John From Cincinnati Season 1 (HBO) [DVD]
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From the creator of the award-winning series Deadwood comes HBO’s mystical, mysterious and provocative new drama.Just north of the border, in the tired coastal town of Imperial Beach, California, live three generations of Yosts: surfing royalty turned society misfits. The Yosts’ reign and reputation, once defined in the curl of a perfect wave, has been eroded by years of bad luck, addiction and hubris. But just as things are looking like they can’t get worse, a stranger named John arrives – and the Yosts’ banal existence is lifted into something profound, miraculous and, possibly, universal.
The world conspired to give John From Cincinnati a single season run on television screens, courtesy of HBO. And yet, thanks to the endurance of the DVD format, it’s surely ripe for discovery by those who missed it first time round.
It’s from David Milch, the creator of one of HBO’s finest ever shows, Deadwood. This time, though, it’s in the present day, and focused on the Yost family. Described as surfing-royalty-turned-society-misfits, the Yosts are a complicated family whose life changes when a stranger by the name of John walks into town. And that’s when things gets really very interesting, with often quite oddball events following in his wake. Starring Rebecca De Mornay, Bruce Greenwood and Austin Nichols, even in its weaker moments, it’s a fascinating and very ambitious show.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that John From Cincinnati struggled to snare a mainstream audience though, given the sheer audacity of some of its thinking (and we’ve no intention of spoiling it here). There’s such a collision of ideas and subtexts here that it can be sometimes quite a job to keep on top of it all. But put the effort in, and the rewards, just as with Deadwood, are rich. It’s challenging, intelligent television, and even though we only got ten episodes of it, it’s hard not to be grateful for them. --Jon Foster
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Top Customer Reviews
The cast, which ranges from first-time performers and amateurs to seasoned character actors and old Deadwood regulars, are a mixed but entertaining bunch, with Ed O'Neill's tortured ex-police officer Bill Jacks standing out. Fans of The Wire might also look out for Paul Ben Victor who played Spiros, giving a demented turn as twitchy Palaka.
If you don't mind the weird, then this is for you, and if HBO had given it a chance they'd have had something to rival Twin Peaks for in-depth character-driven kookiness. As it is, we'll have to settle for this; a mesmerising ten-episode arc, that, though open-ended, has as many memorable, touching and laugh-out-loud funny moments as many shows that lasted for years.
This is definitely not for everyone, and the 5 stars I've given above will likely baffle some. The show is initially very difficult, but pretty soon what comes across is an addictive story told in a unique manner. Some people will hate it, but those who don't will adore it. A real shame it wasn't given more time by HBO.
In a sense, John From Cincinnati, is a familiar idea: a dysfunctional family is visited by a strange, stranger, who proceeds by his influence to correct the ills of the family. As the series progresses, this benign influence begins to extend, not only to the surrounding community, but out, it is hinted, to the rest of the planet as well.
The mysterious John Monad (Austin Nichols), with his comically expressive face, described by another character as "A tall drink of water with a poodle hair cut," appears apparently from nowhere, doesn't know how to shake hands or cross a road safely, but is able to produce out of his previously empty pocket, a roll of money, a credit card (with unlimited credit on it), and a phone (with infinite minutes). Strange things happen during his visit: a man begins to levitate, a dead bird returns to life, a brain-damaged boy is healed. John is not able to talk directly about himself or the events he puts into motion. He can only repeat back in variations what others have said to him, creating much Johnspeak: quotable and oft-repeated phrases which he's obliged to fall back on.
Not for the casual viewer, John From Cincinnati demands concerted attention.Read more ›
Enter John, mystery man. He seems like a novice angel, despatched (somewhat prematurely) from on high to do good. Those he meets are puzzled by his lack of social skills, his main means of communication repetition of words he has heard (which, in fact, often works surprisingly well).
Slowly but surely THINGS begin to happen, ranging from the strange to the positively miraculous.
Austin Nicholls as John is the main reason to watch, there about him a beguiling innocence. Other performances are also enjoyable, including the mobsters increasingly out of their depth. A major drawback, however, concerns some of the key characters. They are so hard to like, that grandmother especially. The 18 rating is presumably because of their expletives, which many viewers may feel do the series no favours.
Another barrier to enjoyment is the deliberate obscurity, which some may call pretentiousness. Check out the "Decoding John" bonus on Episode 6, creator David Milch attempting to explain to the cast the thinking behind some of the lines they are expected to say. Those around him seem bemused. If they find it hard to understand, what hope for most viewers?
I wanted to like the show far more than I did, but felt it trying to be too clever for its own good. Clearly the series has its strong admirers, they detecting in it matters most mystical and positively wondrous. Others may feel the best has not been made of the undoubted talents involved.
Critics are thus divided, but there is one point on which they can agree. In no way can "John from Cincinnati" be regarded as bland.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Quick, but unfortunately the dvd case was gravely damaged :(Published 2 months ago by Kenneth Danneels
I discovered this series after reading about it in The Guardian newspaper column:"Your Next Box Set". Read morePublished on 8 Jun. 2014 by Mark M.
Being an HBO fan I have to say this is one of the most offbeat series I have ever watched. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though most of the time I was not sure what was going on. Read morePublished on 10 Jan. 2014 by Muppet
Dark, gritty, powerful stuff; it pulls no punches.
The actors perform well with this demanding writing. But... Read more
Not for me for my husband who says this is great so was pleased to receive this as a giftPublished on 28 Jan. 2013 by sarah31
John from Cincinnati is remarkable for a number of reasons. Firstly it is a program that plunges headfirst into a world of inexplicable events and bizarre narratives, throwing out... Read morePublished on 19 Nov. 2012 by Greggiboy
Complex, challenging, surreal, awkward, powerful, confusing...no wonder this show never made a second season. But do you know what? Read morePublished on 2 Aug. 2010 by M. W. Hatfield
Thought this was worth a gamble being HBO, as most of their other programs are great, but I was wrong. It's very random with abstract storytelling that goes absolutely nowhere. Read morePublished on 11 Feb. 2010 by P
an interesting idea but in the absense of any likable characters it wasn't a good purchasePublished on 7 Nov. 2009 by Amazon Customer