One of the stranger, most intriguing new television shows of the fall is How To With John Wilson, a new docu-comedy series coming to HBO on October 23rd. It's a show about the absurdities of day-to-day life in the city as processed through the lens of documentary filmmaker and self-described “anxious New Yorker” John Wilson, who serves as writer, director, cameraman, producer, and narrator.
But in addition to being a thoughtful and funny look at urban ennui, the show also has added resonance due to its timing—as you can see in the trailer below, it is an incredible portal into life in New York City in the immediate pre-COVID era.
Awkward public encounters! Packs of tourists with selfie cameras! People hanging out on benches without masks on! It was a time when the Times Square Record Mart was still in existence, and people would willingly hold microphones when a stranger approached them in the street. It was a time when you could open a door and find a group of people practicing lightsaber fighting, or turn a corner and see a large group trying to get a hold of a giant Ronald McDonald balloon.
The city was still like this less than eight months ago, but it sometimes feels like years ago—and it'll likely be at least another year before things start feeling like this again. The chance to briefly slip back into that comforting world while also getting to muse about topics including NYC's history of scaffolding, the risks and rewards of small talk, and an exploration of memory and more seems pretty perfect right about now.
HBO describes Wilson's style as "equal parts ethnography and autobiography," and notes all six episodes are shot from a first-person perspective coupled with Wilson's narration, as he "covertly and obsessively films the lives of his fellow New Yorkers while attempting to give everyday advice on relatable topics."
And for the cherry on top, it's executive produced by Nathan Fielder in his first major project since the end of his brilliant series Nathan For You.