Round December 2020, I used to be sick of latest tv. I had run by way of the buzzy pandemic period TV exhibits; I don’t take into account myself a hardcore TV fan, however that little window after I didn’t have something new to look at was tough. That’s probably why I used to be so excited in regards to the premiere of Portray With John, in January of 2021. I’ve been a fan of Lurie’s work—from the Lounge Lizards to his roles in a few of Jim Jarmusch’s finest movies to his different, equally unclassifiable present from the early Nineties, Fishing with John—so I figured I had not less than an thought of what to anticipate. Seconds into the brand new present, I noticed not solely how improper I used to be to imagine something, however was additionally overjoyed to seek out that, not less than for that half-hour, I used to be watching one thing… bizarre.
When you missed out on that first season of Portray With John, it doesn’t take lengthy for Lurie to catch you up on what the present isn’t about, that it’s “The present the place I don’t educate you tips on how to paint.” It’s a present about a painter, however extra about his ideas and philosophies on life, artwork, and the world. That’s actually one of the best elevator pitch I can provide you for a present on one of many greatest cable networks in America. There’s no drama, no actual motion, and no plot. It’s meditative tv the place nothing actually occurs,
Lurie, who I attain over e-mail, sees the whole lot he does as a type of meditation, in a roundabout way. “I used to meditate in some durations of my life. Now I attempt to at all times be meditating, if you understand what I imply,” he writes. He provides that portray is a kind of means, which signifies that once we watch his present we’re listening to his meditations on life and artwork, however we’re additionally watching him meditate, in his personal approach. “I attempt to get to a state of hypnotizing myself into the world I’m creating.”
Meditative TV is having an enormous second proper now. At first look, it’s honest to imagine different exhibits streaming on HBO Max like Find out how to With John Wilson (which was just lately renewed for a 3rd season) and Chillin Island (which simply wrapped its first) don’t have anything in frequent with Lurie’s anti-painting lesson present, apart from sharing a community. However talking as any individual who’s normally anti-binge, I discovered myself tearing by way of all three exhibits. Watching Lurie’s present, had the identical impression on my temper as Chillin Island, a present the place three New Yorkers and a visitor or two go approach, approach out of their aspect into nature, as did How To With John Wilson, the titular host’s quirky, off-beat love letter to New York Metropolis. In contrast with different tv exhibits, watching these required little to no involvement on my half. I didn’t should get caught up in something. I didn’t should course of a ton of drama. I by no means felt somewhat worse or extra upset than I did earlier than I turned them on. In truth, I normally felt refreshed.
However there’s extra that goes into meditative tv. It’s not the identical as what The New Yorker dubbed “Ambient TV”; in truth, I discover myself extremely engaged. On the second episode of Chillin Island, the hosts—Alec “Despot” Reinstein, Ashok “Dap” Kondabolu and Aleksey “Lakutis” Weintraub—are making their approach by way of the swamps of Florida with the episode’s visitor star, Lil Yachty, for an unknown cause. Their escapade is narrated by comic Steven Wright’s famously droll, monotone voice, which asks, “Why are we alive? What is that this factor? What are you doing?” seconds earlier than Yachty loses his gold grill whereas whipping an ATV round within the mud. The three hosts go to assist him, and at one level somebody says, “I simply really feel like I can discover it.” One other replies, “All of us really feel like that.” They’re speaking about Yachty’s grill, however that phrase stored ringing round in my head. Doesn’t it really feel like there’s at all times one thing we predict we are able to discover, although it’s probably misplaced within the mud? This, for me, felt value meditating on greater than any convoluted plot improvement in a buzzier TV present.