John From Cincinnati

I know, I know, I'm supposed to be focusing on my studies. But this morning I (barely) passed my CFT oral exam, and my next exam isn't until monday, so sue me.

I actually was delaying writing this post about HBO's new John from Cicinnati until I'd seen at least one more episode, possible two, because to be honest, I'm not sure what to think yet. The show alternates between infuriating and enchanting me, and I don't know on which it'll settle. In fact, I'm not sure it will settle.

Let's start with the good: the athmosphere, for example. The credits - as you can see above- are wonderful, perfectly capturing the freedom but also the salty dirtiness of surfing. I hate surfing. I tried it when I was in LA, taking lessons in Venice because it felt appropriate, but I was horrible at it, and the waves kept coming at me and pushing me around and making me feel all around powerless and humbled, not to mention thoroughly infused with salty water and miserable. But I love the IDEA of surfing. The idea of not letting the wave beat you but conquering it instead or - as my tendency to want to vanquish the wave was apparently my mistake- to collaborate with it and use it to achieve something close to freedom.

As you can see, surfing has the tendency to become about more than just standing up on a big board. It's easy to mystify and aggrandise, to infuse with more meaning than maybe it's worth.

The show revolves around the Yosts, a "legendary" surfing family. Granpa hurt his knee and is still sore about it, dad got ruined by the money and the fame (see also: Lords of Dogtown), and the young son is the new hope. Their lives are filled with strange and stranger characters, and the series opens as the strangest of them all arrives: John from Cincinnati (same initials as Jesus Fucking Christ, as pointed out at the House next Door), who might as well be from Mars, has magical pockets and possibly magical powers, and who opens with "the end is near".

Whether I'll end up liking the show will probably depend on whether I can get to like John. He's still too strange now, but without it being made cute or quirky, and without allowing us, really, to laugh at him. I admire David Milch, the creator, for daring to write a character so unlikeable, cryptical, and impossible to identify with, but maybe there's a reason there aren't many like him around.

Then there's the mysticism, which is fascinating but bordering on ridiculous - and sometimes stepping over that line. There's Ed O'Neill (from Married with Children, if the name doesn't ring a bell) soliloquizing endelessly to his birds. What he says makes no sense, but it's so well-written, intriguing, and brought with such conviction by O'Neill that you can't help but listen.

In conclusion? I'll wait and see. But I'm definitely intrigued enough to keep watching.

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