‘Californication’ gets Kiwi spanking

Series stirs up controversy in New Zealand

Viewers certainly got an eyeful when “Californication” bowed on Showtime back in August. The show, starring David Duchovny as a philandering novelist, features nudity, explicit language, and plotlines touching on domination, lesbian affairs and underage sex.

That was pay cable.

But in New Zealand, the racy skein was picked up by TV3, which just began running the show free-to-air on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.

Even before it aired, the series stirred outrage, with family-values lobby group Family First whipping conservatives into a frenzy and branding it “highly offensive,” “evil” and “pornographic.” The group called on advertisers to boycott the show, and a handful, including the government’s Buy NZ campaign, have listened.

TV3’s Roger Beaumont says the ads have only moved elsewhere on the sked and not caused any lost revenue. And he says the network remains committed to its decision to show “Californication.”

“Its not the first time we have had this sort of reaction,” says Beaumont. “An episode of ‘South Park’ involving the Virgin Mary got more complaints.”

“We have a warning before the show detailing its explicit nature,” Beaumont adds. “And, of course, viewers carry the remote in their hand and are free to switch it off.”

So far, the controversy hasn’t translated into eyeballs for the net, with the skein getting a 20% share in the target 18-49 demo.

But with the show having built into a solid performer for Showtime in the States, Duchovny’s Hank Moody may yet be able to entice auds Down Under.

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