John from Cincinnati

TV review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
John from Cincinnati TV Poster Image
Mystical HBO surfing drama is awash in profanity.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Characters are a mixed bag, from angry, drug-addicted bad influences to an angelic, peaceful man-child. In general, people are more dysfunctional than they are evil.


Lots of angry verbal encounters, some fistfights, references to sexual abuse. In one scene, a man puts a gun into his mouth to kill himself, though he doesn't follow through.


Mention of sex and euphemistic references to masturbation. At least one post-coital scene with a married couple in bed together, presumably naked.


Nonstop uncensored, extreme profanity. "F--k" is almost every other word in some scenes and is frequently joined by "s--t" and "ass." Some derogatory terms are also used (like "fruit" to refer to gay man).


Occasional product placement for Blackberry and other brands like Aramark.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is a heroin addict, and characters discuss his addiction frequently. Some drug paraphernalia appears, though no scenes of shooting up. Talk of smoking pot and drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this pay-cable drama from the creator of Deadwood is filled with an almost-nonstop stream of profanity (particularly "f--k"). One main character is a mean, unapologetic junkie, and some scenes include brief glimpses of his drug paraphernalia, as well as lots of talk about getting high. Other scenes include open talk of sex and some post-coital moments, as well as euphemistic references to masturbation. In one scene, a gay character tearfully (if vaguely) recalls an incident of sexual abuse and a subsequent suicidal gesture. This character is later referred to as a "fruit" by another main character. There's some violence, but nothing on the level of other HBO dramas like The Sopranos.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymkleess April 9, 2008

What was HBO thinking?

This is possibly one of the worst shows
I have ever seen on TV. And it was on
HBO...I would have expected more. It always makes me wonder about writers who
pu... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Set in Southern California's Imperial Beach, this comedic drama follows three generations of the Yost surfing family. The eldest Yost, Mitch (Bruce Greenwood), runs a surf shop with his tense, bitter wife, Cissy (Rebecca DeMornay). His son, Butchie (Brian Van Holt), is a former surf star turned foul-mouthed junkie living out of a motel room. And the youngest Yost, Shaun (Grayson Fletcher), is an innocent surfing prodigy with a mystical gift trying to enjoy the waves without getting dragged down by family drama. Enter the titular John (Austin Nichols), a possible alien -- the E.T. kind, though, in a clever play on words, a character mistakes him for an illegal immigrant -- who's essentially a blank page. He arrives with two phrases: "The end is near" and "some things I know and some things I don't." John's arrival also marks the beginning of some mystical, magical occurrences -- like the random moments of levitation that Mitch experiences.

Is it any good?

JOHN FROM CINCINATTI feels like a disjointed downer with way too much profanity and drug use for even most teenagers. Perhaps John's growing vocabulary ("I'm gonna roll myself a fattie!") will eventually develop into something more meaningful than comic; his relationship with Shaun also has some potential for depth. Meanwhile, the stellar, quirky supporting cast (including Luis Guzman, Ed O'Neill, and Willie Garson) poises the show for greatness ... but with mostly awkward, bitter characters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about this show as an "HBO series." What does it have in common with shows like The Sopranos and Deadwood? How is it different? Do you think a show like this -- in any form -- could succeed on network TV or basic cable? Why or why not? Families can also discuss John. Who do you think he is? What's his purpose in the show and to the Yost family? Can you think of other shows or films with characters similar to John?

TV details

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