Review: John from Cincinnati 1.1

John from Cincinnati

In the US: HBO, Sundays, 9pm ET

In the UK: Not yet acquired.

Repeat after me: “I’m sorry. Did I miss something?”

Go on.

I’m sorry. Did I miss something?

Easy huh?

That’s lucky, because you’ll need to use this phrase a lot if you choose to watch John from Cincinnati, the new show from Deadwood creator David Milch. It could well be the most brilliant hour of television yet devised. Or it could be the most awful. I’m really not sure.

Ostensibly, it’s a show set against the community of Imperial Beach, California, based on the “surf noir” books of Kem Nunn. But that’s like saying that Deadwood is about the Wild West or The Wire is about cops.

We have Bruce Greenwood as a pro surfer now past his prime thanks to a knee injury. He has a rubbish marriage with his wife (I think. I’m sorry, I might have missed something), Rebecca de Mornay. His son wants to follow in his footsteps as a surfer and Luke Perry wants to be the kid’s manager; his other son (I think. I’m sorry, I might have missed something) is too busy dealing drugs (I think. I’m sorry, I might have missed something).

This is where the weirdness begins. Greenwood thinks he has a brain tumour because he imagines he can float. Except other people can see him floating.

Then there’s the guy who’s just bought Greenwood’s old hotel (I think. I’m sorry, I might have missed something). He won his money on the lottery, but has a feud with Greenwood’s druggie son, because he accidentally beat him with a broomstick and gave him epilepsy. Never mind: teddy will keep him company.

Then there’s Ed O’Neill, Greenwood’s retired cop father. He’s just mental.

Then there’s John. He might be from Cincinnati, but unless I missed something, we don’t know that for sure. All we know is that he’s very mysterious and repeats everything you say to him very enthusiastically. He might even be Jesus.

I’m really just not sure if it’s brilliant or stupid. It’s like watching some distilled essence of one of Hal Hartley’s slightly pacier movies. I’m not entirely sure it’s my cup of tea, but it has a great theme and some great surfing moments and is probably going to grow on me. I suspect we have the beginnings of a cult on our hands though.

Here’s a stonking great big ten minute “Making of” YouTube video that hopefully explains everything. I doubt it though (I’m sorry, I might have missed something).


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.