John Wilson has a talent for capturing the world like no other. For three television seasons, he has kick-started his HBO documentary series “How To With John Wilson” with a welcoming shoutout to New Yorkers. However, as the series arrives at the natural finish line with its latest six-part installment, it is clear that its scope goes far beyond the Big Apple.
With its signature style of observant mind-mapping, the new season takes viewers on several surprising detours across the US, each one more unconventional and fascinating than the last. While Season 3 isn’t an ideal farewell due to its palpable discomforting edge, it remains nonetheless creative, offbeat, and humorous.
“How To With John Wilson” sticks to its usual format, promising viewers insights on how to accomplish simple tasks, only to take them on a wildly different journey. In this season, something as mundane as finding a public restroom, learning to work out, or getting into sports, can lead to exhilarating detours such as giant pumpkin-growing contests, 9/11-based bodybuilding competitions, and vacuum collector exhibitions.
The narrative framing each episode may not be as impactful as earlier seasons, but it offers some of the most unforgettable interviews to date, revealing Wilson’s perspective as more sporadic than before. Still, the series compensates for this with some of the most striking interviews to date. Wilson’s inquisition into the lives of strangers with an open-minded curiosity offers profound and riveting results.
Unsurprisingly, the show takes on an eccentric personality within the exploration of specific subcultures. The current season offers a plethora of quirky, delightful and utterly genuine interviewees.
It’s remarkable how often Wilson accesses the inner lives of strangers by simply asking, “Can I see?” This takes him on forays into parts of life many of us never consider. His ability to get strangers, like a woman revealing her past relationship with an assassin or a man discussing secret body modifications, to open up makes the show feel like a small documentary miracle.
Despite maintaining some of its earlier charm, Season 3 of the show appears to struggle with maintaining the air of spontaneous magic that made the first two seasons exceptional.
Instances of locals calling the police on Wilson for filming and his unusual earnestness not always striking a chord with some of the people he encounters add a level of discomfort not previously felt. This oddity is increased with Wilson’s attempts at viewer manipulation, reminiscent of fellow creative Nathan Fielder’s experimental series “The Rehearsal”.
However, for documentary aficionados, “How To With John Wilson” Season 3 continues to offer plenty to laugh and be shocked about, thanks to its peculiar blend of rare and delightful New York footage.
Despite veering off the script at parts, the best moments are often when Wilson genuinely connects with people as open to others as he is to them. The series continues to inspire through Wilson’s dedication to humanizing everyone he captures on camera. After witnessing the world through his camera’s lens for eighteen episodes, viewers may find their own perspective of strangers forever changed.
“How To with John Wilson” Season 3 premiered on HBO on July 28.
Watch the trailer for “How To With John Wilson” below: