Hank Moody (David Duchovny) is a has-been writer with multiple guilty pleasures. He’s a chain smoker, an alcoholic, and wants to bed every woman who crosses his path. While indulging every single one of his addictions, he’s also trying to make a serious relationship work with his soulmate Karen (Natascha McElhone, The Truman Show) and he’s trying to be a “great father” to their high school aged daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin, the voice of JoJo in Playhouse Disney’s JoJo’s Circus).
However, due to Hank’s sleeping with a different woman in almost every episode, his relationship with Karen has a dynamic different from that in a normal relationship. Karen seems to understand and accept him for who he is, and even says that he’s just a man-child. She keeps on coming back to him. This could be easily misconstrued as weakness on her part, but really it’s just like Hank says. They are soulmates. It’s a strange connection that really can’t be explained.
Hank is arrested early in the season and briefly shares a cell with rock legend Lew Ashby. While incarcerated, the two hit it off and Lew commissions Hank to write his biography. During a falling out with Karen, Hank moves in with Lew and Lew ends up having a relationship with Mia (Madeline Zima), the 16 year old with whom Hank slept with during season 1 (not knowing she was underage). In season 1, Mia stole a manuscript of Hank’s and passes it off as her own. She’s now got a publishing deal and she and Hank are the only ones who know he’s the real author.
In a side plot, Hank’s agent and friend Charlie Runkle gets fired from his job and attempts to make a living as an agent for porn stars. He meets a struggling young porn actress named Daisy (Carla Gallo, I Love You, Man, Superbad) and becomes a father figure to her, even funding a porn with his own money so that she can become a star. Meanwhile, Charlie’s wife Marcy is struggling with a serious cocaine addiction and Charlie eventually sends her to rehab. But while she’s gone, Charlie struggles with temptation of his own.
And poor Becca, the teenager who should be going through her own awkward selfish phase has to deal with parents who are going through awkward selfish phases of their own. She is the only sensible person on the show who seems to have personal ethics. She’s the one keeping her parents in line and the only voice of reason in the Californication world.
When this season first started, I couldn’t find a single redeeming quality about anyone or anything, save Becca. In every episode, Karen would walk in on Hank in a compromising situation. He would give one pathetic excuse after another, but would never apologize, and she would always forgive him. Charlie and Marcy had a strong marriage, but it was very strange. She was constantly snorting coke and he was fired from his job for masturbating too often at his office. And then Lew Ashby was introduced and he was even worse than Hank. But once I got to episode 10, I had to admit it to myself. I was hooked.
Even though all these characters were exceptionally flawed, they all have the same basic needs as everyone. Even though Hank doesn’t seem to be working through any of his addictions, he still wants to have a monogamous relationship with Karen and he really wants to be the best dad for Becca. He tries in his own way to succeed at pleasing these women in his life. Karen, even though I don’t agree with her actions, could be commended for trying to work things out with Hank. She knows that he is her soul mate in this life, and even though she doesn’t condone his actions, tries her best to accept him for who he is. And she’s an excellent mother to Becca.
Despite all the crazy things happening on the surface, these characters really do care about each other…in their own crazy way. The acting is top-notch; Duchovny even won a Golden Globe for his performance as Hank during season 1. If you’re interested, Californication will take some patience and getting used to. Even coming from watching “shocking” shows like True Blood and Dexter, this is it’s own kind of shocking. Borderline offensive, even. But once you get past all of the nonsense, Showtime’s Californication really is a very well done show worthy of a look.
Episode 1 – Slip Of The Tongue – Hank gets a vasectomy to show his commitment to Karen, then gets pulled over and talks back to a cop, landing him in jail. Karen won’t bail him out.
Episode 2 – The Great Ashby – While in jail, Hank befriends music legend Lew Ashby who bails him out. Charlie is fired from his job.
Episode 3 – No Way To Treat A Lady – Charlie decides he’s going to be a porn star agent, and begins to pursue Daisy as a client. Karen walks in on Hank in a fist fight with Lew because a prostitute named Trixie told Lew that Hank was a better lay. Karen and Hank get in a fight, ending with Karen slamming the door and saying “I hate you!”
Episode 4 – The Raw and the Crooked – After episode 3’s fight, Hank proposes to Karen and Karen not giving him a definite answer. Hank and Karen host a dinner party where Hank learns that he may be the father of Sonya’s baby. Hank and Karen meet Damien, Becca’s boyfriend.
Episode 5 – Vaginatown – Charlie gets Daisy the starring role in a new porn called Vaginatown, but only after investing his own money in the production. Hank moves in with Lew and Lew brings over a cooking show star for Hank to sleep with.
