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californication_idol.jpgIn case the name wasn’t a big enough tip-off, the opening of “Californication” (debuting tonight at 10:30 p.m. on Showtime)–with a most unholy visit to a church (cue the cigarette in the holy water and the hot nun) while the choral prelude to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” plays–tells you that things are about to get raunchy. And then there’s the parade of undressed women.
Hank (David Duchovny) is living what should be the American dream for writers–he’s had his book, “God Hates Us All,” made into a (sellout) movie titled “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” The disparity between the titles signifies the dissonance between the writer’s work and its subsequent slaughter by Hollywoood. Hank is a writer whose ego is so desperately in need of a lift that he goes to book stores to check out how many copies they have and to hang out in front of the stack until he’s recognized by reading fans. (But what author doesn’t do that these days, whether it’s visiting stores or sitting at home and Googling ourselves to see if the work is resonating and/or selling?)
Hank is a womanizer. But the only woman he really wants is his ex-wife (Natascha McElhone), who of course is unattainable because she’s due to marry someone else. The “non-couple” is trying to raise their daughter in an altercation-free environment, although Hank’s promiscuity leads to a rather unorthodox experimental education for the young girl.


Duchovny pulls off drama and comedy effortlessly. And he’s got a perfect foil in the always-delightful Evan Handler, as his self-described “friend and agent,” or as we might term him, Ari Gold-Light. (Sorry, Evan–someone was going to say it.)
And while we’re going there, when Hank is asked to write a blog about single life for an L.A.-based magazine, I admit to being somewhat pleased and somewhat disappointed: A Duchovny blogger character? Cool. But singles writing? Really? If he “finds himself wondering” in the form of questions, they’re likely to lose me. Carrie “Manshaw” we don’t need.
Hank is definitely not Fox Mulder (which is lost on many X-Files fans, the most hardcore of which created this tribute on YouTube). As Hank, Duchovny maintains some of Mulder’s twinkling snark, but is less a conspiracy theorist than he is a man drowning in his own life. And because Showtime is decidedly not FOX, sex and nudity is not only an option, it seems to be a major component.
The nudity may not attract Showtime’s more puritanical viewers (if they have any), but the point of all the sex is the emptiness of it. The family–Hank’s idealization of what was his family and his goal to regain it–is the moral center of the show. And even though Hank and his wife are living apart, it’s clear that there’s still something there between them. It’s probably their co-parenting status, but they are likely to erupt in a consummation of chemistry before the season’s out.
And as for the promiscuity–which, with several adulterous liaisons also constitutes a rebellion against the institution of marriage–is an expression both of the immorality of Hollywood and the moral emptiness that Hank feels in the aftermath of his film’s debacle.
The fact that “Californication” is paired schedulewise with the also awesome “Weeds,” which itself is about the choices you make when you’re not sure how to handle your incredibly complicated life, has me hoping for a crossover episode. Hank needs pot and goes to Nancy Botwin to get it. Done! With plotting genius like that, I don’t know why I’m not working for Showtime.

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