So, “Californication” is returning soon, and everyone’s favorite blind-in-one-eye leading man David Duchovny reprises his role as the perpetually creatively-blocked novelist Hank Moody. And I bet you real money he’s going to be having sex with people this season. Lots of sex. That he’ll feel bad about later.
Actually, that’s the entirety of “Californication.” Hank Moody has sex, feels bad about it later, then does it again. But gosh if he isn’t just so darn loveable.
I know the show is about that cycle. I know the show is supposed to be about how Hank Moody is a sex addict, and how he’s trying to combat this by doing…actually, he’s doing absolutely nothing. I mean, all the press and materials for the show depict Hank as a sex addict, but it’s never blatant in the actual show. And outside of a brief couple of episodes in season 3, he doesn’t try bettering himself in any way shape or form, either. So instead Hank just seems really horny.
Maybe Californication’s legacy will be that it accurately depicts the male “id.” The concept that if it’s available, be it a woman, drugs, or booze, a typical fellow will devour the contents, chew on the container, and nine times out of ten, not even bother to recycle after.
There are highlights, “In Uetero”, a season two episode, is a fairly engrossing piece of writing, using flashbacks, and the death of Kurt Cobain as a framing device for the *sigh* alternative love story of Hank and Karen. The monologue at the end is touching, and using the concept of a vastecomy to explore the conception of their child is pretty clever.
And the idea of Hank as a college writing professor for the third season was a good one, but it too, got lost in sex, sex, and more sex. A sort of love triangle about how just everyone wanted to sleep with Hank Moody. A friend of mine once explained that he stopped watching Denis Leary’s “Rescue Me” because it all of a sudden became about Tommy Gavin’s magical unit. “Californication” is about Hank Moody’s unit from episode 1. Oh, he’s also a writer. Woo.
I just, I wish there was more of that writing stuff. For a show about a writer who’s deeply tortured, it’s pretty shallow; the show seems to get bogged down in the Showtime tropes of sex, drugs, sex, more drugs, nudity, and bizarre sex. There’s an entire creepy subplot involving Hank’s agent and a character played by Kathleen Turner that is just so far into to fantasy land it takes me out of the show. Then Rick Springfield shows up and I start wondering if I ate some bad mushrooms.
Like some other pay cable television fare, “Californication” assumes debauchery can replace story, and having B list guest stars for a season or two can replace character development.
This is a growing, annoying, trend in all television, which started with “The Shield” when they brought in Glenn Close for a season, then Forest Whitaker for a season, and so on. “Dexter” has done it with Jimmy Smitts and John Lithgow, and “Californication” did it in season two with rocker/record producer Lew Ashby, and in season three by bringing on Peter Gallagher as a totally unhip school administrator.
And while “Dexter” has, well, Dexter and “The Shield” had Vic Mackey and a wonderful cast of support characters and bringing in semi-big names to play off your main characters can be successful, it won’t be if I’m in the dark about the main characters.
To sum it up, Californication is sort of like grade-A trash TV. While everyone else getting their fill of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and whatever the heck E! is putting on air these days, saying “Californication” is Californicrap wouldn’t be realistic.
You can do worse than Californication. I’ve seen every episode and do anticipate the fourth season. At the same time, it’s not a particularly good, exciting, funny, or entertaining show. It’s got the depth of a kiddie pool and boobies to spare.
Which kind of sounds a bit like California.
Californication's fourth season features Rob Lowe, and returns January 9th at 9:00pm ET. Earlier seasons can be found on Netflix Instant, Itunes, and on those shiny discs people used to buy.