Monday, June 11, 2007
I haven't seen David Milch's John From Cincinnati yet, but after wasting a weekend watching Season 3 of Deadwood I won't be in any rush. Even by Season 2 I was basically watching it as a soap, indifferent to its artistic merit as long as the characters I was emotionally invested in were flung about dramatically. But thanks to the startling number of uninteresting individuals thrust into the mix, most of the cast is only given one or two Emmy moments over the entire season. The Doc is reduced to coughing fits and Sol Star gets a minute or two of teary time with Trixie near the end in exchange for episode after episode of nodding at angry people. Sometimes you'd just get a second long shot of a character to remind you they're still alive.
Instead of focusing on characters fans already know, we get a completely worthless season-long subplot involving Brian Cox and a troupe of actors (as if this show really needed more empty theatricality), countless scenes with a blustering racist who won't shut up until he's rendered comatose by a horse, Wyatt Earp and his brother (just so I could scream "THAT'S WHO HE IS! I THOUGHT IT WAS NATHAN FILLION!" when my housemate asked if the guy from Queer As Folk has shown up yet), some unfunny British dude who looks just like the Russian dude, the painful return of Stephen "My Voice Is My Passport, Verify Me" Toblowsky and dozens of anonymous no-goodniks working for evil Gerald McRaney. And while Major Dad does an OK job as George Hearst, his presence can't help but demote the show to CBS quality rather than HBO. If they'd wrapped up his belabored drama half way through, maybe we could have seen more of Cy Tolliver seething with impotent rage and Al Swearingen remembering he's supposed to be a bad guy. The bloat was annoying enough over a weekend, but I can't imagine what it must have been like to turn on HBO week after week and find out how little the plot had progressed. Its cancellation feels like a mercy killing, as Milch would have undoubtedly found a shark for the townsfolk to jump in Season 4.
According to the bonus features on every season, Milch writes his episodes laying on the floor with several pillows, surrounded by writers, assistants and other cronies. A stenographer takes down his every word, which he then edits off of a giant TV screen. While that is totally fucking awesome, when the pottymouth Shakespeare got painfully ornate (in some episodes it feels like everyone's as desperately florid as E.B. Farnum), I couldn't help but think of this dude literally resting on his laurels, beaming with pride at the words on the monitor before him. Lacking much to distract me, I pictured that a lot.
Leila thought someone on John From Cincinnati had my last name, but it turned out one of the leads is named "Mitch Yost." Close enough for me to check it out someday, though.