Ausitn Nichols courtesy HBO
Made sense that in the last moments of HBO's misbegotten John from Cincinnati, Ed O'Neill was finally reunited with his AWOL avian friend Zippy. If ever there was a show that was for the birds, it was this birdbrained mishmash of half-baked, foulmouthed, anti-dramatic allegorical nonsense.

Over the last week, I attempted to catch up with last month's episodes, hoping against hope that I'd at last see what I was supposed to be seeing in this smugly opaque world of cryptic utterances from annoyingly mannered characters. (And I thought, maybe like other HBO series, in particular the superior Wire, this could be one of those shows that plays better if you watch several hours back-to-back.) The result: torture. I made it maybe halfway through each hour before zoning out in a state of utter boredom and contempt. Forget confusion - that part of the equation left the station long ago. I was merely hoping to be entertained a little. In vain, as it turned out.

At least the penultimate episode, involving Shaun's disappearance with John, had a bit of a dramatic arc. The finale, on the other hand? Just more head-in-the-clouds tomfoolery. I expect there are some critical voices out there convinced this show was touched by genius. To me, it's a case of The Emperor's New Surfboard. The emperor being David Milch, I suppose, a great talent indulged here in what can only be seen as a tremendous folly.

Speaking of surfing: couldn't we at least have been treated to a little more of the sport itself? In those moments, and in the title credits, John from Cincinnati promised some actual euphoria. Sadly, even with Bruce Greenwood as Mitch levitating from start to end, this show was stubbornly grounded by its endless pretentions.

Even bringing on more members from Deadwood's repertory company (Keone Young in the finale, Paula Malcomson in recent weeks) only served to pour salt in the gaping wound that is Deadwood's absence from HBO's schedule. This was one sorry substitute.

Did I like anything about John from Cincinnati besides the occasional glimpse of an actual surfing subculture? Brian Van Holt's performance as Butchie always rang true. Rebecca De Mornay could have taken a cue from the way his rages always felt organic to his self-destructive character. Her shrill performance as Cissy was the biggest turnoff in a series full of them: the misfits hanging around the Snug Harbor motel, the incredibly inexpressive nonperformance by the non-actor playing Shaun, Ed O'Neill's monologues to Zippy, anything that came out of John's mouth, whether repeating others or quoting his "father."

When John began talking about how "You're all going to be toast" because "We're coming, 9/11/14," I was only mildly offended by the cheap reference to our shared apocalyptic nightmare. Then later, after the unveiling of the shuffleboard grid at the motel, I saw the top numbers were "9," "11" and "14." Ooh, a sign? Nah, just another example of the mind games John from Cincinnati so shallowly played with its gullible audience.

Surely HBO isn't considering anything beyond putting John out to sea. Renewing it would be as inexplicably silly as FX's surprise renewal of the abhorrent Dirt. Maybe there's some new slogan afoot: In cable, no one can hear you yawn.