every episode of how with john wilsonwhich begins the third and final season July 28 on HBO, Opens with a key, albeit polite, greeting: “Hey, New York.” Wilson, who narrates every episode of his nonfiction series from hours and hours of footage (mostly) shot in the Big Apple, makes no effort to hide the fact that he longs to interact with his fellow townspeople. His Emmy-nominated documentary really couldn’t exist without him. Not only as interlocutor, but also as fodder for the many exciting scenes that Wilson captured and used to create absurd episodes like ‘How to Find a Public Restroom’ and ‘How to Clean Your Ears’.
For the unaware: Despite the title, how with john wilson It is a useful guide to everyday life in name only. Sure, each episode is designed to provide some conclusion on how to navigate relatively mundane things (see above). But there is a wandering sensibility in Wilson’s eye and mind. And so, piecing together footage (mostly) shot by himself with his personal camera (and the occasional iPhone), the series plays out like an essayistic meditation on what it means to live in public in the 21st century. And nobody lives in public anymore – anymore In Public – Compared to New Yorkers.
But don’t mistake Wilson for the David Attenborough of the human experience. While there is an anthropological curiosity in the way he captures various New Yorkers in varying degrees of embarrassment about their public hygiene jokes (e.g., flossing, cutting toenails, blowing their noses, on the street, or on the subway) Wilson’s deranged banter has long sparked his interest in showing you the less ordinary than finding the extraordinary – even when such extraordinary people, places, competitions, etc. are based on the most common activities.
and therefore, while how with john wilson An admirable catalog of all things New York (and the final installment almost feels like a love letter to that city, albeit one misplaced by the United States Postal Service and delivered haphazardly and probably already late), the series has always stood out as a larger meditation on what it really means to observe the world around us. The visual puns Wilson likes to use (scenes of cement being poured on a sidewalk flash before you as Wilson talks about the city’s sewer system; a shot of several gloves left out to dry as Wilson talks about things being “out of control”) compels viewers of his show to take solace in those unusual images. Wilson definitely makes the general state of New York City worth noting.
With such a vision (in every sense of the word), Wilson has crafted a perfect television season that brings to an end a project that was years in the making. As in the first season, Wilson changed his shooting and editing style to fit the half-hour cable slot. Second Reinforcing his approach for more season-long narrative series, this third batch sees an even more ambitious portrait of a city, a people and a time. Because there’s no denying that this latest attempt at an equally funny and poignant ‘how to’ guide oozes more than last season. constantly flirts with mortality, as if Wilson himself felt he was running out of time and was eager to find ways to make his work sustainable.
For example, in this season alone, he’s randomly talking to people who’ve dated serial killers, cops who may have made a thing or two for charity in their day (in an episode that’s thrilling for its bait-and-switch approach to truth in a post-Rehearsal world), believers who want to cryogenically freeze their bodies (or just heads), and people who are concerned about the health effects of their electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
As eager to pull off a quick visual gag as he is to reflect on why and how we crave community in a fractured world, Wilson is mastering the task in this farewell season. Few filmmakers can turn a story about ear hygiene, noise and neighborly values into an unexpectedly poignant self-examination about why Wilson still keeps his mouth shut during sex. Or freely combine confessional moments (like a certain high school sexual experience) into an episode about the ways sports are used as a mainstay of modern socialization. The personal and the professional, the private and the public, the mundane and the grotesque continually collide and mingle in each episode, leading to increasingly compassionate (but no less deranged) portraits of specific communities in everything from toilets and vacuum cleaners to pumpkins and packages that would seem unreal if not so authentically captured by Wilson’s deadpan vision.
And while yes, we’ll always mourn the Burning Man episode, if Wilson and HBO had secured a movie permit for a 2022 recap of Black Rock City Gathering (as we learn in this premiere episode), it looks like it would give the Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker an opportunity to explore the many threads woven into this final season., But perhaps those lost images can stand alone for the volatility that Wilson has always tried to capture, looming large over a project that, by his own definition, requires constant oversight.
how with john wilson Season three premieres July 28 on HBO
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