One of the Most Innovative Shows on TV Today

HBO has a history of high-profile and well-regarded original TV shows that have been associated with quality television for over two decades. From The Sopranos to True Blood to Game of Thrones, these are series that have become pop culture phenomenons. One of their latest series, How To With John Wilsonis very different from some of the most famous series on HBO, but it is a unique show that cost a fraction of those other series and yet has still managed to gain a passionate audience.

Produced by Nathan Fielder or Nathan For You fame, How To With John Wilson is a comedic documentary series. The show follows filmmaker John Wilson as he attempts to give advice on personal issues in the form of tutorials, filmed and cut with footage he has acquired walking around New York City or other areas he visits. The series typically goes off-topic from the original tutorial, but comes back around in the end, and while the audience never actually learns how to do the topic the episode is named after, they may learn something a bit more about themselves and the human condition, or an understanding of the world.


Despite not being the flashiest show on HBO, the series has received critical acclaim since it premiered in 2020 and after airing season two in 2021, was renewed for season three, which is likely set to premiere sometime in 2022. The show has captivated audiences for its incredibly unique vision of the world, somehow being both profound and hilarious. Here is what makes How To With John Wilson such an innovative show, and one of the best on television right now.

A Familiar Style Done With A Fresh Vision

The series is a clever send-up of two familiar videos audiences are very familiar with: popular nature documentaries and video tutorials. Even if someone does not quite know the language to describe them, audiences likely understand the rhythm and setups of each, and How To With John Wilson plays with those both beautifully.

Regarding video tutorials, each episode is framed around one question. While tutorials mainly answer questions, the series uses them as a jumping-off point to explore other concepts. For example, episode five of season two, ‘How To Appreciate Wine,’ begins as the title suggests, trying to understand wines, but eventually it (somehow) organically transitions to Wilson covering his own personal encounter with the controversial cult group NXIVM and its founder Keith Raniere and Smallville star Allison Mack during his time in college as part of an acapella group.

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That is not even the only detour in that episode on wine, as eventually the filmmaker finds himself crashing a party of Jack Owoc, the founder of Vital Pharmaceuticals and owner of the Bang energy drink brand. This strange rabbit hole through elitism, wealth, and a sense of belonging may seem random, but it captures the sort of way the human mind ponders simple questions into larger issues, and eventually finds a way to tie it all together. In a sense, it’s the perfect representation of the hyperlink stream-of-consciousness many people inhabit in the digital age, skipping from website to website and thought to thought.

The other format of the show is the traditional documentary, especially anthropological and nature documentaries, specifically that of Planet Earth. Planet Earth is known for its incredibly stunning visuals framing the beauty and wonder of what Earth has to offer, all narrated by David Attenborough’s soothing yet commanding voice. How To With John Wilson uses Wilson’s soft-spoken, humorous voice-over footage of the strange and absurd videos he captures in New York City to create a humorous juxtaposition. While the contrast between the two is extremely funny, it also shows the power of filmmaking on display, as the image and narration still find a way to create a sense of meaning. It finds the beauty in the absurd, and how there is still a wonderful world outside one’s front door even if it may not appear so at first glance.

John Wilson Finds the Beauty of Human Connections

The central premise at the heart of every How To With John Wilson episode is about finding a way to connect with other people, so much so that the title of the series premiere episode is ‘How To Make Small Talk.’ Each episode finds John Wilson interviewing people from various walks of life and getting a greater understanding of them, showcasing how many different types of people there are.

For John Wilson and the audience, it’s about finding a way to understand and connect to people. From the loving connection he has with his old landlady (one of the most touching relationships on TV right now), who insists he call her ‘Mama,’ to a lonely youth he meets and bonds with on vacation, the series features a number of interactions that one may not expect to tug at the heartstrings, but do.

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No more is this more apparent than in episode five of season two, ‘How To Remember Your Dreams,’ which finds the series creator joining a fan group for the 2009 movie Avatar that aired on Christmas Eve. While Avatar was the highest-grossing film, much discussion has been had about its lasting impact and why James Cameron would want to make four sequels. However, the episode features a small but extremely passionate fanbase that found the message of Avatar to be genuinely, unironically moving, and how this one movie formed a connection among a small group of people who feel isolated.

For many, this one movie helped them find others like them and saved their lives. This is the beauty of the series, finding ways, even small ones, for people to come together and not feel alone, whether they’re Avatar fans, referees, believers in the Mandela Effect, and many others.

How To With John Wilson is Perfect For a Post-COVID World

How To With John Wilson premiered on HBO in October 2020, six months into the COVID-19 pandemic. While each episode is a stand-alone, viewers who watch the first season can notice a pattern around certain key events taking place in the background. The series began filming in 2019 and at the beginning of 2020. In the final episode of season one, COVID-19 rears its head into the storyline and the five episodes building up to it were lessons on issues that, once the pandemic hit, now seemed like impossibilities, like ‘How To Make Small Talk’ and ‘How To Split a Check.’

John Wilson’s soft-spoken voice provides the perfect comfort for audiences who needed something comfortable, funny, thoughtful, and beautiful in a rather bleak time. While everyone was stuck at home, with the idea of ​​vaccination still months away and an uncertain future ahead, How To With John Wilson became a snapshot of what it was like before the world stopped, and what it could return to with some helpful lessons that hopefully might make everyone feel a little better.

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