John from Cincinnati (***½)

Posted on June 1st, 2007 in Television by EngineerBoy

So we watched the premiere episode of John from Cincinnati last week on HBO, and watched the second episode tonight via TiVo, and we’re hooked, at least for now. We’ve been here before with shows that caught our initial interest but then took a wrong turn, but we have our fingers crossed that JfC will continue to deliver.

The show is centered around three generations of a surfer family in Southern California. The father is Mitch Yost (Bruce Greenwood), a weathered, older, legendary surfer whose career was cut short early by a bad knee, and now he only surfs alone at dawn. He drifts between noble and bitter, and he also has a tendency to levitate six inches off the ground. His son is Butchie Yost (Brian Van Holt), a late-20’s/early-30’s drug addict who was also on his way to surfing legend-dom when his career was cut short early by a bad need (drugs). Butchie is the father of Shaun Yost (Greyson Fletcher), who is a teen surfing prodigy in his own right.

Mitch is married to Cissy Yost (Rebecca De Mornay) who basically runs the family surf shop business. Their next door neighbor is a slightly dementiated retired cop played by Ed O’Neill. There are also other secondary characters played by familiar faces Luiz Guzman, Willie Garson, and Luke Perry.

The titular character is John (Austin Nichols), who appears to be…well…an alien? A robot? An extreme performance artist? A god? A prophet? A genie? A magical, cheerily autistic tabula rasa? Uh…hm. I guess what I’m trying to say is that John is a bit hard to decipher, but he moves through the lives of the other characters in inscrutable and mysterious ways.

The early focus of the show seems to be the fate of Shaun. Will he follow in his father’s drug-addled footsteps? Will he chase the same dreams as his grandfather and have his fate dependent on the continued integrity of his body? Will somebody just let the poor boy surf?

And what about John? He is the titular character, after all. He seems to have strange powers – for example, his pockets have a tendency to produce what those around him ask for. He also seems focused on two concepts – first, that “the end is near”, and second, that Mitch Yost should “get back in the game”.

Bottom line is that the show is interesting and different. It’s like a cross between Twin Peaks and Endless Summer and we hope the show stays on its current course and continues to deliver.

I’ve got my eye on you! No, I’ve got my eye on you!!!

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