Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Some Things I Know: John From Cincinnati, or On Boning Your Lord & Savior (An update of sorts: You should read Wally's post about Milch, which contains transcriptions of painful exactitude. It records a brilliant display of nonacademic muddling through narrative complexities. Granted, given that Milch was once a Milton scholar, you'd think him better able to articulate his way through these knots; but if you forgive him those peccadillos, you snob, you'll see his talent for narrative was abundantly evident way back in the dark days of 2001.) When David Milch announced the death of Deadwood, like most fans of the show, I took consolation in the fact that HBO had already greenlit another Milch production, John From Cincinnati. (As to the two Deadwood films purported to be in preproduction, I hold my breath.) Given that it would be on HBO, I knew I needn't fear any diminishment of Milch's signature style: HBO would allow him to let rain spectacular profanity. (The suits might even encourage it.) Understand, then, that I watched the first episode of John From Cincinnati in mild disbelief: not only do the characters not speak like foul-mouthed miners, one of them begins the episode unable to say anything except "the end is near" and "some things I know and some things I don't." More on that in a moment. The most memorable dialogue emerges from the interaction of Luis Guzman's "Ramon Gaviota," Willie Garson's "Meyer Dickstein," and Matt Winston's "Barry Cunningham." Their connection to the overall story is (currently) tenuous: they are the lottery-winner (Cunningham) who purchases a motel in which one of the main characters lives; the motel's former owner (Dickstein); and its once and future manager (Gaviota). Cunningham is convinced that something is amiss in Room 24. When he first arrives, he explains to Dickstein why he's packing heat: Cunningham: I am armed in accordance with the State Lottery Commission's pamphlet The Challenge of Sudden Wealth, which urges that winners be cautious in the conduct of their business affairs. Dickstein: Do you have another gun? Cunningham: I did not buy a backup, against the advice of Pete's Pistol Hut. I didn't contract Cunningham's words because the defining characteristic of his speak is a stiltedness meant to betray a deeper reserve of awkwardness. After the main characters suffer (and recover from) an accident, this trio decides to do something nice for his family. Cunningham insists that they close the door to Room 24 (which he had left open when he sprinted from it earlier). Bumping into each other as they approach the door: Cunningham: Do you hear the dead man singing within, gentlemen? Gaviota: I'm half deaf from the leaf blower. Cunningham: Attorney Dickstein? Dickstein: Surfer's ear. Exostosis of the ear canal. Cunningham: I alone, then, am favored by that jovially croaking, post-coital falsetto winsomely caricaturing Debby Boone? Who but Milch would think to pen such a line? Unlike Deadwood, the people who speak like this on John From Cincinnati are clearly unbalanced. There is, for example, Ed O'Neill's "Bill Jacks," who at one point warns the room...

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