On the Tube

Taking a break from the topic of dentistry for a moment — except to note a story (by way of Marie) about Southern Illinois University’s dental school suspending the grades of its entire 2010 class because students are suspected of cheating — two notes on the current state of television. Well, not the state of television — more like, here’s what I think of two new shows on HBO.

One is “The Flight of the Conchords.” Two New Zealand lads land in New York aspiring to conquer the world of rock and roll. It’s very inventive and funny. Everyone should see it. (The two guys behind it, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, have been working the Conchords act for several years; there’s a BBC radio series based on their alleged exploits in Britain, too — haven’t tracked that down yet, though).

The other is “John from Cincinnati.” The show arrived with high expectations because it’s the work of David Milch, who’s responsible for the unforgivably long-lived “NYPD Blue” and the shamefully short-lived “Deadwood.” OK, so we’re four episodes into the season. As noted last week, the highlight for me is the opening credits, featuring a lovely montage of “golden age of Southern California surface” clips displayed with the oddly moving “Johnny Appleseed” (Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros) as soundtrack. The problem with what happens after the opening sequence is nearly everything. I guess the thing is shot nicely. The cast is competent in its best moments but flat, ill at ease, off-key and wooden most of the time. You can’t blame most of the actors, though; they’re wrestling with a poorly conceived story line full of nonsensical plot twists and subplots; (an odd stranger shows up in surferville; many odd things ensue; we’re made to understand the paranormal is at work). The individual episodes dispense with character development or credibility; the dialogue is wooden or soap opera-ish or falsely mysterious.

How bad is the show? Well, the part of the waterfront it covers concerns miracles in our workaday world. But the way this show doles out supernatural events, the miracles are not nearly as thought-provoking and surprising as, say, a can of Guinness draught with its special little gas capsule. Tonight, the title character, who is a cipher and perhaps the second coming of Jesus (he’s given to saying “the end is near”) was savagely stabbed by a man trying to rob him. But after three weeks of empty hocus-pocus, it was utterly unsurprising — in a George Reeves-era “Superman” holding up his hand to stop a bullet kind of way — that the character was ultimately unharmed. Oh, wow, another miracle.

I’ll pray for another one: Someone please make this show go away.

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2 Replies to “On the Tube”

  1. “Lost” often plods along, too, but the acting saves it many times. The wooden acting in “John” is annoying. This seems to be the case in every fictional show or movie when real surfers are thrown into the casting mix (i.e. the female surf shop employee is actually a pro surfer). Hollywood should just resist the urge to add them. I like Rebecca DeMornay as the mom in this show, but otherwise the cast is boring. Gary Busey should’ve been the dad.

  2. Dan,
    Howdy from Austin. You may not get this comment since it’s late in the game, but JFC disappointed us all. But please read Kem Nunn’s surfing novels as they are quite good. The Dogs of Winter is my favorite. Hope to see you and Kate sooner than later.

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