In the first season of Showtime’s Californication, we were introduced to David Duchovny’s character, bitter yet upbeat writer Hank Moody. Hank, after moving to Los Angeles on the heels of his first novel – a critical darling entitled “God Hates Us All” – has recently lost his long-time love and, by extension, his daughter, to a straight-arrow bore who makes his girlfriend Karen (Natascha McElhone) feel safe.
The first season told us the story of Hank’s attempts to win Karen back and his increasingly perilous relationship with a sixteen-year-old Lolita, whose inclination for combining sex with a wicked right hook leads to one of television’s all-time great novel titles. Oh yeah, and it also featured lots and lots of raunchy sex between Hank and many gorgeous women. This was a major reason for the show’s notoriety, but what really makes the show work is Duchovny’s portrayal of Hank. He imbues him with a charming kind of good-natured nihilism and, even when he is being a grade-A jackass, we still like him.
The second season takes up the story right where it was left. Hank and Karen are back together, and everyone, including their daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin), is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Hank, despite his best efforts, has a history of blowing it, an expression that takes on a new and awkward meaning in episode one when Hank, attempting to pleasure Karen at a party, stumbles into the wrong room and, in the dark, begins to perform oral sex on the wrong woman. This is the first bump in the road for Hank and Karen, and that road stays bumpy for the rest of the season, not only for Hank, but also his agent Charlie (Evan Handler), whose marital and career problems lead him to some truly unusual places.
Now we get to the third season. Hank ends up getting a job as a college professor, but you already know that with his sexual proclivities, that’s going to get him in some trouble. In this case, he happens to be going after the dean’s wife. Looks like his students aren’t the only ones with a lesson to learn here. Then there’s Jill, his teaching assistant, and Jackie, a student. Can you see where this is going yet? It’s like a kid in a candy store. Rick Springfield guests as himself in a few episodes, Marcy ends up crushing on the rock idol. Give the guy some credit. He plays a very unflattering image of himself, including an addiction to cocaine. Peter Fonda also guests on an episode.
Each episode is displayed in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The show has a varied color palette, and both the bright, sunlit scenes and the scenes at night feature nice clarity. There is a gritty, realistic look to the show and, while black levels are just average, the picture is consistent, with few compression artifacts.
The set features 5.1 Surround for its audio and, while there’s nothing overwhelming to report, the dialog is what counts, and in that regard the audio is just fine. Even when there’s all manner of business happening on screen, everyone’s lines are clear. The show also features some very good music, which is served well by its audio track.
Blooper Reel: (4:31)
Marcie’s Pajama Party: (3:06) The actress sits with recently divorced women to talk.
It’s a bit strange to watch the once great Fox Mulder in this sexual adventure comedy that rings a little too close to home for the actor. He’s done a little time for sex addiction in rehab. Of course, what actor hasn’t been to rehab for something or another? The show continues to deliver the same material it has from the beginning. Californication is not a show for everyone. It features subject matter and language that many people find distasteful. However, if you like raunchy comedy that also manages to be intelligent, mature, and moving, you can’t go wrong with at least a rental (though I highly recommend watching season one first). If you’re already a fan, then purchasing the set is a no-brainer. And if you loved season one but haven’t seen the second season and aren’t sure whether it’s worth watching, the answer is yes, it definitely is.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani