Showtime seems to be the network du jour lately, with lots of buzz about shows such as Homeland and Dexter. However, lesser-buzzed-about-but-still-worthwhile shows keep trucking along on the channel; one such show is the dramedy Californication, a sex-obsessed noir comedy that still scores on a regular basis.
The show’s fifth season, now out on DVD, finds its main protagonist, writer Hank Moody (David Duchovny) as narcissistic, horny and snarky-hilarious as ever. Having relocated to New York, this season found Hank back in L.A. to write a movie for rap superstar Samurai Apocalypse (RZA).
This being Californication, Hank quickly gets himself in lots of hot water, much of it involving the women in his life—especially his ex Karen (Natascha McElhone)—as well as his manager/sidekick, the sexually troubled Charlie Runkel (Evan Handler).
In this show’s wacked-out male fantasy storylines, no woman can resist Hank and his grumpy charm, so his bed is a revolving door—even Samurai’s woman has a dalliance, which could mean big trouble if the gun-toting rap star finds out.
Californication is definitely a “guy show”, tapping into the id of the modern man as it skews the Hollywood lifestyle with laser precision. In this series’ skewed universe, pleasure and opportunity await our male protagonists at every corner, although trouble typically follows.
Californication is very much Duchovny’s show, and he continues to be outstanding in his understated portrayal of the self-loathing, self-destructive writer. Veering about as far away from his straight-laced X-Files character Fox Mulder as humanly possible, he pulls off the snappy dialogue from creator Tom Kapinos like no one else could, making even the most outlandish lines work. Handler is also excellent in his over-the-top portrayal of the always-out-of-control Charlie. Whether he’s hitting on his son’s nanny or taking a crazy dare to land a deal, Handler steals the show with his manic work.
This is certainly a divisive show, not for all tastes. As its title implies, it’s very much about sex and its complications and consequences, played for comedy but with some honest dramatic moments. There is a ton of nudity here, much of it male, and it’s often not pretty—Handler, for one, rarely has keeps clothes on.
The show continues to attract some cool guest stars. Rob Lowe (uncredited) and Drea de Matteo (Adriana from The Sopranos, here playing a stripper) are among the familiar faces that pop up in season five. And RZA is a hoot as “Sam.”
While it’s not for everybody, Californication certainly has a distinct appeal. It’s very funny, witty, nicely shot, sharply edited, and, even five years along, manages to stay interesting and compelling over this season’s 12 briskly paced episodes. If you don’t subscribe to Showtime, checking out this season set may well be up your alley.Buy Californication: The Fifth Season DVD on Amazon