Monday, August 13, 2007

I Don't Know Butchie Instead

For the past eight weeks, I've been watching HBO's latest drama, John from Cincinnati. Last night was the season (and probably the series) finale. The promos for this episode promised, "All will be revealed".

So, I watched and waited ... and when it was all over, I was left scratching my head and trying to figure; had I just witnessed a work of genius, or a self-referential piece of middle-brow crap.

John tells the story of a loosely arranged group of people from Imperial Beach, California (a town that was once the surf capital of the states, but is now pretty much run-down). We focus on the Yost family, There is Mitch Yost (Bruce Greenwood), former big kahuna; his unhappy harridan of a wife, Cissy (Rebecca De Mornay); their drug-addled scruff of a son, Butchie (Brian Van Holt); and Butchie's son as well as grandson of Mitch and Cissy, the great surfer wunderkind, Shaun (Greyson Fletcher).

Surrounding the Yost family is a rouge's gallery of flotsam who live and work in Imperial Beach. Chief amongst these oddballs is former cop and current crazy-man, Bill Jacks (Ed O'Neil), a man who talks to his dead wife, as well as his caged birds. As crazed as he may be, Bill seems to be fond of the Yost family, and is very protective of the youngest in the clan. Conversely, Link Stark (Luke Perry) is the sleazy head of a surf-goods agency that wants to sign the youngest Yost and make a lot of money off the little surfer boy.

There are more oddballs walking the sand of this town including a couple of thugs from Hawaii, a gay man with horrible secret in his past, a lovable but dim Hispanic handyman/cook, a former porn-star, a Vietnam vet, a doctor who witnessed a miracle, a filmmaker with a hidden agenda, a computer geek with a hair-lip, and lawyer who is a surf groupie...

One day, into the life of these despots wanders a sweet faced young man who calls himself, John (Austin Nichols). John is an enigmatic character who repeats what is said to him, or what he hears - which drives those around him even more batty. It also seems that John does not sleep, nor does he have any normal bodily functions (an hysterical moment in the first episode with John being led to a bathroom and not knowing what to do establishes this fact).

Meanwhile, as John is making himself known, strange things start happening in Imperial Beach; Mitch Yost begins to levitate, complete strangers start having the same dreams, a parakeet brings a young boy back from an accident that should have left him brain dead and paralized...and I was hooked.

The series covered nine days in the life of these people, and every day, things get more and more odd. From the start, it seemed that the program was channeling all kinds of spiritual and biblical allusions, even going so far as John revealing his last name (Monad - click this link to see what the word represents). Soon, John, while not engaging in echolalia, starts talking about his "father" in very old-testament terms). Furthermore, John survives two knife attacks fully unscathed -- who is this guy, the second-coming of Christ?

And so I signed on at the start, and stayed with John, even when it seemed to get as dense as pea-soup-thick-fog, hoping that eventually, as promised, all would be revealed.

As it turned out, I was left with more questions than before.

In a nutshell: John and Shaun have disappeared, strange stick-man figures start showing up in Avon catalogs and walls, a weird website appears on line while everyone is out looking for the missing boy ... and then the next morning, Shaun and John appear surfing back into to town. When asked where he'd been, Shaun tells his father, "Cincinnati" and points up - later on he asks if he can stay with John... Mitch begins levitating again, Linc throws a parade for Shaun, John continues babbling about his "father" and Bill goes back to his late wife's sick room, tells her what happened and his missing parakeet flies back home through the window.

The last thing we hear is John saying, "Mother of God, Cass, Kai." with the shot of someone surfing - it should be explained that both Cass -the filmmaker- (Emily Rose) and Kai -surfer chick, former girlfriend of Butchie-(Keala Kennelly) have both spent time with John, and have both had strange visions and experiences because of it. Does this mean that John impregnated them? Or that he acted like some kind of archangel who intervened on behalf of god who wanted a couple of non-virgins to deliver the new messiah(s)???

So now it's over, and as infuriated and confused as it left me, I do hope that their is a second-season of the program - I'd hate to think that I came this far to be left hanging ten on a wave that never seemed to crash.

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