Californication – Episode 3-1 Review

I’ll go right on the record with this one:

Hank Moody is the best character on television.

I’ve been known to dabble in hyperbole a time or two in my writing, and maybe I’m caught up in the hype of the stellar Californication season three premiere, but as of this writing I stand by that statement.

We got a little of it all last night from Hank. Jaded cynicism, snarky one-liners, a brash persona masking a genuine love for the people he cares about most.

I found it revealing that the opening image of the season was Hank sound asleep mid-coitus. I thought it was a not-terribly-subtle way of telling us that even though Hank and Karen have decided they’re not exactly exclusive for now, these random slews aren’t exactly lighting Hank’s fire the way Karen does. He was quick to blame his drowsiness to his increased parental responsibilities.

I was a little surprised to see a liberal cat like Moody come down so hard on Becca for puffing some chiba with her friend, and then was overwhelmed by the irony when it was revealed it was his own stash. This exchange led to the line of the night in my opinion, when Hank was assessing marijuana’s reputation as a gateway drug: “It can be a gateway to some pretty cool shit.” Rock solid.

And, hey! We’re only one episode in and we were already treated to “Dinner Party Hank!”” I think we’d all agree this is where Duchovny shines in this role. Hank by his own admission in this episode, doesn’t play well with others. Did you catch him takinga swig from that booze as he approached the front door? And how cool was it to see Hank presented with an author he respected and looked up to? It’s not often you see him so caught off guard like that, making the fact that he caused his hero to fall off the wagon that much more sad/ironic/uncomfortably hysterical.

The dinner sequence was my second-favorite of the evening, ranking behind the final scene (we’ll get to that). Even with the soon-to-be-infamous “tuck” scene, wherein Hank’s literary idol went Jamie Gumb on the entire party. Pepper in the always reliable Peter Gallagher as the stuck-up dean/accosted cyclist and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

And we haven’t even delved into the sad, twisted existence of Charlie Runkle. Hot damn, how the mighty have fallen. Runkle is working on straight commission for an obscenely bloated Kathleen Turner, and beingtaken to the cleaners by Marcie in the divorce proceedings. To make matters worse, he’s having trouble finding distribution for Hank’s new book. Bad times for Runkle equals good times for us. I can’t decide what I enjoyed more, Lysol-ing his way back into his house with Marcie, or his Rusty Trombones 101 lesson from Turner. We’re led to believe that a Charlie/Marcie reconciliation is in the offing, which I’m cool with, though I have to say they were both outstanding when they were at each other’s throats in the office.

The reason I love this show is that it is unlike most other comedies on TV in that it can present interesting plot advancement without it feeling terribly heavyhanded. The characters are just sort of moving through the scenery, behaving as we believe they would, and their actions directly lead to interesting and relevant developments. Case in point: Richard’s off-the-deep-end moment at dinner wasn’t just weird filler, it directly led to the fascinating prospect of seeing Hank lecture in front of a college class. Sign me right the hell up.

Which brings us to the moneymaker. It’s not secret at all that the Karen/Hank scenes make this thing run, even over the phone. There’s very little I can say about these two that hasn’t been said already, but I think what I like most is they’re always laying it on the line. They’re unlike any other couple on TV right now. Flawed, willing to embrace their flaws, honest, funny, caring, believable. It’s all there. You always get the sense that they’re just a couple of twentysomethings tryingto figure it out. But, as Hank points out, as they’re figuring it out, the big fear is that they’ll figure out they’re not right for each other. That’s all we got last night, and they dealt with that uncertainty by shifting the conversation to the tie that binds them, they’re precocious, possibly bi-curious daughter.

Welcome back, Californication. It had been too long.

What did you all think? Am I off my rocker with my effusive praise? Or is this show really that fantastic? Sound off below or shoot me an email up top!