The Novice’s Guide To Californication


1. Californication: Season 1

“You can’t always get what you want.” The Rolling Stones may have said it best, and it seems to be writer Hank Moody’s theme song. David Duchovny (X Files) was born to play this sly, sarcastic, self-loathing, and–despite all the meaningless sex, booze, and fist fights–kind character. Writer Moody hates the Los Angeles world he lives in; a world that turned his sharp best-seller into a cheesy date movie, where his young daughter and should-have-been wife (Natascha McElhone) are slipping away into the hands of a rich play-it-safe guy, and where everything he truly wants seems just out of his reach. But the man hasn’t lost all hope. “Happy endings may get a bad rap, but they do happen,” he assures his daughter. “And when they do, they’re just as true as the unhappy ones.” One can’t help but hope Hank finds his happy ending, because it’s with his family that his soft side surfaces. Hank takes no shame in trying to woo back his “wife” Karen, even if it is in front of her new fiancé. He knows he’s meant to be with her–plain and simple–and there’s a glint in her eye that always makes you wonder if she’s really thinking the same thing. And his daughter Becca? Well, any guy would melt against this guitar-wielding cutie (played by the adorable Madeleine Martin), but Hank really captures the “I’ll kick a lot of ass for my daughter” mentality that so many dads harbor. He’s also fully prepared to drop a gorgeous woman at a moment’s notice to heed his daughter’s call.

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2. Californication: Second Season

When we last left transplanted New Yorker and “debauched moralist” Hank Moody (David Duchovny), he was reunited with his ex-girlfriend and runaway bride Karen (Natascha McElhone) and his beloved daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin). Sounds like the makings of a happy-ever-after ending, but Hank’s life is no fairy tale. Or maybe it is. Though a total screw-up, he remains irresistible to a bevy of women who throw themselves at him, from the nurse participating in his vasectomy to an A-list prostitute (“You really got under my skin, Hank Moody”). The new Hank is determined to make grown-up and responsible decisions, but before the dust has settled on the season opener, he once again finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong woman, albeit accidentally. No wonder Karen needs time to mull over his marriage proposal. Californication takes as jaundiced a view of Southern California hedonism as did the classic 1975 film Shampoo.

In season 2, fast-laner Lew Ashby (Callum Keith Rennie), a legendary music producer, recruits Hank to be his biographer. Hank’s agent Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) is fired from his agency and takes a fledgling female porn star under his wing. Charlie’s wife Marcy (Pamela Adlon) becomes a coke fiend. Seventeen-year-old Mia (Madeline Zima) becomes a critics’ darling when Hank’s manuscript, which she stole in season 1, is published. Sonja (Paula Marshall) the Scientologist is pregnant and Hank may be the father. Duchovny’s laid-back charm imbues Hank with what one character calls “infuriating magic.” As the precocious Becca tells her mother, “You have to love him for who he is, not his potential.” For all its explicit language and graphic sex, Californication is a compelling character study of a seriously flawed man-child. To quote a review of Mia/Hank’s book, “It isn’t about sex, but loneliness. It’s hauntingly hopelessly romantic in the best sense of the word.” Big ups! –Donald Liebenson

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3. Californication: The Third Season

Through two seasons of Californication, “brilliant train wreck” and blocked author Hank Moody (David Duchovny, a previous Golden Globe winner and nominated again for this season) seemed pretty much unstoppable. But by the end of season 3, Hank might finally have to answer for his sins, and Hank keeps devising novel ways to sin, which makes him as infuriating a protagonist who has ever graced a TV series. “You’re such a mess and you cause such chaos,” one of his lovers tells him in the wake of an affair that has helped wreck a marriage, “but I wouldn’t change anything.” Say one thing for Hank’s women: they are gracious to a fault. This season adds another tumultuous chapter to Hank’s saga. After unwittingly pushing a celebrated writer and college professor off the wagon, Hank assumes his position at the university under–get this–Dean Koons (Peter Gallagher), and, predictably, proves to be an impolitic educator. Early on he discourages one idolizing student with near fatal results. As the season progresses, he will also indulge in extracurricular activities with a student and an emotionally vulnerable TA (Diane Farr). The limbo that is his home life is beginning to impact on his sardonic daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin), paving the way for the return of Karen (Natascha McElhone), who suggests the three return to New York. Meanwhile, Charlie and Marcie Runkle (Evan Handler and Pamela Adlon), now separated, are forced by the slumping housing market to share their house while their divorce is pending. Hilarity and much sex ensue. Making memorable impressions this season are Embeth Davidtz as the Dean’s conquestable wife, Kathleen Turner as Charlie’s foul-mouthed and sexually aggressive new boss, and Rick Springfield as a deranged incarnation of himself, who gets it on with Runkle’s girl. Madeline Zima makes a fateful return as Mia, who stole Hank’s book back in season 1. Her plan to tell all could shatter Hank’s dysfunctional family for good. Extras include a blooper reel and a “Marcie’s Pajama Party” segment in which Aldon dishes with LA divorcees, along with two season 4 episodes of The Tudors.

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4. Californication: Season 4

The Showtime Original Series Californication ended season three with bad-boy novelist Hank Moody being hauled off to jail for assaulting the boyfriend of his troublemaking, underage, former fling Mia. His home life with Karen and Becca is in ruins, but the scandal surrounding the publication of his latest book has turned him into a hot Hollywood commodity – in more ways than one. Can Hank navigate the mess he’s made of his life and come out on top? Don’t miss the all-new season four!

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5. Californication: Season 5

This show is so tantalizing, funny, naughty, and damn right ridiculous. Once again the writers have given the viewers a roller coaster ride of a a season, and boy what a climax in the last episode. Check for season 6.

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6. Californication: Season 6

In this season, we start with Hank waking up in a hospital after almost dying from the overdose Carrie administered him. The stint in rehab is interesting and provides us with many funny moments, but even more importantly, Hank runs into Faith, a mysterious young woman who seems to hate him on sight.

This season involves several different topics, rock stars, groupies, Becca’s growing up and her hopes and interest in experimenting life, and a wacko that hates men among many others. We definitely are kept engaged throughout the season. There are a couple of cases in which the writers seem to be trying too hard to come up with new material that shocks the audience (i.e. Hank drinking his own urine), but overall they do a great job.

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7. Californication: Season 7

This episode was an absolute breath of fresh air to me. I love the unapologetic spirit of it and doubt that any avenue besides cable television could properly accommodate the brashness of the dialogue and outrageous antics. Although I did doze off during season 4 and was nearly bored to death during season 5, they started picking up steam on six and ended nicely with 7.

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Hank Moody

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