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SHOW TRACKER

A short, strange trip into oblivion

HBO cancels the quirky 'John From Cincinnati' after Sunday's episode. Viewers and critics alike ask, 'What just happened?'

August 15, 2007|Ann Donahue | Special to The Times

Farewell, "John From Cincinnati," we hardly knew ye.

Or to be more accurate, we hardly understood ye.

HBO confirmed Tuesday that the David Milch-created drama "John From Cincinnati" would not return for a second season. Critically pummeled for its dense story lines that eschewed logic, the show will end its 10-episode run with what aired Sunday.

True to form, what wound up being the series finale was inscrutable. John (Austin Nichols) and surfing prodigy Shaun Yost (Greyson Fletcher) returned from what can be described only as a Laird Hamilton-style surfing tow-in from heaven, outfitted in stylish camouflage wetsuits. Shaun, after this mysterious sojourn, became as incomprehensible as John when asked about where the duo went. (He replied "Cincinnati.")

John rambled something to surfing promoter Linc (Luke Perry) about 9-11-14, like he suddenly read the Book of Revelation and wanted to jabber about it. Cineaste Cass (Emily Rose) filmed the whole scene with her video camera, which seemingly had magic Wi-Fi capabilities and beamed the scene via the Internet. A new set of hit men came from Hawaii to Imperial Beach and wandered around to no conclusion. A TV newscaster recognized Shaun's mother, Tina (Chandra West), from porn. And Linc persuaded the whole family -- John included -- to sign with his surfing company, Stinkweed, and have a parade to celebrate Shaun's return. Mitch (Bruce Greenwood) seemed to stop levitating after the deal was done, which is good because treatment for levitation is totally not covered under Stinkweed's HMO.

And with that, "John From Cincinnati" threw in the towel. For the uninitiated, it may seem like a mishmash of story lines and characters; many regular viewers felt the same way. (Among the comments on the Show Tracker blog after the finale, "Mike" wrote: "The writers of this show should never be allowed to write another television series for the following reasons: 1) The characters and their roles had absolutely no purpose. 2) The writing from episode to episode got worse and worse. 3) The series had no plot and no conclusion to any of the flimsy story lines. It was like a 'Deadwood' reunion on a crappier show.")

As for a through line, it appeared from early episodes that Linc was the root of all evil, that he was trying to corrupt the Yost family by co-opting their surfing talents into something mainstream and marketable. And yet, in this episode, it seemed as though John favored the family signing up with Linc because it would help get "his father's" word out. There is a group of X Games moto athletes who call themselves Riders 4 Christ, but for some reason I doubt that's what they were going for with "John." Actually, I take that back -- I have no idea what they were going for with "John." Or did I just fall asleep during a critical two-minute explanation of what happened and now I'll be forever in the dark?

It's not good for a show to make viewers question if they were actually conscious for the entire episode.

On top of all this, surfing (ha, get it?) over to StinkweedUSA.com, a website that was part of the promotional banners in the scene with the parade, muddled matters even further. Yep, it's a Time Warner site (check out the privacy policy) -- and there's exactly one mention of Shaun Yost on the whole thing, as far as I could tell, a reference to his "sprained neck" from an early episode.

Baffling.

Was the site not updated when the response to "John" didn't go as swimmingly as hoped? Or is it an indication that there's an entirely parallel story line that was never explored?

Hey, I guess it's like life. More questions than answers.

For more Show Trackers, go to latimes.com/showtracker.

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