Painting with John

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Painting with John TV Poster Image
Language, drug anecdotes in charmingly weird reality show.

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Kids say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Show has great respect for creativity in general and painting in particular; artwork is created slowly and painstakingly, and we hear about the artist's process and the value of expressing oneself creatively. 

Positive Role Models

Lurie is idiosyncratic but has great love for his friends and family, respects himself and his work. His anecdotes often praise people he considers genuine. He has made an unusual life for himself that clearly pleases him. 


Cursing and language includes "f--k," "f--king," "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

No one does drugs on-screen, but Lurie does relate a vivid anecdote about cocaine. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Painting with John is a reality show where actor/musician John Lurie creates watercolor paintings as he treats the audience to monologues about life. Lurie's memories are often thoughtful and humorous: We hear about how his parents nurtured his creativity, and his thoughts on what makes a genuine laugh and great laughs he's heard in his travels. They can also be iffy, like when he relates a vivid anecdote about a past cocaine binge. Cursing is infrequent: "f--k," "damn." Lurie lives a (self-described) hermit's life, but he seems pleased both with his life and with himself. 

User Reviews

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Teen, 15 years old Written byLoranikas303 March 17, 2021

Rip-off of Bob Ross!

Trash because of bad language!

What's the story?

PAINTING WITH JOHN stars actor/musician John Lurie, who lives on an unnamed Caribbean island, paints watercolors, and, in this intriguing reality show, lets loose with expansive monologues about his life and experiences. We watch as Lurie makes his brilliantly colored artworks, strolls around his house, pals around with his female employees, and just generally has opinions about the world and the way it works. 

Is it any good?

As idiosyncratic and peculiarly amusing as its host, this odd artifact combines a painting show with a monologuist's ramble, to mostly entertaining results. The peak of John Lurie's unusual fame was the 1980s, when his turns in beloved movies like Stranger than Paradise and Down by Law made him a poster boy for the indie movie scene; he went on to lead avant-garde jazz ensemble the Lounge Lizards for decades, as well as to make the sublimely strange 1991 Bravo series Fishing with John, with surreal commentary and conversations over footage of Lurie out fishing with Hollywood friends like Dennis Hopper and Willem Dafoe. Painting with John is similar to, but not the same as, Lurie's earlier TV foray, because, as it turns out, watching someone create intricate watercolor paintings is a lot more interesting than watching guys with a line in a boat, and because Lurie has matured into an even more entertainingly weird guy since 1991. 

He describes how his parents nurtured their children's creativity with an anecdote about his brother ruining an important employment connection by picking up the phone in the character of Mighty Mouse; he relates tales of former cocaine binges; he watches a sunset; he crashes a drone; he dips his brush into paint and lets it bleed down onto his canvas, saying "I just want people to know that none of my trees are happy. They're miserable." He talks about the different laughs he's heard, in Thailand, in Africa, in New York. It's all sort of slow and meandering, but beguiling all the same. Here is a man who has led an exceedingly interesting life, who regrets very little, and who spends most of his time creating: paintings, and now a TV show. What will he bring up next? You'll want to know, and we do, too. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about reality series that are built around a personality. What others can you name? How does Lurie's unusual history and personality contribute to this show? Does it help to have seen his movies or his band perform, or can you appreciate Painting with John without a history of Lurie appreciation? 

  • What do you think of Lurie's narration style in Painting with John? Why is watching other people create things such a great way to unwind?

  • Painting with John is both written and directed by Lurie. Does the show seem to have strong writing and direction, or does it seem to spool out like it's depicting a bit of real life? Could this be Lurie's writing and directing style? 

TV details

  • Premiere date: January 22, 2021
  • Cast: John Lurie
  • Network: HBO
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-MA
  • Last updated: February 17, 2021

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