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(This post updated Monday evening, after thinking more about all that Mr. Milch had to say this a.m.)

“Each character has the opportunity to generate God by his or her behavior. All of us are the mother and father of God, to the extent we accept the limits of our humanity.”

David Milch, the Oracle of Imperial Beach, the co-creator with Kem Nunn of HBO’s strange and wondrous “John from Cincinnati,” was kind enough to indulge me in a few (but only a few) “what’d that mean” questions this morning as the hangover in the cerebral cortex from last night’s season finale was really settling in. In this viewer’s humble opinion, “JFC” wrapped on a high note — high as the “whoooooos” that Little Richard vocalizes in “Long Tall Sally,” the ecstatic R&B hit that was used to great effect in the final scenes.

The above quote is from Milch in response to my question about the very very last scene of Kai on the water. The shot of Kai expertly turning her body into a wave would’ve seemed to have stood alone, but then just as she turned her face to the camera to show a sly smile came the maddeningly intriguing voice-over from the John character: “Mother of God, Cass-Kai.”

What!? After a second viewing of the episode, I was almost confident in my interpretation of nearly everything else that transpired in the previous 47 minutes — even the pigeon-English scene between the two visiting Hawaiian drug dealers. But that voiceover clip at the very-very end threw me.

I should’ve known better than to think that Milch would’ve talked me through it frame by frame, explaining every syllable. That’s just not how he works. But he was generous enough to give me the above quote as a hint as to what he was getting at with that “mother of God” business.

(Pictured above: Milch in the center of a crowd scene from the “JFC” finale seg.)

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  1. Excellent interview, glad that you gave Milch room to ramble and didn’t press on that last comment – sounds like he wasted a second or two on remorse after all. You’ve totally sold me on this show – thanks again.

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  11. JoneZeee says:

    I just finished renting the series John From Cincinnati. I can only say that it belongs with a special few shows worth watching. Being There to see and experience this series was exceptional-I found myself weeping in the final episode when John and Shaun suddenly come surfing into shore. I found myself on my feet weeping with exhilarating joy. Wow!!!
    Thought provoking-hopeful and life affirming. As for the Sopranos always made me feel tired after watching. Bring JFC back it made me feel good about life. As for the comment about Ian McShane…I think it was more about the pull Ed might have had but I’m hopeful the even Ed would say that nobody can touch McShane. Just brillant!

  12. chatangel says:

    Thanks Cynthia.. I enjoyed your commentary throughout the entire show.
    I really miss this show as do thousands. John From Cincinnati is the highest ranked television show on Hey! Nielsen. Currently John From Cincinnati is rated at #4 in TV SHOWS. This should tell the idiots at HBO to get a clue and return John From Cincinnati for season 2!
    Keep in mind this is almost 5 months after the cancellation of the emotive HBO show John From Cincinnati! We the viewers of John are NOT going away..
    HBO will address us properly; we deserve an answer other than costs and ratings! Who or whom did Milch piss off with John Monad? Certainly not the viewing public with the exception of a few pissed Deadwood fans. HBO listening to so called critics. What the fuck??? How does one become a television or movie critic? Does such a degree exist?
    I did NOT have the opportunity to see Deadwood, I do grieve with them.. I certainly feel it would be a very wise decision for us all to work together on our “save the show or shows!

  13. Michael Mink says:

    I don’t think Milch was saying Ed O’Neil would be better in Deadwood than Ian McShane, just that having a recognizable name in the cast might have given him more pull with the execs. Just a thought

  14. Brenda Riese says:

    The premature ending of JFC made me feel like someone threw me off Imperial Beach and out of the Yost’s life without giving me a reason. My husband and I actually are in withdrawal; that’s how much we enjoyed the series. And no, we didn’t pretend to understand every little nuance — we just enjoyed being there. A ‘being there’ experience is something I can’t remember when I last had from a TV show. I didn’t get it from Sopranos, although there must’ve been another dynamic that kept me watching. I don’t miss the Sopranos. I do miss John from Cincinnati. I was almost glad to see Austin Nichols got stopped for DUI when I signed on today, just so I could feel the connection again. David Milch obviously understands the delicacy of connection in everything — the atmosphere, the characters, the story. The show had life so HBO killed it off. Doesn’t make any sense.

