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Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

‘John Wilson’ sticks the landing with final season

I first heard about HBO’s docu-series “How To with John Wilson” through its executive producer, Nathan Fielder. I had recently discovered and fallen in love with his show “Nathan for You” and was hungry for more content linked to him. I ended up falling for “John Wilson” just as quickly and just as hard; it featured the same bizarre comedy, man-on-the-street interactions, and exploration of humanity that had no business being as profound as it was, all while still managing to be its own unique thing. 

Earlier this month, “John Wilson” wrapped up its third and final season. With that, I definitely went in with a heightened sense of critique. I was eager to see if Wilson would stick the landing and give the Emmy-nominated series the epic conclusion it deserved. I can say with absolute conviction that he did, and then some, delivering six final episodes that encompass everything the show is about: expectation defying solutions to ordinary dilemmas. 

The format of the third season, and every other for that matter, is simple enough while still being unlike anything else you’ve seen before. John Wilson, the “star” of the show if you will, presents a problem, i.e. how to find a public restroom, how to cover your furniture, how to throw out your batteries, then spends the episode looking for a solution through interviews with a myriad of random characters and field trips to different locations throughout New York City and beyond. It’s impossible to predict where the episode will end up from where it started. I never could have conceived that an episode about how to split the check at restaurants would end at a meeting for the New York Soccer Referee Association, yet it totally works. 

Season three not only delivered more of these predictably unpredictable twists and turns, but somehow managed to take them even further in some places. The prime example of this is in episode five, “How to Watch Birds.” Just when you think you’ve learned to expect the unexpected, the show sets an entirely new standard of what it’s capable of and the lengths it’s willing to go to. And it does so in such a clever, original way. An episode that starts about bird watching should not be able to devolve into this exploration of truth versus dishonesty and the human tendency towards embellishment and still work as well as it does. It has an earnestness about it that could so easily fail or come off as pretentious, but it soars past all of those traps and pitfalls with ease thanks to the piloting of a host with a deep sense of relatability and passion for documentary. 

John Wilson is far from a Ryan Seacrest or Terry Crews, and that is exactly what makes him so wonderful and likable. He has an awkwardness to him that, for me anyways, feels so much more trustworthy and accessible than someone who hits the mark every time or is overly professional. It feels real, and easier for me to connect with. He always feels so genuine in his pursuits, and conveys the “lessons” or meanings of each episode with a sincerity and thoughtfulness that never feels pandering or forced. 

There’s no question of his passion for filming or commitment to hearing different perspectives and capturing New York City in a way that is both honest and optimistic. I could easily see how someone else trying to do the same thing could come across as exploitative or disingenuous, but he just doesn’t. No matter who he’s interviewing or how insane some of the things they’re saying are, he hears everyone out and gives them a chance to share their perspective. 

The random clips of New York City residents or observations spliced throughout the episodes feel exactly like what they’re presented as: interesting findings that Wilson made just in passing. There’s a quality to it that feels like a friend is showing you something funny or interesting they saw the other day by happenstance.

 Everything feels like it’s truly done in the pursuit of trying to find solutions to often unanswerable social qualms through exploration of the world and its inhabitants. I’ve never been made to think of John Wilson as the host of an HBO show. He’s just a guy that likes to film things who found an outlet to share them through HBO. 

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I do find this show to be a genuine and heartfelt celebration of humanity. It celebrates the different viewpoints and perspectives that make us all unique, while also acknowledging the things we are bonded in never having the ability to know, like when or if the rapture will ever hit, what happens after death, or even smaller scale things like the proper way to follow social norms. It presents and considers heavy, hard hitting subjects in a way that reminds you not to take anything too seriously, and to enjoy the absurdity of life. That, or, you know, it’s just a show about a guy recording various people peeing all over New York. 

I commend Wilson greatly for his decision to end the show when he did. This way, it’s three fantastic seasons, with 18 high quality episodes, and no room for anything to start getting lazy or repetitive or phoned in. It’s a tightly wrapped, perfectly packaged show. I look forward to revisiting it in the future, as well as  whatever Wilson sends down the pipeline next. 

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