I resisted watching Californication for quite a while. There were a couple reasons why I didn’t want to give the show a chance. First was the name of the show. I thought it was a pretentious and juvenile name when the Red Hot Chili Peppers came out with the song years back, and found both the music and lyrics supremely lame. It didn’t help things that the song was a radio “hit” and I heard it all the time.
Second was that it struck me as weird and strange that the role on its surface seemed to hew so close to star David Duchovny’s personal life. He was married to Téa Leoni, an actress who I’ve always thought was both beautiful and talented, and his marriage fell apart due to his sex addiction. Duchovny’s role on Californication, Hank Moody, ruins the most important relationships in his life in large part because of his inability to stop sleeping with any willing woman who crosses his path. Like, if you’re struggling with sex addiction I’m baffled as to why you would take such a role?
So I resisted for six years, despite quite a few actresses on the show that I find gorgeous (Natascha McElhone, Madeline Zima, Mädchen Amick, Eva Amurri, Carla Gugino, Natalie Zea). Then about a month ago while channel surfing I ran across some reruns on Showtime and, since there wasn’t anything else on settled in and watched a couple shows.
Somehow, I got hooked and went back and started watching the show from the beginning. I mean, Hank Moody is an emotional wreck, an alcoholic womanizer, self-destructive and emotionally devastating to the people he loves. But damn it, David Duchovny is so charming and charismatic in the role that I kept finding myself rooting for him despite his many, many flaws (though I did find out later that it’s not just Duchovny but his acting and the writing together that makes the character appealling– the writing took a noticeable dip in Season 3 and the Hank Moody character wasn’t nearly as good as the 1st two seasons, but thankfully the writing seems to have picked up in Season 4). And the other main characters are largely quite colorful, engaging and entertaining as well.
As I realized that I really liked the show and was going to be watching all the seasons On Demand, I pondered why the show had really hooked me so and realized that it catches me from a lot of different directions. The core appeal I think is the relationship Hank has with his daughter Becca, and how much he desperately loves her and attempts to keep that relationship alive despite the chaos he brings into his life. It appeals to me as a dad who tries hard to stay close to my own children despite not living with them. It also resonates as the son of an alcoholic womanizer, who was just as self-destructive and emotionally devastating to the people he loves… only my father didn’t make nearly the effort with his kids that Hank Moody does. So I can watch Hank Moody from his daughter’s perspect as a sort-of “do over” as to how it might have been if my father had made the effort.
Also, Hank Moody is a writer– a novelist who has also dabbled in screenwriter. I have long had aspirations of doing both myself, so it’s nice to see a little bit of writers-craft popping up here and there in the storylines.
He’s also madly, deeply and thoroughly in love with fairer sex and admires everything about them, an outlook that resonates with me as well. Of course, Hank Moody looks like David Duchovny so with those looks and that attitude the character has women dropping their clothes for him far more often that most of us mere mortals out here in the real world.
There are quite a few layers to Hank Moody that make for a compelling character. At his core, Hank is a damaged boy looking for love and acceptance, which makes him sympathetic. Wrapped around that core is a self-destructive alcoholic that doesn’t seem to really want to change his ways, which makes him unsympathetic. Woven into this layer is the womanizing, which taken as a whole is a bad thing, but individually it generally plays into Hank’s love of women and fascination with every woman he meets, which makes it feel less bad and more sympathetic. The writers also tend to use his encounters with women to generally wreck major havoc in Hank’s life, often in quite humorous ways.
Draped over top of those layers is a mix of funny stuff — a healthy dose of life knocking you down when things are looking up, life kicking you when you’re down, and a revolving door of hilarious recurring characters and guest stars. Rob Lowe in particular is fucking brilliant in his over-the-top role as a big name Hollywood actor. And then there are some people who play twisted versions of themselves– Rick Springfield had a recurring role as a total degenerate version of himself.
Particularly fascinating is watching daughter Becca grow up, from a pre-teen in Season 1 to a college freshman in Season 4, and how her relationship with her father has evolved.
When I started watching the show I thought that the series had ended, but I’ve now learned that there will be a final season next year. I’m certainly curious to see how the stories end for Hank Moody and the characters in his life. I suspect there are going to be at least a few sad endings in store, but the eternal optimist in me is hoping for more happy endings in the balance. It’s been a heckuva ride so far.
Have any of y’all watched the show?