  15. I was greatly disappointed to hear that HBO canceled John from Cincinnati. While I’ve sent four postcards to HBO, I doubt that any amount of protest from subscribers will have any effect. I will be switching my subscription dollars from HBO over to Showtime, but in general, I’m going to be way more careful about which new series I invest time in. I think this is a “first” for HBO–to cancel a new series in its first season. If the series was really meant to be one season long, I could accept that, but I don’t think Episode 10 of JFC was meant to wrap up the whole series. I read on the NY Times web site that HBO has already executed a new long term deal with Milch to produce a new series and is waiting on him to deliver. I doubt very much that we’ll see any reversal in HBO’s decision with JFC. It would take a lot of hell from subscribers directly voicing their opinions and pulling out their subscription dollars.

  16. elizabeth says:

    Just had to say how disappointed my husband and I are about the cancellation. It was one of the few shows we enjoyed watching together. I just signed the petition to try and save it.
    I have never written to say this about any other show and I think there are many of us that feel cheated by the lack of closure. We’ll have questions about “What did that mean?” for a very long time, and we will seriously think about getting involved in another HBO series again.

  17. Johnboy Walton says:

    As much as I really like Ed O’Neil as an actor, including his Al Bundy days, Ian McShane’s portrayal of Al Swearengen in Deadwood makes him a GOD in the acting world imho.
    So I don’t understand Milch’s comments.

  18. scott says:

    Was he saying that he didn’t get along with Ian McShane, so that’s why he didn’t want to continue the series?

  19. Ray from Bellevue says:

    In the wake of the cancellation, I’ve finally found discussion boards talking about the show, and am just getting started on those. One thing I haven’t yet seen is commentary on the most obvious aspect of the show: A miracle happens and people respond in various ways.
    None of the characters seem religious to begin with. They range from good in a secular sense to evil. They all have to react to this event that is explicable only by reference to religion. A miracle has occurred, but the only apparent sources are a parrot and a parrotting nincompoop. Who the hell is there to worship?
    So you have Cissy, who reacts by doing the two things she always has done: protect her grandson and ream out everybody else. The miracle just strengthens these traits and makes her all the more frantic about them.
    You have Freddie, who catches sight of the miracle from the fringes and hangs around to observe and contribute his muscle and “let it play out” while he tries to figure out what meaning this has for him.
    You have Dr. Smith, who has the most direct reaction to the miracle. He realizes his science can’t explain this one, so he employs his scientific methods of observation and reasoning to try to understand this event that he knows had nothing to do with science.
    And you have several other characters who come into the moment of the miracle with set personalities and ways of thinking and feeling and who are mainly clinging to aspects of who they were as they realize they are becoming something different in a world whose groundrules seem suddenly jumbled up.
    This may be a total coincidence, but in trying to figure out what 9-11-14 might mean, other than the obvious date, I looked up John 9:11 to -14. Chapter 9 is about Jesus giving sight to a blind man, on the surface, at least. The story really is about the reactions of others to the miracle. As in Imperial Beach, people had to filter it through their own worldviews. The man’s parents and villagers who knew the man can only go by his straightforward account about Jesus rubbing clay on his eyes and telling him to wash them in a particular pool. But when the Pharisees are told, they splinter into quarreling groups, because they already had declared that Jesus is a sinner and blasphemer. One group doubts the story because Jesus is a sinner and couldn’t have pulled off a miracle. Another concludes that Jesus might not be a sinner after all because a sinner couldn’t perform a miracle. And so on.
    Does this sound like anyplace we know in Southern California?
    I don’t watch much TV that isn’t HBO. JFC I watched every episode and every rerun I could catch. It was vastly challenging, and that has been something I usually can get only from a handful of movies a year and from select novels. It obviously was going somewhere far beyond the bounds of the first several episodes. As hard as it was to figure out who John seemed to be, by then end it was clear enough he has to be something different. The easy theological explanation for him and the miracle seemed sure to be proved wrong in a second season or beyond. I was riveted by the story and eager for more.
    And then the *#&$*$( in HBO management canned the miracle that was John From Cincinnati.
    One thing I would like to know is whether Milch and company had advance warning of the cancellation and changed the ending of the finale accordingly to wrap things up and maybe put in some absurdities in John’s voiceover about the future, mocking the Six Feet Under finale.
    Another thing I would like to know is whether Milch and/or Nunn have plans to pick up the story in another place or form. It would hurt less is I knew something else was in the works. Maybe a novel by Kem Nunn continuing the story? Please!

