HBO testing waters with 'John' pickup

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HBO has given a series order to David Milch's surfing drama "John From Cincinnati."

After reviewing a rough cut of the pilot, the premium cable network picked up 11 episodes of the show, bringing the total order to 12 episodes, including the pilot.

"John" marks Milch's second consecutive series for HBO, following the recently canceled "Deadwood."

"It's a wholly originally piece from a truly original and brilliant talent," HBO Entertainment president Carolyn Strauss said of "John." "We've had a lot of success with David. We believe in him entirely and are extremely excited to be in business with him again."

Set in the world of Southern California surfing, "John" revolves around the dysfunctional Yost family of Imperial Beach and their encounter with contemporary American culture and commerce and other forces.

The Yost clan includes patriarch Mitch (Bruce Greenwood), a former surfing star; his aggressively unhappy wife, Cissy (Rebecca De Mornay); their drug-addicted, dissolute son, Butchie (Brian Van Holt), also a former surfing champ; and his son, Shaun (Greyson Fletcher). They find their lives disrupted by the arrival of the dim but wealthy John (Austin Nichols) from Cincinnati, a savant who has come to take surfing lessons, and Barry Cunningham (Matt Winston), who is returning to Imperial Beach to avenge a wrong done to him by the Yosts 23 years ago.

The cast of the series, from HBO Entertainment and Milch's Red Board Prods., also includes Ed O'Neill and Luis Guzman.

Milch wrote the pilot script for "John" with surfer novelist Kem Nunn.

"John" is set at the intersection of land and water and of two countries, the U.S. and Mexico, Milch said.

"It is at those crossings that drama occurs, and it's not just geographical, it has to do with generations," he said. "Those are people who seem very much lost. Them finding themselves is an engaging process to watch."

Milch plunged into "John" right after wrapping the final season of "Deadwood." While he was sad to see "Deadwood" go, Milch said he feels "delighted" that he will be able to wrap the stories on the dark Western in two movies, which made his transition to "John" much easier.

Milch is executive producing "John" with Mark Tinker, who directed the pilot, "Deadwood" executive producer Gregg Fienberg and Zvi Howard Rosenman.

Nunn, Peter Spears and Scott Stephens are co-executive producing, with longtime surfer Herbie Fletcher and his wife, Dibi, serving as consulting producers along with writer-producer Bill Clark.

In his research for the project, Milch spent a lot of time with the Fletchers, three generations of surfing idols, on whose life the series is loosely based. Herbie and Dibi's grandson, Greyson, plays Yost's grandson on the show.
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