Sunday, June 08, 2014

[TV] John From Cincinnati from David Milch

So Amazon hooked up with HBO to stream their shows for all of us Prime subscribers.  Interestingly, it isn’t all their shows.  Some of the older ones are excluded, like Larry Sanders, Dream On, and a couple of one season wonders, like the late lamented John from Cincinnati.  (You can stream J from C, but it’s not covered by Prime, you have to pony up cash for it.)  That’s a shame because if there was ever a series that merited a quick binge watch to see how time has treated it it is J from C.

J from C was decidedly experimental and self-indulgent.  Milch was coming of the unfortunate cancellation of soaring Deadwood and HBO was clearly ready to let him try whatever he wanted.  He came up with this surreal tale of a severely dysfunctional family of world class surfers in Imperial Beach, CA, on the edge of Mexico.  One day an odd fellow appears and becomes integrated into their lives.  A pure innocent, he seem to have some kind of clairvoyance or even magical skills, or maybe he’s just brain damaged.  The family patriarch starts levitating uncontrollably (just slightly).  Two of the roles are played by former teen idols (Luke Perry and Mark-Paul Gosslear) something that Milch would not do by accident.  It gave a sense that it was a random swirl of any wild thing that came into Milch’s mind, without rhyme or reason.

But it carried the usual Milchian dialogue; words selected for beauty and effect, not utility, this time with a hint of savagery to them.  It was also deadly funny, a thing that was missed by many in their confusion over plot.  It feature one of the finest acting performances ever by Ed O’Neill (yeah, the dad from Married with Children).  Its cancellation was disappointing but not surprising.  If you have any interest in an adventurous attempt to do something special with TV drama, it’s a gift.  But it’ll cost you, even if you’re a prime member.  (I think $20 to purchase the whole season.)

Milch’s relationship with HBO has been rocky to say the least.  Deadwood is the GOAT, but it never did get finished, even though it ended almost perfectly.  J from C was justifiably cancelled after a single season.  Luck was unjustifiably cancelled after a single season due to HBO cowardice. His latest project was called The Money and was to star Nathan Lane, but HBO decided not to pick it up at all.  It seems like a downward spiral since Deadwood, and yet, HBO has extended Milch’s contract through 2016.  I wouldn't put it past HBO to never produce any of Milch’s shows but keep him on the payroll to prevent the possibility of a hit show appearing somewhere else.  Hoopleheads.