John from Cincinnati
Magical realism
Created by
Opening theme"Johnny Appleseed" by The Mescaleros
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes10
Production locationImperial Beach, California
Running time47-57 minutes
Production companyHBO Enterprises
Original release
ReleaseJune 10 (2007-06-10) –
August 12, 2007 (2007-08-12)

John from Cincinnati is an American drama television series, set against the surfing community of Imperial Beach, California. It aired on HBO from June 10 to August 12, 2007.


John from Cincinnati is the result of a collaborative effort between writer/producer David Milch and author Kem Nunn, whose novels have been termed "surf noir".[1] The program, which combines elements of drama and magic realism, deals with a strange, young man of mysterious origin and his effect on a dysfunctional family of professional surfers and their community.[2][3]

The series includes surfing sequences by surfers such as Brock Little, Keala Kennelly, Dan Malloy, John-John Florence, Shane Beschen, and Herbie Fletcher.[4]

The series' theme song is "Johnny Appleseed," performed by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. A diverse soundtrack includes "Tic" by Kava Kava and songs from TV on the Radio, Muse, Buddy Guy, Kasabian, and the Yardbirds.

Cast and characters

Actor Role Description
Bruce Greenwood Mitch Yost An aging and proud professional surfer who co-owns a surf shop with his wife. Their marriage is tumultuous, primarily due to Mitch's self-indulgent behavior and Cissy's overbearing personality. Mitch has come to believe that surfing should be an end unto itself, and that judged competitive events have tainted the sport.
Rebecca De Mornay Cissy Yost Mitch's stubborn wife and co-owner of the surf shop. It is revealed that when her son Butchie was an adolescent, and she was under the influence of LSD, Cissy caught him masturbating and proceeded to show him "how to do that." Her regret and self-recrimination over this event had a serious impact on her emotions.
Brian Van Holt Mitch "Butchie" Yost II Mitch's heroin-addicted son and professional surfer, whose painful adolescence has rendered him emasculated and incapable of shouldering great responsibility. Became a professional surfer after signing with Linc Stark then revolutionized the sport by popularizing aerials in surfing.
Austin Nichols John Monad A mysterious person, seemingly mentally disabled, who often repeats what he has already heard or what people are thinking, and can manifest requested objects through his pockets. He appears to be able to perform astral projection. During the projection, John is able to converse naturally, without resorting to only repeating words already spoken by others. His last name refers to the Greek word monas, a term the Pythagoreans linked to God as the original "one" from whom all else flows, a clue to a secret divinity or primal "oneness".
Ed O'Neill Bill Jacks An obsessive retired police officer and friend of the Yosts who tends to babble and talk to himself, and constantly tries to fill the hole that Butchie has made in Shaun's life. His house is filled with caged birds, with whom he converses.
Luke Perry Linc Stark A surf talent scout, manager and agent. Owner of Stinkweed surf products. Recently bought out by his financial backers.
Luis Guzmán Ramon Gaviota Manager and caretaker of the Snug Harbor Motel.
Matt Winston Barry Cunningham A mentally unstable man who recently won the Mega Millions lottery and bought the local Snug Harbor Motel; went to grade school with Butchie. He experienced sexual abuse by Mr. Rollins in room 24 of the motel as a child and originally purchased it with the intent to tear it down. Was bullied in high school, specifically by Butchie Yost. A blow to the head caused him to develop epileptic seizures during which he has visions that guide his decisions.
Willie Garson Meyer Dickstein Lawyer and huge surf fan who hangs around the Snug Harbor Motel, and who arranged the sale of the hotel to the new owner, Barry Cunningham.
Jennifer Grey Daphne Meyer Dickstein's fiancée.
Greyson Fletcher Shaun Yost 14-year-old son of Butchie Yost and Tina Blake; surf prodigy. Tina gave Shaun to his grandparents, Cissy and Mitch Yost, to raise the day he was born.
Keala Kennelly Kai A young woman surfer who works at the Yosts' surf shop. She is friends with Shaun Yost, and usually surfs with him. Dated Butchie in high school.
Jim Beaver Vietnam Joe A war veteran who helps people cross the Mexican border into the U.S. illegally. Grows and smokes marijuana.
Garret Dillahunt Dr. Michael Smith The neurologist who treated Shaun after a surfing accident. Subsequently resigned to shield Shaun from undue scrutiny after Shaun's miracle recovery from a broken neck sustained while winning his first surf competition.
Dayton Callie Steady Freddie Lopez A drug dealer from Hawaii with ties to the Yost family, particularly Butchie.
Emily Rose Cass A filmmaker formerly employed by Linc Stark to seduce Mitch and break up Mitch and Cissy's marriage because, unlike Cissy, Mitch does not want Shaun to become a competition surfer, especially with Linc Stark, whom Mitch blames for Butchie's disastrous failings.
Paul Ben-Victor Palaka An associate of Steady Freddie Lopez.
Chandra West Tina Blake Shaun's mother. She now works as a pornographic actress and prostitute but wants to leave the business.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar Jake Ferris Linc Stark's business partner.
Matthew Maher Dwayne Harelipped maintainer of the Yost family web site. Usually works out of Jerri's coffee shop.
Paula Malcomson Jerri Operates local coffee shop.