Episode 6 – Coke Dick and the First Kick – With Optional Commentary by Pamela Adlon – Charlie gives Marcy a hard time for spending so much money on her cocaine habit, even though the production of Vaginatown has moved into their own home. Karen walks in on Hank and Sonya having a touching moment.
Episode 7 – In A Lonely Place – Hank and Karen have a parent teacher conference about Becca and Hank ends up sleeping with her teacher. The teacher also happens to be Damien’s mom. Becca gives Hank a lecture to remember.
Episode 8 – Going Down and Out in Beverly Hills – Charlie sends Marcy to her mother’s for rehab and while she’s gone, he has sex with Daisy who has moved in to their home. Lew has told Hank that he’s still pining for the girl who got away – Janie Jones – so Hank tracks her down and goes to her house. Hank ends up sleeping with her maid. Karen finds out that Lew has been sleeping with Mia.
Episode 9 – La Ronde – Marcy doesn’t go to her mother’s but to an expensive rehab center instead. Charlie is livid. Hank goes on a date with Janie and Lew goes on a date with Karen. Nobody has sex though, except Hank and Karen at the end of the night to celebrate him not sleeping with Janie.
Episode 10 – In Utero – Karen found a lump on Hank’s penis, and he awaits the diagnosis call from the doctor. He also contemplates his relationship with Karen, and there are several flashback scenes that show Hank and Karen’s relationship at the beginning before Becca was born. The best episode of the season.
Episode 11 – Blues From Laurel Canyon – There is a party at Lew’s for the launch of Mia’s (Hank’s) book. At the party: Damien is caught kissing another girl, Becca is heartbroken and Lew comforts her. Charlie and Marcy go to the party together as Marcy is trying out her newfound sobriety. Daisy shows up and Charlie announces he wants a divorce. Janie shows up and Lew is nervous, so he does a line of coke. Only he passes out and cannot be revived.
Episode 12 – La Petit Morte – Lew has passed away. Sonya has her baby and it is quite obvious that Hank is NOT the father. This strengthens Karen and Hank’s relationship, but Karen has an offer to move to New York City. Damien and Becca make up, so Karen feels bad about taking her away from her boyfriend. Hank offers to stay in California to take care of Becca so that she can move. She takes him up on the offer and leaves the two behind.
This DVD release is presented in an impressive 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital Surround.
Conversations With The Cast: total run time 19:13
A Sit Down With David Duchovny – He answers questions about his character, and references a scene from season 1. Why does Showtime do this? This is the SECOND SEASON DVD release, why are they showing interviews about season 1?
A Sit Down With Madeline Zima – She answers questions about her father who isn’t even in season 2, but was a big part of season 1.
A Sit Down With Natascha McElhone – She answers general questions about the show, not specifically about the season.
A Sit Down With Pamela Aldon – She talks about Marcy’s marriage to Charlie and talks about what will happen in season 2.
A Sit Down With Evan Handler – He talks about Marcy and what will happen in season 2.
Marcy’s Waxing Salon – Pamela Aldon takes us on a tour of Pink Cheeks, a real waxing salon in LA for porn stars. We get to see some of them get waxed! The highlight? Pamela smacking the bottom of a porn star as she has it raised in the air to get waxed and sings “My grandma and your grandma, sittin by the fire!” Too funny.
Win A Trip! – Ah the win a trip sweepstakes from the Dexter season 2 DVD. Put the disc in to your computer’s DVD-ROM drive to access this feature.
Biographies – On-screen bios for David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Madeline Zima, Madeleine Martin, and Evan Handler
DVD ROM features:
The Tudors Season 3 Episode 1 and Episode 2
The United States of Tara Season 1 Episode 1 and Episode 2
After my initial disgust for this show waned, I really began to like it. I can’t believe I’m going to recommend this show, but not without warning. This is a crude show, shocking just for the sake of being shocking, and it will challenge every moral that you have ever known. While being complete and utter trash, Californication somehow also manages to be endearing. If you can make it through the first half of the season, do yourself a favor and finish it off. Californication is a worthy guilty pleasure.
Showtime/Paramount presents Californication. Directed by: several directors including David Duchovny, Daniel Duchovny, Adam Bernstein, Bart Freundlich. Starring: David Duchnovny, Natascha McElhone, Madeleine Martin, Madeline Zima, Pamela Adlon, Evan Handler. Written by: Tom Kapinos. Running time: 336 minutes. Rating: NR. Released on DVD: August 25, 2009. Available at Amazon.com