Monday, May 2, 2011

FI: Fishing with John

Fishing with John
US, 1991, 6 Episodes
Created by John Lurie

Fishing with John is a bizarre travelogue/fishing show, created by and starring musician/actor/painter John Lurie. In it, Lurie takes various celebrity guests on fishing trips where, as tends to be the case with fishing, nothing much really happens. This is accompanied by voice-over narration that tends towards hyperbole, randomness, fourth-wall breaking, and, on occasion, outright surrealism.

The problem I had with this show is that none of the elements is strong enough to form the gravitational pull necessary to act as a center. Nothing, not the celebrity antics, not Lurie's bizarre behavior, not the subtle comedy, not the ambient music, and not the voice-over, has enough weight to sustain interest. Even the locations, as well-filmed as they sometimes are, take a back seat to the show's drifting inessentialness. I can't even say that I was bored so much as I was driven to do other things with the show playing in the background. And this is coming from a fan of Jim Jarmusch and Tom Waits, two of Lurie's guests and collaborators.

The most I can say in Fishing with John's favor is that there's never really been anything else like it on TV, and when it debuted in 1991, "reality TV" was still in its infancy. The shows whose influence has—whether consciously or not—shaped my expectations for this kind of program did not yet exist. The beats programs like, say, No Reservations, have trained me to anticipate had not yet become industry standard. So, in that regard alone, Fishing with John is interesting. Otherwise, I rather wish I didn't waste a rental on this one. Basic cable has more than enough background-noise shows without my needing to have extra ones mailed to me.

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