Quotes from reviews of John From Cincinnati.
- Washington Post, Tom Shales, June 9: "Far stranger is the fact that ever since John showed up, a bitter and wrinkled old surfer dude discovers that every now and then, for no apparent reason, he suddenly and mysteriously levitates several inches off the ground. He hangs there for a short while and then returns to earth, finding this kinda weird, kinda cool and maybe even kinda groovy. It's also, however, kinda pointless, at least so far, and there's no indication how many episodes of this series will have to be watched before any of it starts making sense. Come to think of it now, For No Apparent Reason would be a good title for the series -- at least as good as the self-consciously precious one it has... Shows like John From Cincinnati are why the good Lord made remote-control clickers."
- The Toledo Blade, Rob Owen, June 9: "Deadwood fans will be heartened by the presence of several actors from that series, but they may also be disappointed to discover that, like TV writer Aaron Sorkin, Milch has a habit of using his singular voice and putting it in the mouths of every character. Most of them speak in the same, peculiar Milchian rhythms using a vocabulary long on words that can't be printed here and short on variety."
- Time, James Poniewozik, June 8: "If you have seen the HBO ads, you will be wondering what the deal is with that series about the levitating surfer. After seeing three episodes of John from Cincinnati, a critic can tell you that it is about a levitating surfer. Beyond that, you are on your own."
- The Chicago Tribune, Maureen Ryan, June 7: "I'll just say that despite De Mornay's grating portrayal of Cissy, despite the occasional pretentiousness of the ornate, surfers-meet-Deadwood language (might I suggest the alternate titles Driftwood? Wave Peaks? David Milch's Big Bag of Crazy?), despite the fact that good actors such as Luis Guzman and Willie Garson are stranded in a go-nowhere side plot, despite the fact that Ed O'Neill's role as a very strange Yost family friend is bizarre-verging-on-gravely-irritating, despite the fact that there's not much of any plot aside from Mitch Yost's mysterious ability to levitate and his opposition to the greedy fangs of the surfing industry -- there’s something intriguing about John."
- LA Weekly, Robert Abele, June 6: "It appears that, through the prism of a superlatively dysfunctional family trapped in their past and divisive about their future, Milch and Nunn -- an acclaimed painter of crumbling social worlds fringed by surfing’s godlike call to conquer nature -- are trying to tap into a recognizably turbulent present, a time in which our relationship to the world and each other is as much a grand fumbling asa straight-and-narrow path. And with three episodes, I can say that so far they do it with surprise, wit, an engaging cast, plus a shaggy, Altmanesque charm."
- TV Guide, Matt Roush, June 6: "The first three episodes of this peculiar series bored me silly with its pretentious mannerisms, and I can't help thinking that many HBO subscribers will tune in and wonder: They dropped Deadwood for this? Still, it's hard to bet against a talent like David Milch (Deadwood's creator and cocreator of John), who's clearly marching to his own visionary beat. Deadwood took half a season to kick into gear, and maybe there's more here than painfully precious quirkiness."
- Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker, June 4: "Married... With Children's Ed O'Neill is wondrous and Deadwood-style foulmouthed as an ex-cop family friend, and Luke Perry is archly wolfish as the surfing promoter who helped ruin [Butchie's] career and plots to control Shaun's. And Greenwood -- so sly and quiet yet commanding -- renders Mitch a surfer of great metaphysical waves. The ceaseless ways in which Milch and Nunn challenge our expectations about how families, friends, and strangers are meant to convey their fealty to each other, along with some fine hard-boiled dialogue and fisticuffs, suggest great continuing pleasures... The TV-network apothecaries like their products labeled for easy audience identification — Hugh Laurie's House is always cranky; Ugly Betty is always pretty on the inside. Yet I, like some of you, enjoy the experience more when there are some things I know and some things I don't. We are, in short, in league with this John from Cincinnati. A-"
- Catholic News Service, May 29: "Aside from the welcome innocence of Shaun, who's convinced his grandmother Cissy to OK entry into his first competition, the Yosts seem unable to communicate without ear-piercing, four-letter-word screaming matches... Some fabulous surfing footage near the end of the premiere hour is a reward for enduring all the hostile and hateful exchanges that offer little inducement to continue following John and the Yosts' progress. At least the second hour makes a stab at some character development. For those who can tolerate the continued assault on the ears in hopes that the humanity of the characters may start to emerge, the quality of the performances makes this a distinct possibility."