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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 20 August 2013
California's surfing Josts have fallen on bad times, the family in danger of tearing itself apart. Can young Shaun's skills on the waves revive the acclaim father and grandfather used to enjoy? There are sharp divisions, though, on whether he should be allowed to proceed.

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.
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on 8 June 2014
I discovered this series after reading about it in The Guardian newspaper column:"Your Next Box Set". It was the reference to Twin Peaks that sparked my attention and it doesn't disappoint. It's weird, bizarre, surreal and any number of other adjectives. It's a shame that it was cancelled so soon. Ed O'Neill is great as the retired cop, Rebecca de Mornay has aged well and Bruce Greenwood has just the right mix of disbelief and sincerity. There is so much going on that you have to watch it two or three times to take it all in, and as for quotable dialogue, it comes in spades. Minor characters and their little dramas are just as watchable as the main story arc.Think of it like a 10 hour film, rather than a series. Recommended.
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on 3 December 2016
Very hard work, but strangely compulsive viewing. By the 3rd episode, I was on the verge of giving up on this bizarre show and chucking the whole box set into the bin. But still, I ploughed on right to the very end. The finale was a complete anti-climax. Never again!
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on 10 January 2014
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. If you like something that little bit different then this is for you. Your will either love it or hate it. It was left open ended and I certainly hope there is a follow up series.
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on 18 June 2017
Juvenile rubbish.
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on 27 May 2016
Quick, but unfortunately the dvd case was gravely damaged :(
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on 28 January 2013
Not for me for my husband who says this is great so was pleased to receive this as a gift
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on 21 October 2009
Much like Carnivale, another HBO series cut down too early, John From Cincinnati is a singular vision and an all-too-rare supernatural drama with a sense of real maturity to it. It is also pointedly surreal from the beginning and, unless you're paying attention, easy to get confused by; characters speak in curious code, frequently referencing past events the audience isn't privy to; an off-the-cuff remark in one episode may not gain relevance until two or three episodes later. Because of this, J.F.C. is a show perfect for DVD. It not only rewards but requires repeated viewings, and in returning to it over, you'll usually find something you hadn't spotted before. It's a David Milch show, and so the writing is of a very high standard, and as expletive-strewn as Deadwood was, especially in the opening episode.

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.
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on 22 September 2013
Dark, gritty, powerful stuff; it pulls no punches.
The actors perform well with this demanding writing. But...

So many dramas from America revolve around the wealthy; this series looks at the lives of a very disparate group (who are shown intensively interacting within a short period of time) some down on their luck, others into drugs, some wealthy by different means. I endorse many of the earlier reviews and the clear borrowings from religious ideology and symbology.

This seems to have been a deliberate attempt to create a cult TV series; this might have worked in America, though I suspect many there felt uncomfortable with the heavy borrowings from the Old Testament, and others unhappy on the lines of the furore created by 'The Life of Brian' by Monty Python?

On first watching, whilst the words are clearly 'English', it's usage seems so strange...
The writing is powerful, but attempts to pack too much in without giving time to develop the characters, and re-watching the series was necessary for better understanding of the nuances in dialogue and character - perhaps due to the clear divergence between American and British culture. Whilst intrigued by the writing, it was difficult to 'warm' to any of the characters, all (save John) having some personality flaw or other: Jesus did not entertain the powerful, but gave his time to the poor and needy; so does John.

On balance, I liked this show for really trying to expose a different aspect of American culture (warts and all) so at odds with the 'American Dream'; but considering this was an intense focus upon a short period 'in the lives of', what would a following series show? Subsequent days, or months later?
John says 'The End of the World is near'; perhaps pulling the series means this will never happen?!
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on 19 November 2012
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 very few lifelines for its audience to hang on to. It gives the air of being already in the middle of a story when we first arrive on the surfing scene of Imperial Beach, California, therefore demanding absolute attention and some initial guess work. Miss a bit, and you run the risk of being significantly left behind.

Secondly, it presents a title character unlike anything you've ever encountered before. John (played excellently by Austin Nichols) is a fascinating and baffling creation, whose origin, purpose and intentions remain totally unclear for most, if not all of these 10 episodes.

Thirdly it uncompromisingly requires thought, questioning, and imagination from its viewing public. You can't watch this half-heartedly, you've got to be invested in order to get anything out of it. It's a challenge both intellectually and viscerally. Repeated viewing is advisable and you'll certainly want to use that rewind button for a few of the more complex interactions.

It's also very well acted on the whole. Rebecca De Mornay and Brian Van Holt are especially effective, while Austin Nichols couldn't be better as the titular `John'. Even some of the surfing pros who aren't professional actors are more than competent.

All this praise is not to say that there aren't some flaws in this philosophical surf-noir surrealist black-comedy drama. The main focus is on the dysfunctional Yost family and the changes to their lives after the arrival of a mysterious stranger from Cincinnati (or not from Cincinnati as the case may be). The time spent with the other characters, especially surrounding the motel, can't help but sometimes feel like time spent away from the main crux of the matter. It can be hard to see why certain things are included and what the significance of some very odd conversations may be.

All in all it is an effortful but worthwhile affair that credits the audience with more brains that it probably should have done. I can understand why ratings were apparently poor, and the show probably works better in DVD format where one can move on to the next episode quickly. HBO made a mistake in cancelling this in my opinion, because it is such a unique show. It's a real shame to say farewell after only one season, I could have watched it for ages. Although I'd love them to do more, that seems very unlikely to happen. Still in a way that makes these 10 episodes very special indeed. It's definitely the kind of series that sticks with you for a lot longer than the time you spend with it.
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