Sunday, June 17, 2007

John From Cincy: You're getting a little hard to follow

Spoilers for "John From Cincinnati" episode two coming up just as soon as I update my temblor insurance...

What an intriguing, frustrating show this is. I want to give it the same kind of deep analysis that "Sopranos," "Deadwood" and "The Wire" merit, and yet I can barely make heads or tails of it at times. There's obviously something about it that's compelling me to keep watching (and it's not just loyalty to Milch, as "Big Apple" lost me around here), yet I'm hard-pressed to explain why I'm watching, or what the hell this show is about.

In fact, I'm so flummoxed by the damn thing that I feel the need to go straight to the bullet-points, rather than attempting any kind of rigorous analysis. Maybe I'll be more in the flow in a few episodes time, but for now let's take it piecemeal:
  • I'm not sure which irritates me more: the Luke Perry/Emily Rose long con that no one can be bothered to explain (shades of Wyatt Earp's "brilliant plan" that Milch never got around to telling us about on "Deadwood"), or the incoherent goings-on at the motel that lent this post its subject line. I don't know whether the motel stuff would be more or less appealing if the characters used plain English instead of Milchspeak; I have a sneaking feeling that the only vaguely interesting thing about Luis Guzman and company here is that they're hard to follow.
  • And the extended "Deadwood" reunion continues. Last week gave us Jim "Ellsworth" Beaver as Vietnam Joe and, of course, Austin "Morgan Earp" Nichols as John. This week we have Dayton "Charlie Utter" Callie nearly unrecognizable as Steady Freddy, Butchie's Hawaii-based drug dealer; and Garret "Jack McCall/Francis Wolcott" Dillahunt as Dr. Smith, who's going to have a whole lot of 'splaining to do after he discovers what Zippy did to Shaun. Not that I expect "John" to get a second season, but it would be amusing, in an in-jokey way, for Dillahunt to come back as a new character sporting a new hairstyle (maybe one of Butchie's junkie pals?).
  • Speaking of Zippy, is it coincidence that the bird can resurrect both itself and others at the same time that John and his magic pockets have arrived, or are the two phenomena related? Between the resurrection stuff and Cissy telling Dr. Smith that he'd get to crucify Shaun with more tests, this week would seem to put John's identity more in the Jesus column than the space alien column.
  • Cissy and Mitch are, on paper, the main characters of this show (John's more of an inciting incident in human form than he is a character), yet it wasn't until their fight in the hospital that I really felt like I understood them, or like they were that important.
What did everybody else think? Are you enjoying/understanding this more than I am?

22 comments:

Andrew said...

How awful were the ratings for the premiere episode? I can't think of a single drama that HBO has ever cancelled after just one season. I find this show intriguing enough, so I hope that's not the case.

I particularily liked how the earthquake, tremor, or whatever began at the exact moment that the drug dealer punched John.

I also think that the bird ressurection was related to John. The way O'Neill delivered his lines in the hospital room made it seem like some outside force was compelling him to repeat those phrases from earlier in the episode. Of course, that force may have just been Milch.

I also recently rewatched the big confrontation scene at the motel from the pilot. While all the characters are yelling at each other, John is just saying phrases to himself that are not repeated from anywhere else. Among the things he says are "Room 24 will give up its dead and the dead shall be forgiven" and "Shaun will soon be gone", which seem to connect directly with this episode.

The other things he said in that scene were "We are all frail vessels", "Where Ramon is from, they would build Mitch a shrine", and "One good blowjob rocked the Jew lawyer's world". For now, all those phrases will end up being played out in future episodes.

iffer said...

i agree that i couldnt figure out why i was watching...i knew exactly what was going to happen... but when he pulled out the bird i said to myself the last 30 seconds could bring me back another week... and even though i knew what would happen the way ed o'neill sold the shit out of it... it made me cheer and i will watch again next week

Kurt said...

I'm going to believe that John is Jesus or an angel until proven otherwise since I saw an interview with Craig Ferguson where Milch said that the premise of the show was if God were trying to reach out to us and if he felt a certain urgency about it.

Rick said...

1) Is HBO putting every episode On-Demand a week early Wire-style? (I watched this week's last Tuesday)

2) I love this show. I don't know why, but I do -- well, I think Ed O'Neill has a lot to do with it.

I feel like comparisons should be made to Meadowlands if only because of the timeslots and the fact that both series couldn't be more "out there."

Meadowlands seems incredibly forced, whereas the experience of watching JFC is far more akin to riding a wave (or so I'm led to believe).

Wallwriting said...

One of the things I try when watching TV or movies that "I don't get" is to give up on trying to get it. I just kind of let it go and sit back and enjoy whatever's on the screen, regardless of if I understand any of it. After letting go, I figure if I'm not enjoying it, there might be problems here. I remember having to do that with Mulholland Drive and enjoying the hell out it. I'm not so sure I'm enjoying this as much.

I don't think I would have made it this far if it weren't for the "political capital" Milch built up with NYPD Blue and Deadwood. There's no question this is an interesting show; I just question if it's a good show.

A J L said...

His last name is monad.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monism

Undercover Asian Man said...

After reading the comments of Tuck Pendleton last week about Milch having built up enough credit with his previous works to justify giving him the benefit of the doubt, I decided to stick with watching this show.

I thought this episode was even more boring than the last. John is getting to be annoying more than intriguing or amusing with his copycat routine. I struggle to pay attention when the motel trio or anything going on in the motel are on screen. I think the kid who plays Shawnie Yost is incredibly wooden and monotone to the point of distraction and taking me out of the scene. Grandpa and Grandma Yost are bitter characters who I'm still looking for a reason to care about. I find it straining believability that a guy like Butchie would hold hands with another grown male (John) to lead him around, which he has now done in both episodes.

