John From Cincinnati

John From Cincinnati
The now-defunct collaboration between Deadwood creator David Milch and "surf noir” novelist Kem Nunn, John from Cincinnati should have been the cable television event of the 2007 season. Instead, it’s a hot mess of unfinished ideas, half-baked philosophies and a whack of C-list celebrities doing their best to elevate the material. The story centres on the Yosts — three generations of surf prodigies headed by tough-as-nails matriarch Cissy (Rebecca De Mornay, gamely playing against type) — and the misfits and loners that make up their extended family in the coastal community of Imperial Beach. Patriarch Mitch Yost (Bruce Greenwood) is a self-involved loner who’s never fully emotionally recovered from the knee injury that took him out of the game 20 years earlier. Son Butchie Yost (Brian Van Holt) redefined the sport in his prime but is now a heroin addict squatting in the derelict Snug Harbour motel just several blocks from his parents. Grandson Shaunie Yost (professional teenage skateboarder Greyson Fletcher’s first foray into acting — and it shows) lives with his grandparents, and is on the brink of greatness, but Gramps refuses to let him sign with Linc Stark (Luke Perry, finally looking as old and weathered as everyone always claimed he did on Beverly Hills, 90210), the sleazy surf agent responsible for Butchie’s downfall. Literally arriving from out of nowhere, mysterious interloper John Monad (Deadwood’s Austin Nichols) initially seems to be merely a mentally disabled, parrot-like, personally wealthy student of Butchie’s, but he inevitably reveals himself to be much more, magically manifesting requested objects from his pockets, repeating conversations he’s never heard and performing feats of astral projection. His first words are also the first of the entire series: "The end is near.” A meditation on the post-9/11 American psyche — as Milch seems to suggest in one of his two delightfully rambling and profane commentary tracks — or just a self-fulfilling prophecy? At first, the show coasts on a loopy kind of charm and some fine acting by a host of "Hey! It’s that guy!” actors, including Ed O’Neill, Luis Guzman, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Jennifer Grey (still unrecognisable after her misguided nose job) and Willie Garson, but it never comes together in any coherent or meaningful sort of way. Listening to Milch’s commentaries, in which he waxes philosophical on metaphysics, religion, primitivism, Marxism and miracles, one gets a better sense of the sprawling surf epic he envisioned, and "Decoding John: the Making of a Dream Sequence” is especially illuminating, providing a much clearer picture of the method behind the madness. Nevertheless, this grand attempt to "reorganize our sense of reality” is ultimately an ambitious, disjointed letdown, partially due to the fact that it was cancelled by HBO after only one season. For hardcore fans only. (Warner)