As 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.
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!