The only character I think I like is the girl who works in the surf shop and Ted Bundy. The rest just irritate with their self-centered neediness.

I'm preparing for the possibility that nothing close to an explanation will be offered at anytime this season, and, with a very short run predicted for this series, none will ever be shown. I'm not bothered by this possibility.

Edward Copeland said...

I've seen the first three and I don't know what to think of it. I'll give it a few more episodes to see if starts making some sort of sense, but I have a feeling my patience might run out before the new episodes do.

Elwood said...

It was a big ole #2 for me, and I'm out. Maybe it's because I need an HBO drama break after The Sopranos ended, or I'm just looking for less "weird" in my summer schedule, but I didn't even get halfway through this episode before deleting it from the DVR.

I normally love David Milch, but I couldn't get into Deadwood either, but I hope to re-watch that on DVD and see if it catches me that way.

Jim said...

Um, Undercover Asian Man, I think you meant Al Bundy, the character Ed O'Neill played on Married with Children. Not Ted Bundy, the rapist and serial killer. I haven't seen Ted on the show yet, but there's always next week...

Nancy said...

For some reason, from the get-go I've had the sense that John is a Herald, announcing that one of three Yosts is the messiah. We've seen Mitch levitate and Shaun resurrect the dead, but John came for Butchie.

I'm still only moderately interested though.

Alan Sepinwall said...

No, John came for Mitch. His first appearance is to watch Mitch surfing and declare "Mitch Yost should get back in the game." He winds up with Butchie through his encounter with Vietnam Joe -- though, of course, you could argue that John deliberately crossed paths with Joe so that Joe would in turn take him to Butchie.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Getting back to the first comment:

How awful were the ratings for the premiere episode? I can't think of a single drama that HBO has ever cancelled after just one season. I find this show intriguing enough, so I hope that's not the case.

Sopranos did 12 million viewers; John did 3.5 million. Obviously, that's not a fair test, but even bigger than the ratings are the cost and production overruns. HBO put up with that (for a while) on Deadwood, which gave the channel enormous acclaim and prestige; thus far, reaction to John has been mixed at best.

Barring a major turnaround in the press, I'd be very surprised to see a second season.

Dark Tyler said...

But are the other HBO shows doing any better than "John" in the ratings?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Doesn't matter. The other shows haven't involved massive reshoots and cost overruns.

rukrusher said...

I am still mildly intrigued. But if you ask me if I can explain why someone should watch it I would fail as sure as Milch has done in the promos I have seen.

My biggest problem right now is the fact no one is really talking about John and the strange events but it is only two days. If they continue to not talk about it it will get frustrating, sort of like when the Losties, well Jack, just do not ask questions.

ooda said...

Damn, that was a great episode, though at times Shawn can be a bit wooden in his acting. But Andrew, damn good picking up on those signs of the future. I'm definitely watching those scenes over.

Dennis Wilson said...

per Alan Sepinwall: "Barring a major turnaround in the press, I'd be very surprised to see a second season."

Yes, especially with Chris Albrecht gone. TV execs have nothing to gain by renewing low-rated shows greenlit by their predecessors.

Dark Tyler said...

Damn, I'm kinda loving this show right now. The good thing is that at least with HBO you know there is some sort of closure at the end of each season. Hopefully by the time all 12 episodes have played out, we will have an idea of how exactly the end of the world is connected to Mitch Yost. :)

dez said...

Doesn't matter. The other shows haven't involved massive reshoots and cost overruns.

The who in the what now?

I really enjoyed this episode, a lot more so than the first. Some of the Milch mannerisms can be a little irritating (I hope to God the constant references to dumping have some higher symbolic meaning than just elimination), but overall, I'm intrigued. It helped that this ep seemed a lot more straightforward to me than the first (Shaun gets to be in the competition; he gets hurt; everyone gathers at the hospital; meanwhile, the hotel guy starts to confront his own demons and John continues to be...weird). Sure, there are mysteries, but I can wait to see how they unfold (I am a die-hard "Lost" fan, after all!).

Also giving props to Andrew for catching all of John's dialogue from the fight in the first ep. Unfortunately, I already dumped (ha!) the show from my DVR and I don't have On Demand (stupid cable co. doesn't offer it here), so I can't go back to watch because I'd love to hear it all as it occurred. Drat!

The only other thing that bothers me is John's basic similarities to Kyle from KYLE XY, except John doesn't appear to learn as quickly and of course, Kyle doesn't have magic pockets. Oh, and I think John has a bellybutton, though I haven't looked that closely :-)

Speaking of which, is there anyone here besides me who likes KYLE XY and THE 4400 and if so, is there a place you guys hang out to discuss them since Alan's not blogging about them? Because I'd love to yap about those shows with y'all!

Toby said...

This is just a theory I had, not sure if it'll bear out at all....

I'm also seeing John more as a Herald rather than a messianic figure himself. What if he's arrived on Imperial Beach as a modern day John the Baptist?

He's declared "The End is near" and prophesied that Shaun would soon be gone. We saw Shaun's eyes pop open in the hospital, but what if he really is gone and that's somebody else now using Shaun's body?

I'd think the Messiah just might want to skip the whole virgin birth and hassle of growing up and cut right to the chase with the first signs of his return. And since Shaunie was so catastrophically damaged with the broken neck and the loss of blood to his brain, it's not like he was going to be needing the body anymore.....

Like I said, just an idea, but this show seems just weird enough to support it.

Dan said...

I totally dig this show. It's a little out there, to be sure, but I found it to be really well acted, and enjoy that it fails to glorify the Yotes' existence.

I dont know who or what John is, but I'm excited to see, and I agree with the poster who draws the lost connection. People who like Lost will likely love John.