Californication season 1 episodes 1 and 2

Tony's been watching Californication. Well, he would, wouldn't he - it is on Channel 5, after all

David Duchovny

Pilot

In the crudest sense of the word, David Duchovny’s latest TV project, Californication, stared with a bang. Protagonist Hank Moody finds himself in a church, where he is promptly fellated by what can only be the sexiest and most unprofessional nun on the planet.  

My suspicion that this sequence was all a dream was soon confirmed, when it turned out this sequence was all a dream. Kind of. When he wakes, he finds that he is in fact receiving said oral attention, just not from a nun, but a very hot, and very married woman, whose husband arrives home early and is understandably irate. Hank escapes unharmed, displaying yet more inexplicable jamminess.

Starting as he means to go on, Hank later has sex with another unidentified lady, and then a 16-year-old girl, who it transpires is the daughter of his ex-partner’s new boyfriend. As well as being underage (in the US, anyway. Thank god I’m British), she has a penchant for rough sex, and she gives him a solid right hook during their lurve-making.

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While Hank’s sex life, and an abundance of naked ladies is no doubt one of the main attractions of Californication, there is more to it than that. Despite his success with women, for the most part, Hank is a failure. He is failing as a writer, as he’s suffering a long-term case of writer’s block. He is failing as a father, thanks to his current lifestyle and inability to behave like an adult. And he has already failed as a husband – indeed, he didn’t even get as far as marrying his long-term partner, despite having a child with her (who is now a rather mixed-up 12-year-old goth).  

Now it seems he’s trying to redeem himself, as he tells his ex that he’s ready to marry her. You get the sense that without her, he has lost his way. However, Hank is a problematic character, in that he’s not very likeable. His wise cracks would be fine if they were justified, but when they’re aimed at the husband of the woman he just slept with, you can’t help thinking he’s a bit of an arsehole.  

At the same time, his promiscuity is presented as something he needs redemption from, but seeing as he’s a single man, surely he’s entitled to do what he wants? Oddly though, there’s also something aspirational about the presentation of his sex life. Male viewers will no doubt feel envious of his constant string of beautiful, willing sexual partners, but that just makes him even more unlikeable – especially as he’s no damned nonchalant about it.

This being the first episode, my feelings on this matter could change as the series goes on, but at the moment, there’s only one thing that’s going to make me watch next week, and it’s not the script – which for this episode was reasonable but not excellent. It’s David Duchovny, an actor I admire greatly. Even though Hank is deeply flawed, Duchovny is compelling, as he brings some much-needed humanity to his character.  

And then there’s the tits. Two things then… Hell-A Woman

Another week, another clichéd male sexual fantasy fulfilled in Californication. Almost. This time, it’s having sex with a porn star. Faced with this young lady in all her naked glory, Hank is understandably ready for action. However, he’s first faced with a couple of odd questions, roughly along the lines of ‘Are my breasts big enough, and do my ‘lips’ look too floppy, as I’m thinking about having them done?’

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Unaware of her occupation at this time, he’s as confused as the rest of us; until he notices an adult DVD on her chest of drawers, and sees that she’s on the cover. Of course, this itself isn’t any reason not to finish what he’s started, but when her baby starts crying, he takes a different stance on the subject. Showing that he’s not such a bad guy after all, he tells her to be with her child, and leaves, taking the porno DVD with him (good lad).

With one clichéd fantasy failing to find its way to the warm sticky conclusion it so rightly should, Hank is fortunate enough to have a go at another. Invited to dinner by his ex, Karen, and her new man, Bill, he finds himself being set up with one of her friends, who is unsurprisingly very attractive. Her imminent nudity was so inevitable, that I have to admit, while watching this episode with my wife, I did exclaim, “Yay! We’re going to see her tits!” In fact, I’m guessing that as the series goes on, this is going to become a rather well worn phrase (along with “Tony, I’m leaving you”).

Anyway, it seems this woman has just split from her husband, who left her for another man. So the clichéd fantasy here is ‘low-esteem, on-the-rebound, desperate-for-sex’ woman. Having shared one meal with Hank, she invites him into the room where she’s staying, shares a spliff with him, and then does the good-old ‘take my clothes off and ask you what you think of my body’ routine. Then she plainly requests ‘Will you fuck me?’ Cliché fulfilled.  

However, once again, things don’t go according to plan. With a rather overenthusiastic bumping of hips, Hank is sent sprawling off the bed, and he bangs his head on something, drawing blood. In the process, he knocks a painting off the wall; a painting that Bill had earlier informed him cost the same price as a car. Suffering drug, alcohol, and head injury induced dizziness, he attempts to place the painting back on the wall. As he does so, he inadvertently pukes all over the painting.  

This was a great comedy scene, and it’s nice to see something go so wrong for Hank. Finally, there’s a reason to feel sympathy for the man – especially when the entire family barges into the room to find out what all the noise is (don’t they have locks?).  

This was a good episode for him, because as well as the puking incident and the crying baby thing, you get to hear more about how Karen and Bill met (she cheated on Hank). You also see Hank refusing to be tempted into a rematch with Bill’s daughter Mia, and the heart to heart he has with own daughter confirms that he’s still a concerned father.  

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He’s still a jammy git though.