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'John from Cincinnati': The Kahuna has spoken

John300 O mighty oracle David Milch. Let's go through your resume, shall we? We have "Hill Street Blues," followed by "NYPD Blue," and then, most recently, "Deadwood." This gives me hope that somehow, sometime, "John from Cincinnati" will pull together and make some kind of sense. Sure, HBO's latest has all of Milch's rat-a-tat-tat mellifluously profane chatter -- which is worthwhile just to listen to, kind of like poetry read aloud -- but anything that's presented under the guise of narrative television needs to be something more than free verse.

Here's the cut-and-dried story told by the pilot: The Yost family, a surfing dynasty in Imperial Beach, California, is tres screwed up. Patriarch Mitch Yost, played by Bruce Greenwood, is a retired surfing legend dealing with a blown out knee, his brittle wife, Cissy (Rebecca De Mornay), and a son, Butchie, (Brian Van Holt) who traded his incredible surfing talent for the vibrant, glamorous life of a junkie.

What's currently dividing the clan is that Mitch's grandson Shaun (Greyson Fletcher) is yearning to test his surfing genes on the professional circuit and needs to get to Huntington Beach for a competition, where skeezy sponsors are swarming. (The fact that this means De Mornay, 48, is presented as old enough to have a teenage grandson defies even my wee math skills.) But all that seems so mundane, right? So throw in the mysterious John of the title, a demiaustistic Bible-alluding Greek chorus (portrayed by Austin Nichols) that follows around the Yost clan, and Butchie's flophouse/no-tell motel being sold out from underneath him to a guy he tormented with a broomstick when he was a kid (and now has a stuffed teddy bear to keep him company), as well as Mitch's possible brain tumor (or surfer's ear, or a Messiah complex, as he hasn't been to a doctor yet to be officially diagnosed, you see) that is causing him to levitate.

The actors, across the board, are engaging -- even the bit players like family friends played by Ed O'Neill, Luis Guzman and Willie Garson stand out with just a few lines -- and the surfing footage is Endless Summer-riffic. So what's the whole of these parts? Is it performance art from Milch or a cohesive story? We shall see.

(Photo courtesy HBO)

Comments () | Archives (9)

Shouldn't have left Deadwood.

I liked the show. The striking parallel within the show was the nutty fruit-cake lottery winner and that to Persons who have been abducted by clandestine subterranean psycho-subliminal laboratories and have languised in said secret cities for years with the lottery being the only option. I liked the parallel of the nutty fruit staring at the inaccessable beach and that of the 90505 and 90277 quandry and the fact that Torrance, who engages in the Human trafficking described above, doesn't really have a beach. Well, in name only for per zip codes they are as isolated as the lottery winner in the show. Interesting to see how this show goes.

I was intrigued by "John" and thought it was a real departure from most of the schlock on TV. As with a good book it will take a few episodes to place the characters and story lines into a whole. The hour flew by and I can't wait to see more.
The show is not for those who only get off on splattering blood, explosions and tractor pulls. You have to pay attention and think. A good idea for all of us in this cloudy world.

This show, while a bit unfocused, shows great promise. The depiction of the socal surfing scene, the U.S. counterculture / underground, a drug addict's world and other topics was very realistic and informative.

The dialog, while profane, was realistic for the setting.

This show made me laugh heartily out loud, multiple times. Last show to do that regularly was Deadwood (go figure).

I much prefer John... so far to soap-opera tripe like The Sopranos...

I can't wait to find out the truth about this mysterious man named 'john'.
alien from outerspace? second-coming of christ? Watch out for the little miracles. e.g. pockets full of cash in the just-right amount of cash, etc.

I found this show utterly boring. So bad that I will not watch more. And to think that Deadwood was killed for this? Ah, so a surfer show is art but Deadwood and Carnival were not? It's just TV but I'm paying for this rubbish and tired of HBO. Why bother watching, investing my time when they'll kill a show before its time yet keep the Sopranos going beyond its sell by date?

The pilot seemed to be more like a list of ingredients than an opening episode. It is apparent that the show has everything it should need to put together a good story line. Now, we wait. With that cast, setting, and production company, there is no excuse for failure to turn this into a fine show. They must give us more than they offerred up in the pilot, however, .....and soon! Otherwise, it will be like looking a one season-long trailer.

Its amazing how many people don't get this show. It is incredibly well written and visionary. Some of the negativity I'm reading confirms that the dumbing down of our civiization, as planned by the Bush family, is nearing completion. We're boning now Kai!

I think the more agitated viewers should just sit tight and wait to see what - if any- resolution/revelations take place. Last Sunday's episode was over-the-top weird, even for JFC (ooh!) but I'm willing to see how things shake out. Just the idea of a former porn star making bad tuna fish salad sandwiches is more powerful than any religious concept...


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