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What I Watched Last Night

No sooner had HBO aired the season finale of John From Cincinnati than it was announced the show had been cancelled. Or, to put it another way, using the show's own unique phraseology, HBO had "dumped out," giving John and company the big flush.

Here's how they went down.

Episode 7 - His Visit: Day Six
The episode begins with something we haven't seen a whole lot of in JFC (a show set among surfers) - actual surfing! Butchie (Bran Van Holt) is getting his groove back in the water and Kai (Keala Kennelly) watches from a distance. She takes this step in Butchie's comeback as the cue to bring his boards out of hiding. Seems she stashed them with a friend so Butchie couldn't sell them for drug money.

Let's check in with the rest of the gang: Cissy (Rebecca De Mornay) is still pissed off at the world; John continues to talk nonsense; Cass is still staring blankly at the footage she shot of John at the drum circle; and Greyson Fletcher (as the youngest Yost, Shaun) continues to give a wooden performance guaranteed to win him the television equivalent of a Razzie Award.

Linc (Luke Perry), the agent pushing hard to sign surfing phenom Shaun, continues to be a pretty repulsive character, mooning a business associate in a hotel conference room. His partner shows up long enough to try and blackmail him, working on behalf of their company to get Linc out before they sign Shaun up.

Meanwhile, back at the Snug Harbor Motel, where the pace of new owner Barry's renovations are taking until the next ice age, Palaka has a bad reaction to a dirty needle tattoo and it's Dr. Smith to the rescue again. Usually the merry band of motel misfits provides the most entertainment per episode but things are taking a darker turn. I do enjoy the touch of Barry finding his true calling as a nurse, serving Dixie Cup shots of orange juice in the parking lot.

Is everyone in Imperial Beach this angry? They live by the beach in sunny Southern California, how can they be so angry all the time?

Once again, Bill (Ed O'Neill) is the most likable character and it's not just because he talks to birds.

This episode is peppered with shots of John staring at the big round grid thingy by the beach - I've always wondered what those things are. A water treatment or power plant? Who knows what it represents here.

The episode wraps up with John appearing to different characters in different places at the same time. Here we go again! An ominous note is struck when Cass finally sees in the video footage the revelation she's been looking for and John appears in her hotel room with the message, "Shaun will soon be gone."

One episode down, three to go. Thankfully, Butchie's bowel movements were only mentioned twice in this installment and Cissy kept her anger level simmering at Stage Yellow for the majority of the episode.

Episode 8 - His Visit: Day Seven
"I will be murdered twice. I will stare me down. Shaun will soon be gone." - John

Warnings about Shaun's impending disappearance appear everywhere. Freddy has a vision in his sleep. Barry has a strange episode in the motel bar where the jukebox taunts him for being gay and then he shares a couple of kiddy cocktails with Shaun ("Roy Rogers, short and tall") before the kid tells Barry (clutching his teddy bear) that he will soon be gone. Most ominously, John hacks into Butchie's website, inserting a video of himself in front of a strange stick figure background. He repeats the phrase "Shaun will soon be gone" and everyone freaks.

Welcome to another day at the Snug Harbor motel.

Most of this episode is taken up with Shaun's posse circling the wagons to protect him - but first they have to find him. He's gone to Sea World with Tina - now that's a cool $114 spur of the moment mother-son outing - but nobody knows that and they fear the worst. When John appears at the motel, first Bill and then Freddy take a turn interrogating him as to Shaun's whereabouts. Bill's conversation with the mystery man ends with John repeatedly stabbing himself in the gut without leaving a single mark.

As to the rest of our motley crew: Cissy is still pissed (no surprise there) and she blows off steam destroying Mitch's Zen retreat over the garage and calling her lawyer to file for divorce. After Cissy finds out Shaun was with Tina, she switches her anger from fear of his being missing to his being with his mother the "porn queen." She lashes out at Kai who quits, tired of taking Cissy's crap for the past 15 years.

Later, Kai shows up outside the Yost home where Freddy, Bill and his parrot Zippy are on a stakeout in Freddy's car, keeping watch for intruders. Inside, Shaun and Cissy sign Linc's contract to sponsor Shaun. (Is it a deal with the devil?) Kai, still angry at Cissy, ponders hanging around to help watch over Shaun after John appears (though no one sees him) and tells Kai that Butchie will need her "on the water" after Shaun is gone.

Episode 9 - His Visit: Day Eight
"Kai, Shauny's gone!!!"

"You got my goddam bird?"

"Big Pipe's easy. Dry land's hard."

"You do not buy a gift and not give it. It's the oldest bad luck in the world."

"Don't I fuckin' know who you are and doesn't that sign at your balls say closed?"

"It's Bill Jacks commencing recon for both the missing! And please forgive me for being so slow on the uptake."

"The harelip thinks he's on to something."

"Quieres un libro de Avon? No cuesta nada mirar, como las flores."

"I'm seeing Avon in an entirely new light."

"Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ."

"Whoever I fuckin' ran away from in the volcano 25 years ago, I'm talkin' to you."

Episode 10 - His Visit: Day Nine
At last, the final episode. Here's where it all pays off - or does it?

Shaun and John, missing throughout the previous episode, make a great entrance, riding a wave back in to town. Blah, blah, blah, some fifty minutes later, the series concludes with Linc leading a press conference on the beach to explain how everything that happened (or will happen) was nothing more than a publicity stunt staged by his company to capitalize on the Yost family. Actually, he's creating a smokescreen to cover for all the weirdness that's been going on around them these past nine days. What exactly that weirdness adds up to, I don't know and I don't care.

This is the kind of final episode that keeps message boards and blogs buzzing for weeks as folks parse dialog in search of clues, endlessly debating the true meaning of the smallest element and the big picture. Thanks, but no thanks. Life is too short to be jerked around by a television show that's all tease.

The finale didn't redeem the rest of the series for me and I wouldn't opt for season two even if there was one. JFC suffered from too much existential mumbo-jumbo and not enough plot to make this must-see TV in my book. It could have used a lot more wave riding too.

*

Catch the wave of What I Watched Last Night TV.



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Posted on August 21, 2007


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BOOKS - How Stereo Was Sold To A Skeptical Public.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicago Footwork King's Bail Battle.


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