Surf’s up for Milch as HBO takes skein

Duo shore up link with 'John' show

HBO and David Milch are back in business.

The network has greenlit 12 episodes of “John From Cincinnati,” a surf noir family drama set in Southern California from the “Deadwood” creator-exec producer.

Production begins in November for a premiere next summer.

“John” revolves around the dysfunctional Yost clan of Imperial Beach: a former surf champ, his unhappy wife and their drug-addicted son Butchie. Their lives are turned upside down by both the titular John, a savant who mysteriously shows up in need of surfing lessons, and a man who returns to avenge a wrong done to him by the Yosts decades ago.

Bruce Greenwood, Rebecca De Mornay, Brian Van Holt, Austin Nichols and Matt Winston star along with Greyson Fletcher, Luis Guzman and Ed O’Neill.

Project began to take shape earlier this year, according to Milch. HBO was interested in a surf/beach setting as a backdrop for a series, while Milch had been toying with an idea for a new drama about a dysfunctional family.

Meanwhile, Kem Nunn, whose work has been focused on dark novels with a surfing motif, was working with Milch on “Deadwood.” Between HBO executives and the writers, the idea for “John” was born.

“Kem had already written about the exact area ‘John’ is set, near the border between Mexico and the United States, an integral element to the story,” Milch said. “I then met with the Fletchers and the idea kind of fleshed itself out afterward.” He said there are only loose similarities between the real-life Fletcher family and the Yosts.

HBO entertainment president Carolyn Strauss said “John” is equal parts “surf series, family drama and David Milch show.”

“David uses that age-old convention — mysterious stranger comes to town — to his own unique effect,” Strauss said. Milch and Nunn wrote the pilot. Milch will exec produce with Mark Tinker, who directed the pilot, along with “Deadwood” executive producer Gregg Fienberg and Zvi Howard Rosenman.

Nunn, Peter Spears and Scott Stephens will co-exec produce the series. Herb and Didi Fletcher and Bill Clark are consulting producers.

As for “Deadwood,” which HBO and Milch agreed to wrap up in two TV movies (Daily Variety, June 5), Milch said he’d already begun work on the script for the first telepic, which he is aiming to have shot in time for a premiere next summer.

Still unclear is how much of the original cast will return, though Milch said he’s hopeful of getting most, if not all, the series regulars back.

Ian McShane, who presented Milch with an award over the weekend in Austin, Texas, is firming up his sked but Milch said the actor likely would reprise his role as Al Swearengen in the telepics.