John from Cincinnati
- TV Series
In Imperial Beach, California, the dysfunctional Yost family intersects with two new arrivals to the community: a dim-but-wealthy surfing enthusiast, and a man spurned by the Yosts years ago... Read allIn Imperial Beach, California, the dysfunctional Yost family intersects with two new arrivals to the community: a dim-but-wealthy surfing enthusiast, and a man spurned by the Yosts years ago.In Imperial Beach, California, the dysfunctional Yost family intersects with two new arrivals to the community: a dim-but-wealthy surfing enthusiast, and a man spurned by the Yosts years ago.
Seasons Reviewed: Series (1 season)
An average day in the life of the distant, dysfunctional Yost family starts to get a paranormal twist when a mysterious stranger (Austin Nicols) shows up at the door of Butchie Yost (Brian Von Holt), a washed-up former professional surfer, and insists he should get back in the game. He can only speak by repeating back what is said to him. He can cause father Mitch Yost (Bruce Greenwood) to levitate. He can send images over the internet with cryptic messages. He can make people disappear and he has something to do with a parrot who relays messages to motel resident Bill Jacks (Ed O'Neill) - among other things. A reporter and what may be a secret organization hot on their trail are also thrown in the mix.
History will probably record "John From Cincinatti" as the show that aired after "The Sopranos" finale sent the country diving for their cable remotes more prominently than it will mention it as another series from famed "Deadwood" scribe David Milch. It has one of the most lively and fun opening title sequences ever to grace the premium channel. So good, in fact that Milch ("Deadwood") actually flashes back to it in the show's pretentiously empty ending montage. But I'm getting a head of myself.
While "John" couldn't be further away from the lawless wild west and Milch's trademark backwards sing-song dialog, it has it's share of frustrations. OK, more than it's share as the show gets increasingly trying with each outburst fueled, narratively empty episode. One of the chief irritations is how crammed it all is. Milch, apparently feeling that the John/Yost storyline wasn't enough crams the periphery with the several guests at a run-down surf-side motel. The HBO/beach bum version of the "quirky colorful characters" you'd see in a "small town" movie.
Milch tries to create a world here, surround us with a diverse ensemble and immerse us in a barren self-absorbed California wasteland that contrasts a tourist nightmare of a motel with it's love of the sand and sun of the beach culture. But Milch populates this world with aggressively annoying characters and pushes HBO's freedom to the breaking point with little to nothing to reveal with each episode and paranormal activities whose connection with each other remains locked in Milch's mind after a 1 season cancellation. It is a show about a love of surfing that will probably annoy surfers. A show about the paranormal that will annoy the sci-fi crowd. Where "Deadwood" had a "Sopranos" serial structure, it still moved. "John" has seemingly no structure, spending the entire first season running in place using the blank-faced, parrot-nature of it's title character as a literal screen writing roadblock to keep the story moving anywhere.
It's hard to feel for the characters in any way when they are either screaming their lungs out in a fit of melodrama (Rebecca De Morney is the chief offender) or doing things no one can relate to for reasons they, themselves, often have no idea why. Here is the thing. I'm all for weird. I love weird and I love original. But you've got to give me weird with something else. Weird and funny ("Flight of the Conchords"), weird with intelligent storytelling ("Lost") or weird with a swing-for-the-fences David Lynch style of visual poetry ("Carnivale"). "John from Cincinnati" is weird for the sake of weird. I might call it original if I had any idea what the hell it was trying to say. But either way, Milch's bizarre "Roswell" by way of "Step into Liquid" story fails to give us anything to hold onto.
"John" is another self-indulgent, pretentiously enigmatic TV treadmill whose sole purpose seems to be to send the audience away bored and befuddled and then demand they come back for more if they want to know how it all "fits together". But Milch, unlike J. J. Abrams or David Chase, has yet to earn that trust. Without that it comes off more like "keep watching if you know what's good for you and maybe we'll throw you a bone in a few years". Something tells me this show could have gone on for 5 years and we'd still be standing in the same spot.
* / 4
- Sep 8, 2007