Some shows can transition from season to season, from episode to episode, without skipping a beat. It’s not a knock on shows like Californication that need a period of adjustment, but the way Tom Kapinos writes the show calls for some patience, especially early in the season.
Much like Levon outgrowing his public exposure phase—which we learn about in Californication’s latest episode “Like Father Like Son”— there’s an awkward phase you need to get over when introducing so many new storylines in unison. After three episodes, Kapinos found a way to smooth the transition faster than we’ve seen in past seasons.
I’d like to credit the writing, but as Rick Rath once wisely said, a show will only go far if the casting is good. Adding established actors Michael Imperioli and Heather Graham has given Californication more than a new life. Even though Graham hasn’t exactly taken center stage just yet and Imperioli is more comic relief than series linchpin, their presence brings the best out of everyone. Duchovny doesn’t have to carry the load. Runckle and Marcy can be used sparingly. Some of the attention is taken away from Oliver Cooper, whose Levon character is starting to play nicely off the surrounding talent.
The result of Californication’s most promising ensemble cast is a new feel to the show. Even when the bottom drops out on Hank and Karen’s relationship, you get the impression that Hank’s uphill battle won’t be too steep. For now Hank has little time to dwell on Karen’s feelings. He has a new job that could save his career and a new son who can barely handle a lunch order.
Rath’s clown college of a TV studio brings us some great workplace rivalries. Hugh (Chris Titone) and Terry (John Madison Tye) have already clashed with Hank. The foul-mouthed, easily agitated Rath will scream at anyone but fire no one. And now we have Levon in on the fun, showing the secretary a filthy porno during work hours. Oh and of course Hank’s first casting couch experience starts with a “titty” and ends with a taste of an actress’s sweet juice. Hank might have finally found his calling.
As for Levon, we find out he’s a more complicated character than his eccentric behavior leads us to believe. He’s the kid that only had friends because they wanted to fuck his mom. They’d ask for hugs all the time and knuclebrush her ass. With that kind of trauma going on in his life, Levon could have benefited from having a father figure around. It’s a little late, but Hank can do the fathering thing well when he really puts the effort in. Levon is a little more willing to take Hank’s advice than Becca ever was. If Michael Imperioli chewed me out on my first day of work, I’d need a good pep talk from my dad too.
After a wild day at the office, Hank needed to unwind. He had the chance to clear his mind but that’s impossible when a woman like Karen was so close to coming home and is now again too far out of reach.
For a show that was starting to feel different, Hank needed just one line to remind us where this season is heading. “Just don’t give up on me,” he says. “I’m still me and we’re still us.”