Is Ordinary Joe Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Parrish Lewis/NBC

Created by Matt Reeves and developed by Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend, the drama series ‘Ordinary Joe’ centers around Joe Kimbreau, who confronts three life-altering choices upon his graduation from Syracuse University. The series follows Joe’s life ten years after graduation in three different timelines: as a nurse, musician, and police officer respectively. The episodes of the show explore the similarities and differences between Joe’s parallel lives with regard to each of his choices. As his distinct lives captivate the viewers, one must be wondering about the reality that shaped the show. Let’s find out!

Is Ordinary Joe Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Ordinary Joe’ is not based on a true story. The show is conceived by Matt Reeves, seemingly inspired by the format of an unproduced show Caleb Ranson developed for ITV. “This idea hit me personally, wondering about the choices that you could have made. 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,” Reeves said to EW. The creator initially developed the idea for ABC after concluding his previous show ‘Felicity.’

For Reeves, the project was a stage for exploring the nuances and significance of choices one makes in life. “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,” he added.

Even though Reeves started working on the show for ABC, fate had other plans for the creator. While it was being developed at the network, Reeves had to choose to direct ‘Cloverfield’ instead of making the show happen. After a decade’s time, Reeves sold the show to NBC, who brought Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend to develop it for the network.

When Lerner and Friend came on board to develop the show for NBC, Reeves joined as an executive producer and guided them to make necessary changes. “We put a lot of ourselves into it, per Matt Reeves’ encouragement. When he met with us, he said, ‘This was a really personal thing to me at the time when I wrote it over a decade ago, and for you to do it well, you should put yourselves into it and make it personal to you,’” Lerner said to Collider.

Lerner and Friend made several changes to Reeves’ original idea, including changes to the setting and character details. The duo placed the narrative in New York instead of Northern California. The Lawyer Joe and the English Teacher Joe in Reeves’ idea became Nurse Joe and Rock Star Joe respectively in the duo’s vision. Joe’s son’s spinal muscular atrophy disease was inspired by Lerner’s own son, who deals with the same. Although NBC’s version of ‘Ordinary Joe’ is drastically different from Reeves’ original idea, it does depict the core Reeves envisioned years before the show materialized at the network.

“What is engaging about the show is that you look at it and say, ‘That’s what I’ve always wondered about for myself or the person who I thought I’d become.’ That’s what is really exciting about what the guys have done with the show. I’m really proud of it,” the creator added to EW. Even with its fictional origins, ‘Ordinary Joe’ succeeds in becoming a show about life as we know it in reality. It depicts the depth and dimensions of choices we make and the inevitable consequences that shape every human life.

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