'Fishing with John' - The TV Show Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'Fishing with John' - The TV Show

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In 1992, John Lurie (of the musical act The Lounge Lizards) created a series of six short shows, where he would take his buddies out fishing. It sounds rather boring, but it became somewhat of a cult classic. Why? Well, John knew absolutely nothing about fishing1, and his buddies were not experts either. In addition, his friends consisted entirely of indie celebrities who, when on a boat, behaved like fish out of water. As a result, very few fish are ever caught on a given episode, but the purposefully hokey narration plays up the non-existent drama to the hilt - stuff like 'Jim is on the verge of being pulled in and devoured by the blue shark'. Invariably, such boredom leads to goofiness, metaphysical musings, and the occasional spat, all boiled down into a 30-minute episode.


'Long Island with Jim Jarmusch'

In the first episode, John Lurie picks up his indie film director friend Jim Jarmusch at his New York City apartment. They drive out to the town of Montauk on the northeastern part of Long Island. After a good night's sleep, they set out at five in the morning to go fishing for shark in the North Atlantic. Amazingly, this turns out to be a pretty successful venture, as they effortlessly catch bluefish to use as live bait and, after much waiting and a long struggle, a medium-sized blue shark which they then release. While waiting around, Jim considers the ethics of hunting sharks with a pistol, and they hatch a truly crazy plan to lure a shark involving a hunk of cheese and a pistol. Finally, having caught the shark, they release it back into the water and head back to port weary but triumphant.

'Jamaica with Tom Waits'

In the second episode, John goes fishing in Jamaica with musician Tom Waits. At the start of the episode, their car has broken down and they must paddle a canoe across the island. (It should be noted that they are perfectly willing to bend the truth for an interesting scenario.) After sleeping overnight at a friend's house, they catch a boat out to a decrepit tug that John has rented. After a few unsuccessful tries, Tom Waits becomes violently ill from sea sickness. After a ride back to shore and some gambling with cards, they try again in calmer waters. In all, they catch two smallish red snappers, which Tom Waits inexplicably likes to put inside his trousers. Then, it's a long walk back to the broken down car and another episode in the can.

'Costa Rica with Matt Dillon'

The third episode starts on a small chartered plane where John and actor Matt Dillon are flying to the coast of Costa Rica. There, they commune with a village elder who instructs them in the fish dance to bring luck in catching fish on the river. They also meet with a village fisherman, and guide, who is purported to be able to turn himself into a bird. Unfortunately, they catch only one real fish in the episode, and John gets upset with Matt Dillon for being quiet and surly. In order to liven things up, there are several trippy sequences involving the Fish Dance and the guide's transformation into bird form. Still, not many fish.

'Maine with Willem Dafoe'

In this episode, John goes ice fishing with actor Willem Dafoe. Staged like a documentary, this show records the failures of John and Willem to catch a fish and survive the numbing cold. It all starts innocently enough, with the two of them building a shelter against the cold to sleep in overnight. The next morning, they get up and use a power auger to drill several holes in the ice and install rods with flags on the end that will fly up when a fish bites. But, it's brutally cold and the fish aren't biting. After several days, the men are forced to subsist only on cheese crackers found in Willem Dafoe's pockets. After 11 days of madness and hunger, they finally succumb to the cold and both die. Again, the events of the show should never be confused with reality.

'Thailand with Dennis Hopper' (A two-parter)

In the most ambitious episode yet, John is apparently back from the dead and meets actor Dennis Hopper in Thailand to hunt for the elusive giant squid. They catch a ride down to the southern coast and do some fishing on the Andaman Sea. They catch a stingray, but the squid isn't there, so they hitch a ride north on a trawler. At night, they string out lightbulbs to fish in the darkness, but catch nothing. When they wake up in the morning, the crew has fled in fear of the squid's wrath, and John must drive the boat into port for lunch and a visit to the reclusive 'squid monks'. Later, they steal a boat from the monks and try again, only to be hypnotised by the spooky powers of the squid. It's a rather surreal two episodes, punctuated with Dennis Hopper's stories of past relationships and John's growing annoyance at being called 'Johnnie'. The scenery is gorgeous, but there are very few fish caught - an outcome all too typical for the show.

1Or so the advertisements claimed. Actually, John knew something, but he still was woefully ignorant about any advanced stuff.

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