TV Review: Californication

No, not the Red Hot Chilli Peppers album, the tv show of the same name on Showtime.  I was flipping through Comcast’s On Demand screen last night looking for something to watch when the annoying voice that I typically ignore mentioned that Showtime had free episodes of Californication available to watch.  Less than a minute later I was watching the first episode (hilariously edited for content).  What feels like minutes later I had watched the first five episodes and had to restrain myself lest I forgo sleep entirely.

The show focuses on the shambles of displaced writer Hank Moody.  Moody is a cantankerous, manipulative, self-destructive individual overflowing with self-loathing.  Yet he is endearing as well, he obviously loves his daughter and her mother (his ex-girlfriend) but is so full of himself, and hatred for himself, that his behavior constantly gets in his way.  The dialogue sparkles with a snappy attitude and is generous in laugh out loud moments whether they be an ironic turn of phrase or a bit of slapstick amusement.

The shows pacing is excellent with each half-hour (22-24 minute) episode flying by in what feels like no time at all.  The show both revels, and pokes fun, at the Hollywood lifestyle at once embracing and a shining a light on the absurdities Tinsel town cliches.  Moody despite constantly spewing vitriol at and about Hollywood types is a bit of a cliche himself: the self-destructive, disaffected writer railing against the banality of society at large.  It isn’t a bad thing, however that might sound, and Moody is able to strike some sort of balance between the reality of his own life and the life he thinks he should have; a balance that sets him apart from the typical cliche.

Special mention should go out to Madeline Zima, who plays the sociopathic daughter of Hank’s “nemesis” Bill.  Zima, who I last remember as the youngest daughter on The Nanny, manipulates and tortures Hank in frequently and amusing and always uncomfortable ways.  Madeleine Martin, who plays Hank’s daughter Becca, is also of worthy note.  Her acerbic wit and love for her mess of a father often cast her into an almost parental role.   Becca Moody, despite her mature attitude, is often a victim of the actions of the adults around her and I find it interesting that he role as her father’s caretaker and go-between between her parents, has forced her to sacrifice her childhood.  At the same time her ability to find enjoyment and fun in life despite her parent’s shitty situation, is a testament to her strength as a character.

I’ve always been a staunch believer in David Duchovny’s ability as a comedic actor (I admit to thinking he was pretty good in Zemekis‘ Ivan Reitman’s Evolution).  Few of his past projects took serious advantage of his dead pan delivery and pitch perfect timing but both are honed to perfection in Californication.  Season 1 is out on DVD and I highly recommend giving it a shot.

2 thoughts on “TV Review: Californication

  1. Ginny

    Zemekis didn’t make Evolution, Ivan Reitman did. Duchovny (no e) has a lot more talent than he gets credit, handling drama and comedy with equal aplomb.

    Californication is terrific. I hope more people discover its sharp wit and smart characters.

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