  20. chris says:

    I think that John from Cincinnati was a brilliant show, Possible the most challenging program on television since the Prisoner. Its was smart, and odd and thought provoking, This advanced Television and its not for everyone, this is tv that your not necessarily supposed to get on a first viewing, TV culture has a passivity about it, especially in the recent era the audiences seem to want a everything wrapped up in a neat little bow, just like life…oopsie, life doesn’t work that way does it.
    The uproar over the Sopranos ending is a great example of this; for about a week and a half that was all anyone seemed to talk about; “what did it mean”, ‘ what happened next”. For those that didn’t figure it out here it is in black and white: Life went on, maybe something happend, maybe it didn’t but a for a flickering moment you had the same trepidation as Tony, is today the day? The maker of the show asks the viewer to use their imagination and the viewership isn’t always up to the task. What is even more remarkable is for that week and half it was the most epic tv ending since M*A*S*H, before the summer is over it became a Trivial Pursuit answer that most will get wrong.
    J from C ’s biggest sin is that it got cut to short, they could only hint at what was to be. My guess is that this choice was less an artistic one then HBO keeping it on a short leash. Sort of a -”if you can build a fanbase in 10 weeks your good, otherwise you can go to the isle of misfit shows “kinda thing. In fairness you can’t blame HBO, their sunday nights sells from either sexy or violent, John was neither. Instead its TV in search of it soul, and the audience seldom rallies around that flag. Dylan’s born again period anyone? As a commercial choice this is purely an outside shot, It requires the viewer to be actively engaged. Thats not a problem that “Sex in the City” or “the Sopranos” have. You can watch those shows drunk, and get the general gist of them. Whereas you could write a dissertation about any episode of J from C and still not totally get it. Thats not to say they weren’t well made shows, the just had a different level of detail.
    The great thing about an ambiguous show is that response to it can’t be defined anymore concretely then the show itself. There isn’t a right answer, or for that matter a wrong one, it just is. It seemed like the makers wanted to be able to hint at what was to come and did it with far more detail then one would suspect from the show.
    There is also a more sinister option, that it was planned obsolesce that HBO would can the show early and try and then use guerrilla tactics to grow support and audience. That would be a losing ploy though, the viewers of J from C a viewers that have premium cable, they have jobs and lives, and thinking they would take time away from those to sign petitions or send letters to the network is just sort of silly, after all if their main problem is the that you need the viewer to think, how can you expect them to take action.

  21. Liked'emboth says:

    Blaming McShane on the cancellation of Deadwood is like…blaming the Muslim neighbor next door for 9/11 (maybe Milch can understand that, since it seems to be a topic close to his heart). Although I thought Ed O’neil was probably the best part of JFC…Ian McShane WAS Deadwood! One of the best characters and some of the best acting ever to hit the small screen! I have to agree with the earlier post…ASK A $%#@sucking follow-up question! I want to know what the %&#$ he meant by that statement!?!

  22. Cristiane says:

    He has the gall to blame the cancellation of “Deadwood” on IAN MCSHANE? Who gave one of the greatest performances in TV history? Go f**k yourself, Milch.

  23. LimeJello says:

    “I wrote (“Deadwood’s”) Al Swearingen for Ed…If he’d had that part the show would still be running.” I was dying to ask him to explain what he meant by that, but by this time Milch had that sound in his voice of a man who’s ready to end the call, and I didn’t want to wear out my welcome.”
    Aren’t you supposed to be a JOURNALIST, Cynthia? Your credentials are impressive, yet you hear a statement like that and you’re too intimidated by Milch to even try to get an explanation to such a remark! Incredible…
    Please don’t be so afraid of asking the tough questions. You’re not going to make it much longer in that biz if you are.

