Bringing You the Daily Dispatch


 "The How to With John Wilson" review is as unsettling, comical, and brilliant as always.
Culture TV and Radio

. “The How to With John Wilson” review is as unsettling, comical, and brilliant as always.

Can you provide a description of How to With John Wilson? The main filmmaker attempted to do so in a 2021 episode of the series, saying, “It’s a bit like a memoir or an essay, set in New York.”

Using only a handheld camera and his social awkwardness, Wilson explores his hometown and documents unconventional, amusing, or unsettling scenes from everyday city life. He chats with New York’s most peculiar individuals and incorporates anecdotes from his own unusual experiences. Despite his frequent pauses and stutters, Wilson crafts thirty-minute reflections on the absurdity and isolation of contemporary society.

As an interviewer, Wilson makes Louis Theroux look like Terry Wogan; as a cinematographer, he has the sideways eye of arthouse legends like Patrick Keiller and James Benning, but with more of a slapstick vibe. Whether his show is the most profound on TV is arguable; that it is one of the funniest is undeniable.

Initially, we have Wilson’s tutorial on locating a communal lavatory, where we discover the evolution that has occurred in the UK over the last 20 years, which was first initiated in New York during the 1970s. This refers to the gradual discontinuation of freely available restrooms, as private enterprises gain control over communal areas and create an unwelcoming atmosphere for regular individuals.

Wilson’s analysis of urban politics is more sensationalized compared to his usual writing, but he still manages to incorporate comically bizarre scenes. One example is a rushed creative with a bow-legged walk that gives the impression of needing the toilet urgently. Another scene shows two individuals decorating a sidewalk with toilet paper and sealing it with bathroom sealant. The reason behind their actions remains a mystery. Wilson’s series “How to …” regularly captures these fleeting curiosities and continues to appreciate the dirtiness of a constantly active city. (Wilson also films an astonishing amount of bottles filled with urine in gutters.)

That sinking feeling … Wilson at a Titanic attraction for How to With John WilsonView image in fullscreen

How to … is not just a step-by-step tutorial, but it often strays from the promised topic in the episode’s title. For instance, the scaffold installment focused more on commitment, while the wine-tasting episode delved into social anxiety. Additionally, the lesson on improving memory explored the idea of accepting our past and recognizing the limitations of our former selves.

“How to Discover a Public Bathroom” moves past the topic of toilets with less sophistication compared to Wilson’s other reflective pieces, yet is elevated by his adventurous spirit and knack for encountering eccentric individuals. Initially, he hitches a ride with a lively group of brunch-goers heading to a concert by the electronic pair Odesza. Then, to his surprise, a solitary woman in a rundown camper van agrees to let him join her on her journey to the Burning Man festival. When Wilson inquires about restroom facilities, she charmingly reassures him of the abundance of Porta Pottis available, a phrase that has become so ingrained in my mind that I struggle to recall the word “plethora” and may use “polethra” instead in the future.

Once again showcasing his knack for discovering intriguing individuals, Wilson progresses to the bustling streets of New York in the latest episode. It all begins with a trip to the doctor to have excess earwax removed, which prompts Wilson to pay attention to the city’s vibrant sounds. The ensuing montage is wonderfully comical, featuring screeching, hammering, revving, shouting, and even a blaring brass band, all intertwined with snippets of overheard conversations. As Wilson’s camera stealthily captures a woman dining with a friend, she exclaims, “Oh my god, Valerie, every time I come to Rockefeller Center, I can’t help but remember my gallbladder issues.”

Wilson reflects on his astonishing visit to various apartments in New York where residents receive discounted rent as a result of disruptive noise issues. He then meanders to Green Bank, Virginia, where he discovers a peaceful environment free of 5G signals thanks to the presence of the world’s largest radio telescope, making it a haven for those who are sensitive to electromagnetic frequencies.

skip past newsletter promotion

John Wilson is always able to find interesting material for his unique program. Everywhere he goes, he is surrounded by strange and fascinating people.

Source: theguardian.com