Ratings and cancellation

The pilot for the series was shown directly after the highly anticipated series finale of The Sopranos, but it failed to sustain an audience. The Sopranos received an audience of 11.9 million people according to Nielsen ratings, but John from Cincinnati held onto only 3.4 million viewers. Subsequent episodes initially lost viewers, but ratings began to see a slow increase, and by the final episode viewership had reached over 3 million, more than some episodes of Deadwood.[5]

One day after the season finale aired, HBO canceled the show.[6]


No. in
Title Written by Directed by Original air date Production
1"His Visit, Day One"David Milch & Kem NunnMark TinkerJune 10, 2007 (2007-06-10)101
A stranger called John arrives in a small shore-side town — Imperial Beach, California — near the Mexican border, where he befriends a legendary surfing family, the Yosts. Meanwhile, Mitch prohibits his grandson, Shaun, from attending a surfing competition, and Dickstein and Ramon meet the Snug Harbor Motel's new owner.
2"His Visit, Day Two"Kem NunnGregg FienbergJune 17, 2007 (2007-06-17)102
A drug dealer surfaces on Imperial Beach looking for Butchie. Linc expresses interest in sponsoring Shaun in his next competition. Barry decides not to raze the Snug Harbor Motel after a vision tells him not to.
3"His Visit, Day Two Continued"Ted MannMark TinkerJune 24, 2007 (2007-06-24)103
Dr. Smith is brought to a revelation that something miraculous occurred in Shaun's hospital room in order to revive him. Kai brings John back to her home to determine whether he is telling the truth. Cass turns out to be a source of comfort for Mitch, who is completely oblivious to her affiliation with Linc.
4"His Visit, Day Three"Regina CorradoJohn McNaughtonJuly 1, 2007 (2007-07-01)104
Some thugs rough up John; Kai connects with Butchie; Dr. Smith gets a new patient; Shaun's mother arrives in Imperial Beach.
5"His Visit, Day Four"Steve HawkEd BianchiJuly 8, 2007 (2007-07-08)105
Zippy issues Bill an unusual mandate; Shaun's porn-star mother lets the Yosts know she's back.
6"His Visit, Day Five"Alix LambertTom VaughanJuly 15, 2007 (2007-07-15)106
John tries to help Cissy and Bill confront events that occurred in the past. Meanwhile, Butchie attempts to organize a reunion between his son Shaun and biological mother Tina.
7"His Visit, Day Six"Nichole BeattieJeremy PodeswaJuly 22, 2007 (2007-07-22)107
Linc's Stinkweed reign is challenged; Dwayne eyes Shaun's online future; Dr. Smith tends to Palaka.
8"His Visit, Day Seven"Abby GewanterJesse BochcoJuly 29, 2007 (2007-07-29)108
The citizens of Imperial Beach fear for Shaun's safety after John gives them an ominous message.
9"His Visit, Day Eight"Wayne Loren WilsonAdam DavidsonAugust 5, 2007 (2007-08-05)109
Shaun goes missing, and it is posited that John may be a robot.
10"His Visit, Day Nine"Zack WhedonDan MinahanAugust 12, 2007 (2007-08-12)110
Butchie and Kai wake up to a joyous revelation: Shaun has returned, surfing into the beach with John; but he can't explain where he's been. Imperial Beach plays host to a makeshift parade organized by a revamped Stinkweed. The episode, and the series itself, ends with a cryptic message by John, "Mother of God, Cass-Kai", super-imposed over a clip of Kai surfing.

Home media

John from Cincinnati: The Complete First Season
Details Special Features
  • Two audio commentaries by show creator David Milch.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette focusing on the sequences with the visions characters had in the "Day 5" episode.
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
April 1, 2008[7] July 20, 2009[8] September 3, 2008


  1. ^ (November 12, 2004) Author Interview: Kem Nunn Archived 2008-08-20 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved November 16, 2006.
  2. ^ Harvilla, Rob (2018-08-29). "Revisiting the Strange, Occasionally Sublime 'John From Cincinnati'". The Ringer. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  3. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (2007-06-08). "Something's Up, and It's Not the Surf". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  4. ^ (Myers, Nathan) On The Set: John from Cincinnati Archived 2020-11-15 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved March 28, 2007.
  5. ^ Nielsen Media News, 14 August 2007
  6. ^ Uncredited, Say goodbye to "John from Cincinnati" Archived 2020-11-15 at the Wayback Machine; The Hollywood Reporter via Retrieved 2014-08-02.
  7. ^ "John from Cincinnati DVD news: Delay for John From Cincinnati". Archived from the original on 2008-01-09.
  8. ^ "John from Cincinnati rental page". Tesco DVD Rental. Archived from the original on 2011-02-02.