September 25, 2008 | Comments ()

By Seth Freilich | TV | September 25, 2008 |


Let’ cut right to the chase — “Dexter” is one of the best show’s on TV right now, and one episode into Season Three, it doesn’t appear to be veering from that path. For those who haven’t seen the show before but have the Showtime — jump in now. There’s a good 5 minute recap at the beginning of the episode which’ll give you most of what you need to know. Which really boils down to this — Dexter is a blood spatter analyst who also happens to be a serial killer. He used to follow a code, only killing those who wouldn’t otherwise get their due justice, but he’s now shed his formal code like a butterfly shedding her cocoon. Sure, he’s still going to kill only them what deserve it (or so he plans), he’s just gonna do it Sinatra’s way rather than within the rules laid out by his now-dead, adoptive cop father (Dexter has had some daddy issues over the past two seasons).

Anyway, we pick up not long after the end of last season (if they give us a specific time frame, I missed it). Dexter is generally living large — work is good, and life with Julie and the kids is good (he even goes to a fathers-telling-the-class-what-they-do type thing, although he wisely decides to leave out the “I kill them what deserve it” part). And he’s psyched about the new code-free world he’s put himself into. Unfortunately, it’s all a bit short lived and, before long, Dexter is once again worrying about being caught (as his sister Deb, who’s quit smoking and drinking but thankfully not cussing, puts it: “Someone really stepped on his dick with this one”).

Which is the cue for Jimmy Smits. I love me some Jimmy Smits. These days, he seems to most often play variations on the same theme — a generally good and moral man, but with a dark and tough underbelly. But he plays it so damn well that I have no problem with his D.A. character here appearing to be yet another version of that same role. Smits is signed on for the bulk of the episodes for this season, I believe, and it’ll be interesting to see where things go as far as the relationship the show has started building between him and Dexter (and watching Hall and Smits together really is a pleasure).

Those who already love this show know why it’s so good — namely, its style, its black comedy, its preposterous but not too over the top storylines and, most importantly, Michael C. Hall (and I’m OK with him not getting the Emmy on Sunday only because, as good as he is on this show, “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston is simply better). And all these things are still here. So while we’re only one episode in, it’s looking like we’re going to get another fun ride.

I’m slightly less sure about the second season of “Californication,” which follows “Dexter.” Now don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed the first season a lot. I thought it was pretty damn funny, and it gave full bloom to my longtime man-crush on David Duchovny (how Larry Sanders could resist him is beyond me!). But this first episode felt a bit too forced for my liking. To be fair, it’s just one episode, and I still laughed more than I did at all of the last season of “Entourage” (which hopefully turned the corner with Ari’s amusing prank war last week). But I just felt like you could see the writer’s pen a bit too much in the situations Duchovny’s Hank was finding himself in, particularly the one that ends the episode (although one of the biggest laughs of the episode, for me, came right in the middle of the final scene). Not that last season was necessarily believable, I just think it had a more natural flow.

That being said, it was still funny, and watching Hank try to cope with monogamy could certainly be mined for laughs. Particularly since, like Dexter’s sister, he’s also quit smoking, which means the real question is where he inevitably fails first — by putting another butt to his lips, or by putting his lips to another woman’s butt.

Last point of “Californication,” one which will surely be mentioned in 90-plus-percent of the reviews, is about the obvious thruline between the show and Duchovny’s recent real life tribulations with the whole rehab-for-sex-addition-which-may-just-be-porn-addiction business. Personally, I just don’t particularly care, nor do I think much really needs to be said on it. Some people may view the show through a tainted (and perhaps sadder) lens in light of Duchovny’s ordeal, and others may not even tune it at all. I can’t tell you how to react or whether it will impact your viewing of the show. For me, the whole thing was definitely on my mind, but when the funny was there, the funny was there, and I didn’t care about all the rest. And that’s really the purpose of good comedy, anyway, to take us away from all the shit. So if “Californication” can keep bringing the funny, it’s all good. And hopefully, along the way, it’ll loses a little of this first episode’s forced-ness (I don’t care if that ain’t a word).

And for those of you poor saps who don’t have the Showtime, do yourselves a favor and go pick up some “Dexter” or “Californication” DVDs. Unless serial killers and narcissistic man-whores aren’t your thing, in which case you probably aren’t a regular Pajiba reader anyways.

(“Dexter” premiers on Showtime this Thursday, Sept. 28, at 9 p.m. and is followed by “Californication” at 10 p.m.)


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Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. He still wishes “Californication” had a different name.

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"Dexter" (Season Three) and "Californication" (Season Two) / The TV Whore
Sept. 25, 2008

TV | September 25, 2008 | Comments ()




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