TV Review: ‘Californication,’ The Final Season

Californication Final Season TV Review

At times “Californication” feels like the series Showtime never got around to canceling. So the fact the raunchy comedy has reached a seventh and final season characterizes it as a survivor, despite its excesses and occasional bad impulses, much like its flawed protagonist. Alas, the swan-song episodes (and the pay service made all 12 available in advance) is emblematic of what’s been fun about the show but also the balancing weight of what’s wrong with it, including a slightly cloying aspect to the central relationship that makes it hard to care about its outcome.

Part of that has to do with a fundamental problem: A good chunk of “Californication’s” allure for the pay-cable audience has been the way self-destructive writer Hank Moody (star and producer David Duchovny) beds an assortment of spectacular women. So Hank’s pining for Karen (Natascha McElhone), the mother of his daughter, invariably has multiple degrees of difficulty built into it, since if Hank isn’t getting laid on a regular basis, the title becomes something of a cheat.

While finding a way to settle the Hank-Karen dynamic – as well as the on-again, off-again romance of Hank’s agent Charlie and his wife Marcy (Evan Handler and Pamela Adlon, respectively) – would seem to be enough business, the show adds a significant degree of difficulty by way of a tryst from Hank’s past (Heather Graham) that yields unintended consequences. It’s fine that the complication isn’t surprising, but as a double whammy, it’s not even remotely interesting.

Moreover, Hank finds himself trying to hold down a steady job as a writer on a police procedural called “Santa Monica Cop,” which creates the opportunity to offer more inside-showbiz gags (including an especially jaundiced version of a writers room), as well as tap “The Sopranos’” Michael Imperioli as the program’s foul-tempered executive producer; and “24’s” Mary Lynn Rajskub as a writer Charlie is eager to sign (among other things).

Die-hard fans might deem otherwise, but “Californication” isn’t one of those series that benefits from binge watching; indeed, racing through the 12 episodes, it was hard not be struck by the repetitive nature of how many times somebody vomits – often, just to maximize the ick factor, directly on somebody else. (There are also a whole lot of prostitutes, and one particularly sensitive pimp.)

Mostly, “Californication’s” semi-indestructible nature is a reminder of how pay cable can still play by its own rules, carrying series with relatively narrow appeal provided that they connect strongly enough with a certain niche. As a bonus, the program’s over-the-top guest arcs have consistently attracted interesting talent, which for Showtime has no doubt felt like a promotional boon.

So for those viewers who have been there from the beginning, Showtime and the creative team have the luxury of bringing Hank’s story all the way through to a conclusion. (Showtime exec David Nevins credited the series for its “unique blend of lyricism and excess,” which is interesting, if perhaps a trifle too generous.)

OK, so the climax feels a trifle rushed and clumsy — particularly given some of the time squandered getting there — and probably comes about three seasons too late. If “Californication” has demonstrated anything over the course of its run, it’s the value of foreplay.

TV Review: 'Californication,' The Final Season

(Series; Showtime, Sun. April 13, 9:30 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Aggressive Mediocrity and And Then.

Crew

Executive producers, Tom Kapinos, David Duchovny; co-executive producers, Melanie Greene, Lou Fusaro; producer, John H. Radulovic; director, Duchovny; writer, Kapinos; camera, Tim Bellen; production designer, Ray Yamagata; editors, Shannon Mitchell, Michael Ornstein; music, Tyler Bates, Tree Adams; casting, Felicia Fasano. 30 MIN.

Cast

David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Pamela Adlon, Madeleine Martin, Evan Handler, Heather Graham, Michael Imperioli, Stephen Tobolowsky

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  1. Dheep' says:

    Relax – its just a show. It was fun (Mostly). Was just a fun summer binge for us. There was some good, poignant stuff & also plenty of utter trash. A truly American show. Yes, I can hear folks from other parts of the country complain “Not Us- Not here” ! Sorry, but these people exist across the land to a lesser or major degree – in every race,creed & color.

  2. SamEG says:

    It was a great series, I’m sad it had to end. The storyline from beginning of season 1 to end of season 7 remained consistent with the fact that Hank yeaerned for his one true love, always at arms reach. Diespite his inner demons and lack of will to do the right thing he had hope and that is what kept him as balanced as he could be And as sane as he could be to endure the chase.

    Love the final episode and they chose the right song to send off such a grat show.

  3. cesar says:

    By far the best show on television. Outside observers will be offended by its edgy humor and sexual escapades. Die hard fans know the series was so much more.The family was always the centerpiece of this brilliantly written case study of hank moody a self destructive narsicistic man child who was also constantly aware and a faithful observer trying to keep it real in an era that has become totally superficial. I will forever be a californication fan

  4. alan says:

    Californication has always been a good combination of crude and comic. This final season is just crude. Worse than crude, it pushes believability too far. Nobody in his right mind would accept Levon as Hank’s son–yet Hank is quick to do so. Is he that stupid and masochistic? Levon is an “ugly” character–a moral monster and a disgusting blemish on the program; he is neither funny nor edifying i any way. As other have noted, this story arc is uninteresting–but is equally disgusting and humorless. It has destroyed the season, thus far. And while there are other reasons to cavil and complain, nothing tops the addition of Levon.

  5. eafster says:

    I started to write a critical assessment of the final series but like the cast and crew in this let down of a finale – I can’t be bothered!

  6. McKenna says:

    I have to say, Brian, that I’m four episodes in and I already loathe this season. You we’re right when you said the Heather Graham and Oliver Cooper storyline is not interesting. I’m crossing my fingers they make Karen more of a focus and bring Becca back but I’m not holding my breath.

  7. McKenna says:

    Hey Brian, I’m curious–which pay service let you watch all 12 episodes of this season ahead of time???

  8. Jim Kelley says:

    Poor little baby brian didn’t like the show…boo hoo hoo…I betcha brian is a 90210 kinda guy…

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