×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Californication

David Duchovny just played a miserable screenwriter in Jake Kasdan's indie feature "The TV Set," so his role as a miserable, semi-blocked novelist in "Californication" falls into the same, rather peculiar niche.

With:
Hank Moody - David Duchovny Karen - Natascha McElhone Becca - Madeleine Martin Mia - Madeline Zima Bill - Damian Young Charlie - Evan Handler

David Duchovny just played a miserable screenwriter in Jake Kasdan’s indie feature “The TV Set,” so his role as a miserable, semi-blocked novelist in “Californication” falls into the same, rather peculiar niche. Seeking the same jaunty, jaundiced tone as Showtime’s “Weeds” — while incorporating attention-grabbing helpings of nudity and sex — the premiere is watchable but not fully arousing, often feeling as clenched, dour and indecisive as its brooding protagonist.

The aptly named Hank Moody (Duchovny) ostensibly seems to have it all, bedding beautiful women and having seen his book, with the pretentious title “God Hates Us All,” adapted into a successful movie — starring “Katie and Tom,” no less.

Unfortunately, Hank hated the movie, and he’s finding it difficult putting two sentences together on paper — largely because his beguiling ex Karen (Natascha McElhone) has left him, found a new mate and taken their 12-year-old daughter (Madeleine Martin) with her.

So while Hanks pines for Karen, he finds solace, as she puts it, by “sticking your dick in anything that moves trying to get back at me.” There are certainly worse ways to pass the time, and this form of revenge allows for liberal glimpses of bared breasts (at least a half-dozen in the pilot, which isn’t a bad breast-per-minute ratio), but not much in the way of emotional connection, either with Hank or anybody else.

As written by Tom Kapinos and directed by Stephen Hopkins, “Californication” (a pretty stupid title, really) has trouble delineating where the viewer’s sympathies are supposed to reside. Hank doesn’t need to be likable any more than Tony Soprano did, but watching him stagger through the premiere — drinking too much, rudely insulting a fix-up by his agent (Evan Handler) and bedding women who are all inappropriate in various ways — makes it increasingly difficult to care about his fate.

Perhaps that’s why the best scene — in which Hank confronts a lout who answers his cell phone during a movie — feels like a cathartic throwaway, serving the dual purpose of having the show’s protagonist finally do something that’s easy to applaud.

Duchovny has always possessed underrated comedy chops, as evidenced by his brilliant guest shots on “The Larry Sanders Show.” Still, his detached, distant qualities as an actor — and in particular, as this character — have the effect of sapping the show’s vitality.

As for the already much-discussed sexual content, it’s hardly racy enough to make anyone forget Duchovny’s earlier stint as the lovelorn narrator of Showtime’s “Red Shoe Diaries.” Trying to have it both ways, those sequences appear designed to simultaneously titillate and convey Hank’s emptiness, though seeing how quickly his conquests stack up brings to mind Woody Allen’s line about how even “the wrong kind” of orgasm is still A-OK.

Tonally, the series feels like a logical companion to “Weeds” — a show that’s also star-driven and equally sour. At first blush, anyway, “Californication” isn’t necessarily a bad place to be, but unless the series finds viable avenues to pursue beyond wallowing in Hank’s self-pity, it’ll be Showtime subscribers before long who wind up feeling screwed.

Californication

Showtime; Mon. Aug. 13, 10:30 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Aggressive Mediocrity and Totally Commercial Films. Executive producers, Tom Kapinos, David Duchovny, Stephen Hopkins; co-executive producer, Melanie Greene; producer, Anne Kindberg; co-producer, Kate Garwood; director, Hopkins; writer, Kapinos;

Crew: Camera, Peter Levy; production design, Gabrael Wilson; editor, David Brixton; music, Tyler Bates; casting, Felicia Fasano. Running time: 32 MIN.

Cast: Hank Moody - David Duchovny Karen - Natascha McElhone Becca - Madeleine Martin Mia - Madeline Zima Bill - Damian Young Charlie - Evan Handler

More Scene

  • Lauren Ash44th Annual Gracie Awards, Show,

    Politics and New Abortion Ban Laws Dominate 2019 Gracie Awards

    Female empowerment was in the air Tuesday night as showrunners, writers and performers gathered at the 44th annual Gracie Awards to celebrate women breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings within the entertainment industry. Sandra Oh, Patricia Arquette, Rachel Maddow and Connie Britton were among the honorees at the ceremony, which took place at the Beverly [...]

  • Sacha Baron Cohen

    Why Sacha Baron Cohen Credits Donald Trump for ‘Who Is America?’

    Over the course of history, comedians have shared their take on current events with biting commentary on everything from class and gender to fashion and politics, and the current presidential administration is definitely no exception — with President Donald Trump regularly lampooned on shows like “Saturday Night Live” and by late-night TV hosts. But when [...]

  • James Marsden attends the 2019 MOCA

    New Abortion Ban Laws Take Center Stage at MOCA Gala

    Forty years ago in Los Angeles, the decision to invest millions in a museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art — not to mention its formerly desolate downtown location, where the vibe was more apocalyptic than artsy — was a risky proposition. But now that the city’s cultural heart has shifted south of Hollywood, it seems [...]

  • Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment,

    Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment, Imprisonment for Trump, Says Maybe Al Pacino Should Lead Instead

    Robert De Niro honored Al Pacino, his longtime friend and four-time collaborator (with Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film “The Irishman” marking their latest pairing), at the American Icon Awards, and then called for a different type of tribute for President Donald Trump — “impeachment and imprisonment.” “You didn’t think you were going to completely get away without [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content