How to With John Wilson was one of the most acclaimed but also hardest-to-sell new shows of 2020. (It landed on our Best Shows of 2020 list.) The premise: A guy wanders around New York City (and sometimes south Florida or Nowhere, Pennsylvania) and shoots random stuff with his camera. Critics got it, but critical love doesn’t always translate into boffo viewership. And yet apparently enough people are watching this one, because it just got renewed for a second season.
John Wilson himself wasn’t exactly a big name before his show bowed on HBO in late October, despite having earned a cult following from his web videos, which were very much like How To. But the show’s executive producer was: Nathan Fielder is the one who helped hook Wilson up with a sweet cable TV deal.
Though How To and Nathan for You have certain affinities (a magical ability to find random weirdos; their hosts’ willingness to amplify their innate awkwardness), they’re very different. Where Fielder tries to effectively transform reality with convoluted schemes, Wilson mostly just observes. Each of the first season’s six episodes revolves around what sounds like a how-to theme (“How to Make Small Talk,” “How to Cook the Perfect Risotto”), but gradually evolves into something stranger, and also deeper. The final episode even turns into one of TV’s first great direct examinations of life during the pandemic.
Who knows how Season 2 will look. Presumably, it will at least in part involve Wilson wandering around an emptied New York City, though he’ll surely be able to happen upon enough eccentrics wandering the vacant streets. You’ll have plenty of time to binge those episodes; it will take you half an afternoon. But make sure to also watch the show’s surreal behind-the-scenes video, which is soon taken over by Fielder in delightfully deranged fashion.