, treading cautiously when dealing with his young charges. Over time, however, it becomes clear that he turned to teaching when aspirations to be a musician fizzled, and that he’s pretty well sleepwalking his way through life.
The premise does not make, admittedly, for a particularly dynamic protagonist. The premiere finds Josh and his roommate/buddy Victor (Arturo Castro) deciding, after some debate, to go to a club, but his awkward encounter with a woman mainly highlights the “Those who can’t do, teach” aspect of his existence, which is to say that Josh is lost and unhappy, despite his blandly pleasant demeanor.
There is, in fact, a lot of awkwardness along the way, including Josh’s interactions with his mother (Debra Winger), and an ex-girlfriend (Juno Temple), who eventually comes into the story too.
The idea of TV series indulging the creative whims of movie stars is hardly new, but Gordon-Levitt brings a level of ambition to the storytelling that isn’t just dabbling. That said, “Mr. Corman” represents a thin premise — the travails of thirtysomethings, after all, had an entire 1980s series devoted to it — so its charms almost entirely consist of small moments and its protagonist’s thinly concealed angst.
Pencils down, the show earns a better-than-passing grade, delivering more satisfaction than the syllabus would suggest. Consider “Mr. Corman” one of those instances where Gordon-Levitt and company do enough extra-credit work to legitimately class up an otherwise basic course.
“Mr. Corman” premieres Aug. 6 on Apple TV+.