“John from Cincinnati”: Curiouser and curiouser

JfcgrayguyAmid all the TCA and Emmy craziness, I finally caught up with this week’s “John from Cincinnati.” As Johnny Bravo would say, whoooaaa momma!

“His Visit, Day 5” is television of the absurd. Ionesco-TV. Samuel Beckett could’ve written the closing scenes with the motley crew hanging out in the motel parking lot, with assorted dead-gray ghosts and fantasy figures. You gotta give HBO credit for having the corporate courage to pay for it and put it on the air. It’s TV that keeps on giving. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t help but spend hours turning it all over in your head trying to answer the question “what just happened?!”

In fact, amid all of the mega-bizarro stuff, there were some discernable, and disturbing, plot-moving points served up, along with some important backstory details dropped in “Day 5.” John’s spacey soliloquy at the end is full of clues, at least I think they are after spending the past few days thinking about them, even when I was trying not to.

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  1. A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life. A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.

  2. When love has already become “chicken ribs”, when it is tasteless to eat but waste to throw away, what will we be supposed to choose?

  3. please don’t miss the brand of Canada goose when necessary. (yang)

  4. Michael Mink says:

    This show was incredible and will stand the test of time even if HBO lets it go for good. I can only hope that if they do another network will realize how much “big and huge” is left in Cass’s camera and wrestle Milch away from HBO to do some more soul searching.

  5. Bo Fahs says:

    Well, this show wrapped around generations and included them like no other. I mean, our little hottie from “Risky Business” as a grandmother? C’mon, what could be better than that? Oh, I know – JOHNNY FEVER!! The most realistic criminals in the annals of TV. Some kind of God/Child/Man who doesn’t know how to take a dump. Good enough for me.
    Maybe the problem for the execs is that, when the episode would end, we’d turn down the TV and talk for a half-hour, or maybe rewind and watch it again. Too much brain usage, guys?
    A great show with a great cast and characters. Bring it back, please.

  6. Will Cade says:

    Brilliant series. Difficult to follow on first viewing, but with repeated viewing the meaning becomes clearer. Even if you ignore the questions about Johns role and the meaning in what he says, the show is mainly about the coming together of a group of people after a miracle (the full recovery of Shaun from his accident). Johns arrival and purpose is a mystery but his influence is definitely positive in a number of ways: He helps Butchie overcome his drug addiction which allows him to become a father to Shaun, Sissy finally lets go of her guilt over Butchie and is able to let go of Shaun, Mitch finds something other than surfing to live for, and every other character similarly have turned a corner in there lives and offer themselves to help the Yost family. All in all a very positive and upbeat show. The full comprehension of every aspect of the show is not important, like surfing itself which is an extremely complex sport, a surfer does not require a conscious understanding of the motion of the waves but relies on an instinctive understanding which cannot be easily described, but overall its execution is a thing of beauty to behold.

  7. Will Cade says:

    Brilliant series. Difficult to follow on first viewing, but with repeated viewing the meaning becomes clearer. Even if you ignore the questions about Johns role and the meaning in what he says, the show is mainly about the coming together of a group of people after a miracle (the full recovery of Shaun from his accident). Johns arrival and purpose is a mystery but his influence is definitely positive in a number of ways: He helps Butchie overcome his drug addiction which allows him to become a father to Shaun, Sissy finally lets go of her guilt over Butchie and is able to let go of Shaun, Mitch finds something other than surfing to live for, and every other character similarly have turned a corner in there lives and offer themselves to help the Yost family. All in all a very positive and upbeat show. The full comprehension of every aspect of the show is not important, like surfing itself which is an extremely complex sport, a surfer does not require a conscious understanding of the motion of the waves but relies on an instinctive understanding which cannot be easily described, but overall its execution is a thing of beauty to behold.

  8. Geoff Simpkins says:

    This is the first show since Twin Peaks that could make me think about it for hours and hours. The most compelling show ever for me. My 16 year old daughter and I are so disappointed that there will be no more big and huge. We watched each episode many times, trying to glean small bits of information. To extinguish this obvious work of art should be an embarassment to whomever makes these calls. Where is your soul? Not a single one of your other highly respected shows, including the much over-hyped Sopranos, has the depth and possibility of JFC. Get a clue and do the right thing. Give the show a contract until 9-11-14.

  9. Geoff Simpkins says:

    This is the first show since Twin Peaks that could make me think about it for hours and hours. The most compelling show ever for me. My 16 year old daughter and I are so disappointed that there will be no more big and huge. We watched each episode many times, trying to glean small bits of information. To extinguish this obvious work of art should be an embarassment to whomever makes these calls. Where is your soul? Not a single one of your other highly respected shows, including the much over-hyped Sopranos, has the depth and possibility of JFC. Get a clue and do the right thing. Give the show a contract until 9-11-14.

  10. Zach Savage says:

    John from Cincinnati was one of the best shows ever made because it lingered in your mind and actually affected your life. It was more than entertainment. It soaked into your soul. HBO has made some spectacular programming… Deadwood, Rome, Wire, Carnivale, Sopranos. But they have killed any credibility with me when they cancelled JFC. To allow Milch to create this unusual show and then tear it from us is unfathomable. Why make it in the first place? Surely they knew it was unusual and quirky and strange and wonderful in a non-majority way. Why not let it continue to build what is surely one of the most devoted fanbases in 10 episodes ever? And surely it wasn’t so expensive to make like Carnivale or Rome that it was a great show but cancelled due to budgetary reasons. NO EXCUSES HBO! Hear your customers! BRING IT BACK! It doesn’t need to be a Sopranos phenomenon to be worthy of play!

  11. Arthur says:

    HBO, SEE GOD.
    Save John from Cincinnati.
    This is one of the most amazing shows.
    I feel like HBO’s really let their subscribers down by cancelling this show. John was one of the best things to happen to TV. Please bring the show back.

  12. Pete Walker says:

    I would just like to say (regardless of how cheesy or saccharine this may sound) that discussing the various plot points and progression with my 24 year old son has allowed us to leap a chasm of lost communication which developed after I married not quite four years ago.
    My son is studying English with a view to a career as a screenwriter. Our comparison of the scope of human interaction on Deadwood and on JFC has helped us broach larger subjects such as what it means to be human; the obligations we have to each other as inhabitants of our family, neighborhoods, towns, country and the planet; like that.
    The quality of the writing and the overall delivery of the show in its aggregate is at the very least thought-provoking.
    In times of rampant political interference with the quality of the programming throughout the medium, we have counted on HBO to produce TV as Art. If this show was cancelled due to numbers HBO has failed its public, lost its position at the top of the field as well as the artistic initiative it has developed, whether by accident or by deliberate design.
    The things the show was saying needed to be said.

  13. Bill Turner says:

    Save John from Cincinnati petitionhttp://www.petitiononline.com/savejfc/petition.html

  14. les says:

    This is compelling writing and deals with the nature of consensus reality in an inrtersting, thogth provoking way. So glad to find intelligent people discussing this show online.

  15. Hi Cynthia,
    Re: “I don’t know butchie, instead”
    In an early episode when Butchie would ask John a question that John didn’t know John would reply “Some things I know, and some things I don’t know.”
    Butchie asked him, when he didn’t know something to “Say “i don’t know, Butchie,’ instead.” and of course, John replies literally to what Butchie asked.
    anyhow. am enjoying your blog.
    -david
    ps: and how about “my father and i were born on the same day?”

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