The problem that comes with a perfect show is that it has to end. The television shows we love are destined to stop at some point, and with that comes the heartbreak. When I watched Breaking Bad for the first time at thirteen and realized that it was done, I was sad. When Atlanta pulled off a perfect finale last year and brought itself to a beautiful close, I was devastated. But there was probably no show I’ve ever dreaded ending more than docu-comedian John Wilson’s masterpiece on the human condition, How To with John Wilson.
In fact, I don’t think Wilson is ready for it to end. For those unfamiliar, Wilson has been making New York-based comedic shorts on how to do basic things (deal with bed bugs, live with regret, etc.) since the early 2010s. They are made entirely of candid footage and interviews related to each episode’s core concept. In 2019, Wilson was approached by HBO with an offer to turn his shorts into a series of half-hour episodes, so of course he took it. With a larger budget behind him, he was able to take the show across the country (though it would never leave its home for good). Season one was about proving its concept, and season two took it above and beyond by delving into the emotions of its subjects.
Like many excellent final seasons, the final chapter of How To is about the show and Wilson himself. There are episodes that scrutinize his filming process and question how much of the show is real (“How To Watch Birds”), and there are ones that are laden with so many twists and turns that they’re effectively fan service (“How To Work Out”). Zero weak links are present in the six episode chain—once again, Wilson delivers quality over quantity with only three hours of content.
And good lord, is that content fantastic. The prior seasons had one episode each that didn’t measure up to the consistently outstanding quality of the season, but that issue isn’t present here. All six episodes stand on their own and have dozens of memorable moments throughout. Wilson’s dedication to sifting through what must be thousands of hours of footage to edit them down into cohesive and funny stories is more impressive than it’s ever been. He gets some of his most ridiculous interviews yet, and I’m continuously amazed that he hasn’t gotten himself killed with how often he follows weird people into their houses with his camera.
Despite this, Wilson never loses sight of the show’s emotional core. There are plenty of interviews that are heartfelt, whether about the interviewee’s deceased loved ones or growing giant pumpkins, and the most effective moments of the season come from Wilson himself. There’s never a direct acknowledgement from him regarding the series coming to a close, but the themes of the various episodes—closure, disappointment, remembrance, letting go—all speak to it, a talent Wilson has honed over the years, and with each season.
It’s hard to write about How to with John Wilson, especially its final season, and not because I don’t enjoy it. This is a show that is truly unique, one that’s hard to replicate because of how much it relies on Wilson’s personality and style—and as such, it’s hard to write about it beyond just “it’s good.” But that’s all that matters at the end of the day—it’s good. It’s great, it’s unique and phenomenal and one of my favorite shows out there. There’s never been a show like How To with John Wilson, and there’s little doubt in my mind that there ever will be one as good as it again. I’m grateful for it existing, and it departs with one of the greatest gifts any show can give a fan—a perfect ending.
All seasons of How To with John Wilson are now available on Max.
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