Snap Judgment: 'John From Cincinnati'

John_lAs Austin Nichols’ titular manboy (pictured) kept blabbing on the premiere of John From Cincinnati last night, "Some things I know, and some things I don’t." And one thing I know is that people are either going to love or hate HBO’s new supernatural surfing series from co-creator David Milch (NYPD Blue, Deadwood). Indeed, editor at large Ken Tucker gave the show an A- in EW’s most recent issue, while I found myself rooting for a shark attack to wipe out its entire lot of characters before the episode’s end. (The better to force HBO to bring back Valerie Cherish, I suppose, and maybe for some genius studio exec to greenlight Rebecca De Mornay in Hand That Rocks the Cradle II.)

The thing is, I’m not one of those TV viewers who always need to know exactly where a series is taking them. I may be the last blogger alive who’s perfectly happy with the number of concrete answers he’s gotten during three seasons of Lost. But to me, the premiere of John From Cincinnati was intentionally obtuse and unrelentingly unpleasant, and the characters’ motivations seemed more a product of writers trying way too hard to be "edgy" than any kind of genuine desire to tell a story.

addCredit(“John From Cincinnati: John P. Johnson”)

Some of the questions I couldn’t get past: Why would Mitch (BruceGreenwood) assume his sudden ability to levitate (ugh) meant he had abrain tumor? Wouldn’t Shaun’s guardian grandparents have given at leastmomentary pause before letting him surf with his exceedingly skanky dad(Brian Van Holt), who’d just admitted to shooting up drugs earlier inthe day? Were the writers seriously aiming for wacky comic hijinksduring that scene where the suicidal gay man recalled how he’d beenviolated with a broom handle as a sixth grader? Is there a teenageralive who’d make fast friends with a creepy, blank-facedtwentysomething who appears out of nowhere, is befuddled by basicactivities like shaking hands or shutting car doors, and startsparroting everyone else’s conversations?

Maybe I’m just not patient enough to appreciate what Milch & Co. are offering, or maybe John From Cincinnatiis the perfect storm of pretentious storytelling, faux-shockingdialogue, and hammy overacting (I’ve got my eyes on you, Ed O’Neill!).Let the debate begin in the comments section below!


Comments (119 total) Add your comment
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  • Tamara

    Ugh. I didn’t think I’d make it through the whole hour. And I’m disappointed in myself that I did.

  • alex

    Loved the show, it hooked me pretty much instantly. Im intrigued as to where its heade, is John God

  • professor74

    The suicidal gay guy was not in there for laughs. I think everyone and everything has a point that will be revealed. I hated pretty much the first 75% of it and then I realized this is probably going somewhere.
    Plus, I don’t think there are any characters that we are supposed to like or root for, just yet. Because of Deadwood, I’m giving Milch a lot of rope.
    It is nice to Luis Guzman getting work.(though his stomach was huge!)

  • RCM

    Watched the show, but it was confusing and not initially interesting. It may take a while to warm up, but hopefully not as long as The Comeback, which didn’t get good until the last 3 or 4 eps.

  • Ray the XXX-ican

    It’s time for Michael Slezak to get back in the game.

  • Anonymous

    You know, I hated the first episode of Deadwood. Just hated it. It seemed pointless, with barely a shell of a plot and completely unlikeable characters. I kept watching it, though, because my husband loved it, and the rest of the first season was excellent. However, what worries me is how midway through the second season, it became a show just about horrible people doing horrible things to each other (I’m looking at you, Powers Booth), and I completely stopped watching. So I’m still very tentative on this show.

  • Bring back T!!

    Brutal show…painfully trying to hard. the lawyer? the over-acting addict? the non-sequiter gun in the air – laughing? the kid surfer who has the so-cal hair, but can’t deliver a line if his surfwax depended on it? Angry Grandma at costco? I know a few things…contrived.

  • Ed

    Slezak, you’re right, bring back The Comeback! I thought the Flight of the Concords sucked! Looks like it’s going to be only Entourage which gets my attention.

  • Phil

    I watched JOHN FROM CINCINNATI with my sister & she intitially looked at me going, THIS IS TERRIBLE. I had no clue the show was even premiering after the Sopranos finale since I’ve watched very little TV while I’ve been gone the past 2 weeks, but I decided to give this debut a whirl. I was presently surprised by the cast, including Brian Van Holt, who I think is one of the SEXIEST most under-used actors in all of Hollywood. His drug addicted surfer wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, nor was the unlikelihood of Ed O’Neill’s retired captain? sergeant? of the Imperial Beach community being such close friends with a legendary surfing family, whose former super-star son is not only a druggie mess, but actually even forbidden to step foot in Huntington Beach! I am willing to give this show a veiew more chances, but the writers need to decide where this is going. In the preview for next week’s episode, someone is heard mentioning that the motel is haunted? And really SATC’s Stamford as a surfer???

  • Todd

    No interest at all.
    Ed, don’t leave Curb Your Enthusiasm off that list.

  • Friday

    I actually thought Ed O’Neill was probably the best part of the whole show. Butchy seemed way over acted and I kept wishing that he was being played by Peter Krause…not sure why! The actor I guess just looks alot like him. Liked the Mitch character but couldn’t really get the Demornay. Have of it, I was trying to figure out what was going on. At this point, I don’t feel any kind of emotion or connection with the John character. Teen kid seemed realisticly non-emotional. It was great to see the guy who played Carrie’s gay best friend on SATC.

  • Ep Sato

    I watched ten minutes of this last night, and got that far only because of my own insistence to keep watching. The other 6 people in my living room kept asking me to change the channel as they all described the show as “unwatchable”.
    That Luke Perry’s in the show lost it a star immediately, and I was only going to give the show one star. Let’s hope Big Love and Entourage have good seasons to make up for “Married with Children on the beach”.

  • Julie

    This show was the worse piece of crap I’ve seen in a very long time. I watched in amazement at how they produced an hour of television seemingly without a plot or any reasonable dialogue. It was so jumbled and made no sense. I still have no idea what the show is about, and I didn’t even realize which one was John until about 45 minutes in. What’s his deal? Is he mentally retarded? What’s with that guy levitating? Is he a superhero? Why is Al Bundy obsessed with birds? If this is HBO’s answer to the end of the Sopranos, then they may as well give up now.

  • Kevo

    I was still confused over the last minute of the Sopranos so I didn’t really pay attention to this show. I watched the last 20 minutes and found not one likable character, except for the title character.

  • colbyfan

    Thank goodness you and your snark posse didn’t like the show. Now you can move on to The Simple Life and leave us Milch fans alone with our new show.

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