Fishing with John
|Fishing with John|
Cover of the Criterion Collection DVD release
|Created by||John Lurie|
|Opening theme||"Fishing With John" by John Lurie|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Executive producer(s)||Kenji Okabe|
30 min (per episode)
|Distributor||The Criterion Collection|
Fishing with John is a 1991 television series conceived, directed by and starring actor and musician John Lurie, which earned a cult following. On the surface, the series resembles a standard travel or fishing show: in each episode, Lurie takes a famous guest on a fishing expedition. Since Lurie has no expert knowledge of fishing, the interest is in the interaction between Lurie and his guests, all of whom are his friends. Nothing particularly unusual actually happens, but the show is edited and narrated in a way to suggest that Lurie and his guest are involved in dramatic and even supernatural adventures.
The guests featured are film director Jim Jarmusch, actor Matt Dillon, musician Tom Waits, actor Willem Dafoe and actor-director Dennis Hopper. The series ran for 6 episodes, each featuring a different guest and locale, except for episodes 5 and 6 which both feature Hopper in Thailand. Each episode has voice-over narration by Robb Webb, which is sometimes bizarre and off-topic. The soundtrack is by Lurie, with several guest performers (see below).
Fishing With John centered around actor/musician John Lurie taking solo fishing trips with various celebrity friends of his. Jim Jarmusch, Matt Dillon, Tom Waits, Willem Dafoe and Dennis Hopper all appear in the series.
In the DVD commentary, Lurie notes that the original plan was to film in Arkansas, but funding issues forced the filming to happen in Jamaica, where Waits was already on vacation. Also in the commentary, Lurie claimed that following their trip to Jamaica, Tom Waits was displeased to the point that he did not speak to Lurie for two years afterwards.
Lurie claimed that Dennis Hopper was so high on sugar during his two-part episode that he was unable to concentrate long enough to fish. Also in the commentary, Lurie explains that the choice of Matt Dillon was largely pushed upon him by the Japanese group financing the episodes; the filmmaker had originally wanted Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers to accompany him on the Costa Rica episode.
The narrator of Fishing With John' is Robb Webb, a professional sounding announcer who is often made to say bizarre non sequiturs. For example, the fourth episode features an epilogue with Webb sadly noting that, "On January 19, John Lurie and Willem Dafoe died of starvation." The following episode opens with Webb exclaiming, "I made a mistake! John is still alive."
Episode breakdown 
|1.||Jim Jarmusch||Fishing for shark off the coast of Montauk, New York State. Out here, the shark is at the top of the food chain.|
|2.||Tom Waits||Lurie and Waits fish for red snapper in Jamaica. Tom periodically becomes grumpy. A game of cards on dry land makes Tom feel much better. Waits catches a fish and puts it in his pants.|
|3.||Matt Dillon||Dillon and Lurie fish in San José, Costa Rica. Supernatural events ensue.|
|4.||Willem Dafoe||Ice fishing in northern Maine. Dafoe and Lurie run out of crackers and, the narrator tells us, starve to death.|
|5.||Dennis Hopper||The narrator happily reports that Lurie is still alive. Lurie and Hopper search for the mythical and elusive giant squid in Thailand, which also is apparently hunting them.|
|6.||Dennis Hopper||Part two in Thailand. The squid hypnotizes the protagonists with its "volley ball" sized eye. Deeper and deeper into Thailand, few are chosen.|
Footage from the first episode was used in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Hooky", aired in 2000; Lurie and Jarmusch were credited with guest appearances.
The series' soundtrack was largely composed by Lurie, and included Lurie himself on vocals, soprano saxophone, harmonica, keyboards, guitar. It also featured the Fishing With John Singers (Marion Beckenstein, Lisa Bielawa, Mary Ann hart, Cassie Hoffman, Sarah Hover, Jeffrey Johnson, Phyllis Jo Kubey, Eric Lamp, and Alexandra Montano), as well as the Cassatt String Quartet: Muneko Otani, Laura Goldberg, Michiko Oshima, Anna Cholakian. Many other performers were featured, including Tom Waits, Robb Webb, Steven Bernstein, Michael Blake, Jane Scarpantoni, Evan Lurie, Doug Wieselman, Tony Scherr, Calvin Weston, Mauro Refosco, Marcus Rojas, Bart Feller, Eugene Moye, Garo Yellin, Bryan Carrott, David Tronzo, Erik Sanko, Tony Garnier, Billy Martin and Nana Vasconcelo.
A CD of the soundtrack was released in 1998 on Strange & Beautiful Records.
Reviews and reception 
Fishing With John has garnered positive reviews from Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Apollo Guide, The Digitalbits, Entertainment Weekly, and The Film Buff. The New York Times praised the series, noting that, "There is no big-bang payoff at the end of these episodes; that is part of what makes Fishing With John such an appealing alternative to the high-volume, laugh-track world of network television. It is also richly photographed by some first-rate cinematographers (including Michael Spiller, who often works with Hal Hartley). And, with music by Mr. Lurie throughout, the series sounds better than any fish deserves."
- Criterion Collection essay by Michael Azzerrad
- New York Times article: "TELEVISION REVIEW; The Musician and the Sea: Fish Have Little to Fear."
- CD Universe: John Lurie Fishing With John Soundtrack CD
- Fishing with John at the Internet Movie Database
- Fishing with John at The Criterion Collection
- Interview with John Lurie regarding Fishing with John
- Video interview with John Lurie