John from Cincinnati

John from Cincinnati

Any series that features Joe Strummer (and the Mescaleros) singing over the opening credits has already got a leg up in my book. In this case, HBO’s John from Cincinnati uses Johnny Appleseed from the album Global A Go-go. Why do we care? Because the same credits also feature some skateboard footage and one of the actors is sponsored am Greyson Fletcher, son of famous surfer Christian Fletcher. You can watch the nicely done credits and see a little ancillary skateboarding from the show after the jump. Bonus: Guess which local Portland skate company scored product placement?

John from Cincinnati

John from Cincinnati is a series about a family of three generations of surfers that comes into contact with the mysterious title character, and how that affects them. The Yost family is supposed to be legendary surfers. Grandpa was famous until he blew out his knee. His son Butchie was a chip off the old block, but with a little new-school aggression that changed the entire sport of surfing through some sort of evolution that they keep hinting at. Sound like a particular real-life character in surfing? Unfortunately, Butchie also fell under the influence of the anti-Stacy Peralta, a surfing industry character named Linc Stark played by former 90210 dreamboat Luke Perry. Linc/Luke helped Butchie become more of a Jay Adams than a Tony Hawk, encouraging and cultivating a bad boy image for Butchie that ultimately ended in a heroin addiction and some legendary incident that got him banned from competition for life. Butchie’s son Shaun is in the legal custody of his grandparents. Surfers, being a wild an impetuous bunch, all appear to have procreated at a very young age, which is why Rebecca De Mornay can pull off reprising the role of the milfy surfer’s mom from Lords of Dogtown, this time as a grandmother. Come to think of it, Luke Perry seems a bit young to have already been an industry mogul at the time of Butchies reign. Shaun Yost (Greyson Fletcher) is a 13 year old raging surfer who is trying to get sponsored against the general wishes of his grandfather who doesn’t want him to end up like Butchie and his father, who is understandably bitter about the world of professional surfing.

Butchie is an absentee father and an SOB who doesn’t really get a long with anyone. Grandpa Mitch Yost (Bruce Greenwood) is almost equally un-likeable, except without the drugs. Both senior male Yosts can’t seem to go out in public without randome people stopping them and telling them how they were such amazing surferes. Grandma Cissy (Rebecca) is frazzled and disillusioned by seeing the two main men in her life making their lives miserable. She just wants her grandson to be happy. There’s a cast of outside characters that interacts with the Yosts, most notably a deranged lottery winner named Barry the Fairy that Butchie tormented as a child. Then there’s John from Cincinnati, who is either mentally challenged or, since the advertising suggests, has some sort of supernatural powers with a basis in Christianity. There are a couple of minor miracles in the first episode alone. Where is Shaun’s mom? That’s a convenient oversight so far. No mention of her after two episodes, but I’m sure all will be revealed later.

If I lost half of you at the word Christianity, don’t worry. There’s way too much profanity for this be any sort of vehicle for proselytizing. Although I suspect the John Character might actually be an angel of sorts, this is no “Toched by an Angel” dreck. The acting is a little over the top at first, what with everyone being so monumentally pissed off at everyone and everything all the time and at the slightest provocation. Two episodes in it starts to settle into a groove and fell less forced, much in the same way HBO’s Deadwood did. Deadwood was the best show on television when it was on, and John from Cincinnati looks like it has the potential to be very strong. Not coincidentally, John has three actors from Deadwood as well as some shared staff from the ranks of Deadwood’s directors and producers. As with any time the mass media tries to immerse itself in a lifestyle like skateboarding or surfing, the cultural studies can be less than accurate, but John from Cincinnati is about as painless as can be hoped for in that regard.

Greyson is a little stiff in his acting debut, but he doesn’t drag it down. He reportedly does all his own skating and surfing. I don’t follow surfing, but some of the footage they’ve shown that is supposed to be Shaun Yost looks very heavy to the untrained eye. he seems like a genuine ripper on the waves, but according to HBO’s profile, Greyson would rather be skating. He’s got a few sponsors like Vans (not listed), Sabre Vision (sunglasses, never heard of them) as well as a fan site.

Good credits. Watch them. Enjoy them. I thought some of the skateboard footage was old-timey Legend of Dogtown era but it appears to be all recent footage made to look like it was shot on super 8. Yes, I know the skatepark footage is obviously newer, but the other shots looked vintage the first time they flew by. Keep watching for a little incidental skateboarding. The surf shop shots show a lot of Baker signage, but at the very end there is a laptop computer with what appears to be a Rebel Skates sticker on the lid. I suspect Portland’s own Jay “Hollywood” Smay is responsible for that. He’ll probably try to cash in on the photo incentive even if he isn’t.

John from Cincinnati: Credits and footage.

5 Comments

  1. Well done, it reminds of what I was trying to do with the Uncle Tupelo song in my movie “Permission Pool: Algus”. The best part is the juxtaposition of the dolphin pod/human pod…that gets me every time.

  2. Where’s the link?

  3. There you go…

  4. John Gibson on June 25, 2007 - Reply

    Skating plays a prominent role at the end of episode three.

  5. Taped it. Haven’t watched yet.

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