  24. bob says:

    If I were McShane I’d stomp on Milch’s neck for that comment about O’Neil. McShane was an amazing performer in a cast of amazing performers, and the reason it’s not on anymore is because Milch screwed them all in favor of this now-cancelled dreck. Way to go, Milch.

  25. frank says:

    Can’t believe Deadwood was killed off in favor of this blige water series.
    Surfing? hardly any..
    Likeable characters? Few and far between
    acting? don’t get me started on kai, shawn, and cissy. Probably one of them most annoying single tone (all in “SCREEECH” ) roles for Rebecca DeMornay ever.
    Bring back deadwood, at least the overall stories were enjoyable, this show just showed a few cards then giggled at you with its smug cleverness then had a season finale that meant nothing. A parade? Stinkweed? Lame.

  26. A.Lewis says:

    I was a little confused about the Deadwood comment. As I think McShane made that show!!
    Also considering his ranting on the Deadwood 3 finale commentary, I feel he should join Mitch on one of his meditation retreats.

  27. Barbara White says:

    Thanks for the commentary – will be reading this again later. But if you get a chance to chat again with David Milch or Steve Hawk, please pass this along: The one bit that touched me the most and that also frustrated me the most was the past experience of sexual abuse Cissy perpetrated against her son. Butchie’s character was fantastic – a testament to the acting ,writing and direction. But as someone with some shared experience as Butchie’s I felt something that I’ll call frustration regarding the lack of even slight movement in terms of Cissy feeling remorse, atoning for what she’d done – I realize it the series occurred during a week only, but still – I was saddened that after the sharing by John in front of Linc of what had happened to Butchie that Butchie then gets into the car with his mother and son to go help out his dad. Guess that’s a personal thing – but when someone introduces something like what happened to Butchie into a storyline I always want them to do something good with it – show how much it matters for so long – and I didn’t want Cissy to get to continue being who she is. I know, I know, her grandson is moving out etc. But still – projecting my own stuff I suppose. But I’d love to learn more about what David and Steve and the other writers were thinking and wanting with that particular bit of storyline.

  28. K Adams says:

    Loved the Series… Bring back my John from Cincinnati. I am very sad to hear there will not be a second season. The series touched my life in ways I can not explain. I belive all of us are on a spiritual journey and we’re all at different points in our lives. Some can relate to the Yost family, others can relate to the daily struggles of life and others see life is about having faith to overcome those struggles. Thanks for touching my life and giving me something to think about every week. The series made a difference in my life!

  29. Sophmom says:

    Thanks for the Milch interview post. I loved this show and my three sons (19, 22 & 25) loved this show. Their friends loved this show. It needed time and re-airing to catch on. It was complex and extended creatively into multiple channels like nothing before it. I particularly liked the press release about the parade and announcement in IB that appeared yesterday on the Stinkweed site. I hope that they continue with these online extensions and that there’s a DVD soon, re-cut with additional footage. It’s the first time in my entire life I’ve watched anything made for television over and over again. When I finished watching a new episode of JfC, I wanted to rewatch immediately, from the beginning.
    I blogged about it and in doing so I also noted the stark resemblance to Garcia Marquez, with a post that concluded with: “By the end of Episode 6, as our title character is interacting with and gathering other characters from many different places at one time before his speech tells them straightforwardly in a muddy sort of way who’s in charge here, something he predicts they’ll know whether or not they can quite remember how, and the thickest among us have figured out that human frailty and redemption are among the show’s central themes and that the laws of physics don’t apply to John from Cincinnati, just as it was evidenced in the show’s first moment as John appeared out of nowhere, magical realism set in So Cal, Gabriel Garcia Marquez channeled into new media. I hope John doesn’t disappear any time soon.”
    I’m deeply saddened by this morning’s news. I believe HBO is making a terrible and short sighted mistake.

  30. Lisa Torch says:

    Cynthia – thank you so much for your commentary on the show and for the enlightening interview with David Milch. Especially in light of this morning’s “cancellation” news, it was a welcome read.

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