OK, I’ll admit my bias right off the bat, which is that I have a bit of a man crush on David Duchovny, particularly when he’s busting out with some dry-wit comedy stylings. So before seeing a second of his new Showtime comedy, I was already well-inclined to like it. And though I’ve only seen the first episode, I dare say that, bias be damned, it’s a solid little show. Mind you, “Californication” doesn’t look like it’s particularly groundbreaking as far as comedies go, but that’s fine by me — the more important thing is that it be funny. And funny it is. In fact, there’s a moment about two-thirds of the way through the premiere episode that probably got a bigger laugh out of me than any show in the last three or four months, and that’s after having already seen the scene in commercials for the show.
Anyway, Duchovny stars as Hank Moody, a writer who recently moved from New York City to Los Angeles after his successful novel, God Hates Us All, was optioned into a movie. This being LA, of course, the movie becomes the type of preening rom-com that the Pajiba staff loves sinking its scathing teeth into — that the flick is called A Crazy Little Thing Called Love and features “Tom and Katie” really tells you all you need to know about it. Hank loathes the adaptation, and finds himself with little patience for those who applaud it (he tells one gal he’s been schtupping, who admits to liking the flick, that “not only are you a cadaverous lay, you also have shitty taste in movies”). This hijacking of his work, coupled with a relatively recent break-up with his ex-girlfriend and baby-momma (Natasha McElhone) has left him in a bad place, suffering from the dreaded writer’s block. But Hank appears to be getting by just fine — at least on the surface — thanks to booze and drugs and women. Especially women. Hank’s a philandering cad, taking particular pleasure out of scrumping other guys’ wives — in the first episode alone, we see him hook up with three different gals. In fact, this show is going to give “Entourage” a run for its money as Hank not only pulls more tail than Vinny Chase, but the first episode also had five different gals baring their breasts for the home viewer. This whole aspect of the show actually quite reminds me of another HBO show, the almost-forgotten “Dream On,” although not in a rehashed or retread kind of way. I think it’s probably just because of all the tits.
Anyway, Hank’s escapades aren’t just a way to deal with his writer’s block; they’re also an attempt to deal with the fact that Karen, his baby-momma ex, is engaged to her new boyfriend despite the fact that there still appears to be something between her and Hank. And unfortunately for Hank, who freely admits to wanting her back, there’s no easy way for him to get past this — he can’t make a clean break since there’s that whole 12-year-old daughter, Becca, to deal with. And fitting the cliché of this type of character, Becca is of course the one girl who Hank can show actual emotion towards (even though, much to his disappointment, it doesn’t appear that Becca is a burgeoning lesbian), and playing the role of a decent father is the only part of his life that he’s almost got in order, although he doesn’t quite have that locked down yet either:
Becca: Can I ask you something?
Hank: Anything, my love.
Becca: Why is there a naked lady in your bedroom?
Hank: You wait right there, OK?
Becca: There’s no hair on her vagina. Do you think she’s OK?
Hank: …I’ll check.
In any event, although he’s devoted to his daughter and seems to be enjoying the drinking and drugging and shagging, deep down, it comes as little surprise that he’s not actually all that thrilled with his current lot in life. As he explains to his agent/friend Charlie (played by Evan Handler, who most recently appeared on “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”): “I’m disgusted with my life and myself, but I’m not unhappy about that.” And this would appear to be the underlying emotional thread of the show — while there will be much comedy mined by Hank’s escapades and romps and unencumbered candor, the underlying emotional thread will clearly focus on Hank trying to get centered, trying to be a better father, and trying to figure out what the hell is the deal between him and his baby-mamma. While a good comedy doesn’t need this type of drama as its backbone (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” particularly jumps to mind as a very funny show that doesn’t really have a dramatic/emotional core), a splash of well-executed drama can really act to ratchet a comedy up a few notches. That’s exactly what “Weeds” has done particularly well, which is why this is the perfect show to air after the pot comedy. Having only seen one episode, it’s obviously hard to predict whether the series will live up to this early promise, but I feel safe in putting the odds in its favor. For now, I’m totally onboard — despite the relative cliché of Hank’s character — because Duchovny is just a pleasure to watch. In fact, the only thing I’d really change at this point is the show’s god-awful title.
(“Californication” premieres tonight on Showtime at 10:30 p.m.)
Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. Longtime readers know that he also loves when shows make good use of soundtrack tunes, and he was therefore tickled pink that the premiere episode included a Peeping Tom track.
Destruction Leads to a Very Rough Road, But It also Breeds Creation
"Californication" / The TV Whore
Aug. 13, 2007
TV Reviews | August 13, 2007 | Comments ()