Here's [my transcription of] David Milch's description of the central theme of his one-season HBO show, John From Cincinnati (from here). HBO had cancelled Deadwood 'for a series of complicated reasons having nothing to do with the series itself,' and given Milch the 'We're canceling your show but we still love you, Dave' spiel. And then: 'How would you like to do a show about...surfing?'
I hate water, I hate sand, I hate swimming. But if I am to rest transparently from the spirit which gave me rise, I need to believe that starting from there I can get to the spirit, unless everything I've said to you is bullshit.
So I went to work.
And I said: 'Listen, that surfing idea. I love that surfing idea. I love it. I just wanna...fool with it a little bit.'
They said, 'Well, but it's young, it's hot!'
I said, 'And I love that. I love that. But...what if this was about...In the aftermath of 9/11, whatever God is, becomes aware that we have been so infantilized, we have been made such children by our addiction to media, which doesn't sink its roots deep, that we have become capable of a genocide.'
Now, they sleep through this shit anyway, the bosses. 'That's great! That's great...' And they're looking around going 'What the fuck did he just say?' 'That is beautiful! But you'll have the surfing, right?'
I said, 'The surfing is of the essence! The surfing is of the *essence*.'
'What was that other shit that - well I mean not "shit," it's great, but what was it that you said?'
I said, 'Well, it's like this. 9/11: terrible. We can all agree, right? But let's say the invasion of Iraq - what exactly is the connection between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq? "Well, they had weapons of mass destruction, etc." My sense from watching that stuff, y'know, is - as I'm watching the planes go into the building over and over and over and over and over again, I'm thinking: It's enough! It's enough with the planes going into the building. Y'know: I want my old programs back. I don't want to have to look at that crap all the time.
'So my president is talking to his programmers, and what the president says is, "Let's give 'em a 12-episode miniseries. We come up with the villains. We're gonna go in, at the end we'll pull down the statue, we'll give 'em a whole different program. And it'll be fine. And they are so sick of that entertainment where the planes go into the buildings, they'll love it."
'So we staged the invasion of Iraq, really, as a change in programming for an audience so narcotized by their addiction to television that all of their frustrated patriotism is...
'3,100 people. Terrible, terrible thing. Now let's say that 20 million Tutsi and Hutu have murdered each other since 9/11. 'Well, none of that was on my television. God bless 'em. They're black people anyway, they're savages,' is the way the programmers encourage us to think. But the planes going into our building, that fucked up our TV schedule.
'So there we go, we go away to Iraq. We stage our 12-day miniseries. Now people start to get sick - it's a 12-episode miniseries. "Now what are you telling me, people are still being killed? I'm done with that! I'm done with that show!" So now we get sick of THAT show. Now the problem becomes, since a message has been given to us, "We can solve your problem with better programming." What's gonna happen the next time - and there's gonna be a next time - that there's a terrorist attack? And the next time what's gonna happen is, there will be a charlatan who's gonna make this clown look like Mother Teresa, who's gonna say, "We wanna kill every Muslim in the world? Absolutely not! Absolutely not. But by the same token, they are fucking up our programming...and if what is required is that some innocents die so that we can get American Idol back on the air...with the best will in the world, and enormous regret, let's find the people that bombed the civilians in Nagasaki, and let's get busy."
'So let's go back now to the idea that whatever the spirit of the universe is, feels that this civilization is tending toward a genocide, and dispatches its representative to try to change the American psyche. And the only way this spirit of the universe feels the American psyche can be changed, is if the spirit manifests itself as a child with enormous powers. And if this spirit begins by address the absolutely fucking stupidest people in America - which are the surfers...'
So that was John From Cincinnati.
The blog from which that video is taken contains hours and hours of extraordinary material from Milch; if you've got the time and the inclination, there's much to learn there.