Published on January 20th, 2010 | by Thompson0
Californication: Season 3
Strippers…MILFs…College Girls…Rick Springfield…Feeding Flames…Putting Out Fires…and a Toast ‘To Our Beautiful Family, Our Black President, and My Magnificent Dong’
Since the first ever episode, which opens with tormented writer Hank Moody (David Duchovny) in the house of God receiving a blowjob from a nun, I never thought Californication creator Tom Kapinos could do better. But every week I’m in awe of how far this show has come in not only providing comedy, but drama as well.
After the first season, I expected Californication to take the path of its predecessors in the art of selling obscenities and debaucheries, like Entourage and Weeds, producing two very good seasons only to lose their luster due to a dependence on humor and a lack of good, dramatic writing. Californication suffers from none of these symptoms in its third season…the best season of all.
After season two, Hank finds himself with a masturbating agent who’s out of work, a book no one wants to publish, and the love of his life on the other side of the country. Hank is given the tasks of teaching way-too-hot-to-be-college students and raising his teenage daughter in LA, which is “no place to raise a child.” The first episode screams disaster waiting to happen, but surprisingly Hank finds a way to survive despite his misadventures. You just know he’s going to make it to New York to be with Karen and Becca and escape the influence of LA and the hedonism that saturates its city streets.
Californication’s third season is the perfect mix of comedy and drama, and it’s not just writing that makes this show great…it’s Duchovny. No one could play the role of Hank Moody better. In the September 17, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone, Stephen Colbert was deservingly dubbed the number one reason to watch television, while Duchovny settled for an honorable fifteenth. What makes Duchovny perfect for this role? Perhaps he’s read everything Charles Bukowski ever wrote, upon whom Hank Moody is based. But I think Duchovny’s experience with sex addiction has more to do with his impeccable delivery than any other research he’s done. After separating from Tea Leoni, his wife of 11 years, to enter rehab for an addiction to Internet porn in 2008, Duchovny explains how accepting whatever happens to you and finding the good in it can only make you stronger. The show has only improved despite Duchovny’s personal failures. I think this sense of failure and the acceptance of this failure is ever-present in Moody, who knows there’s “no retreat, baby – no surrender.”
Duchovny isn’t the only character that contributes to the success of the third season, though. Karen (Natascha McElhone), Becca (Madeleine Martin), Runkle (Evan Handler), and Marcy (Pamela Adlon) all return. Karen and Becca take a back seat due to Karen’s move to New York and Becca’s pathetically annoying attempt at acting like a teenager who always seems to be on the rag. Every episode feels like “that time of the month.” There are only three moments of her screen time in the entire season I actually enjoy: 1) smoking Hank’s pot, 2) tripping mushrooms for the first time, and 3) well, you’ll just have to watch. Karen is enjoyable as usual. Runkle is Runkle, and spends the majority of his time leaning on Hank to deal with his split from Marcy.
But it’s a new cast of characters that really propel this season to legendary status. Picture a female version of Hank Moody, who gets what she wants when she wants it and is always ready for a good orgasm. Now picture this woman hiring newly single, master of office masturbation, Charlie Runkle, to be her office boy toy. This is Sue Collini (Kathleen Turner), who sparks nearly as much laughter as Hank, and I hope she has a strong presence in the already approved fourth season. Of course, with the absence of Lew Ashby, who dies of a heroin overdose in season two, the Hollywood rock star persona must also be replaced, and Rick Springfield does more than just replace Ashby. He gives the burnout, rock star lifestyle a sick and decrepit facelift and provides a much-needed presence that makes Hank seem like an angel.
As for Hank’s new “projects,” there are three. I call them projects because he always seems to try and fix these women, or at least help them realize what’s so special about each one of them. Hank always acts with the best of intentions. He just feels obligated to show these women who they really are, or what they are capable of becoming. Sure he sleeps around…a lot. But he does it with good reason, and in season three there are plenty of reasons.
If you thought Hank could make it an entire semester without fucking one of his students, you obviously haven’t been watching the same show I have. And if you thought he could keep his hands off his TA…guess again. Oh, and then there’s his boss, Felicia Koons (Embeth Davidtz), who is looking to cash in a free pass of infidelity due to her husband’s indiscretions. Oh, and her husband, Stacy Koons (Peter Gallagher), happens to be the dean of the college.
The more I watch this show while sipping my Wild Turkey and smoking along with Moody, the more I see myself becoming the alcoholic, drug addicted, wannabe writer attempting to save women from themselves, but I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t have a problem with incredibly flawed protagonists because they are real. We’re all just trying to be the best for the people around us, and sometimes it’s not so easy. Sometimes we try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one. Sometimes we are distracted by short-lived passions. Sometimes the one that got away gets away again. Sometimes heroes fall. Sometimes heroes fail. But heroes never give up. “No retreat, baby – no surrender.”