The Showtime Original Series Californication
ended season three with bad-boy novelist Hank Moody being hauled off to jail for assaulting the boyfriend of his troublemaking, underage, former fling Mia. His home life with Karen and Becca is in ruins, but the scandal surrounding the publication of his latest book has turned him into a hot Hollywood commodity – in more ways than one. Can Hank navigate the mess he’s made of his life and come out on top? Don’t miss the all-new season four!
The fourth season of this sordid yet irresistible view of life, loneliness, meaningless sex, and overindulgence set within inner circles of lowlifes living the high life could easily have been the last. At least one more season has already aired, but so many of the lingering dirty doings of novelist, and now screenwriter, Hank Moody (David Duchovny) are wrapped up that this 12-episode set feels like an arc-ending finale. In the final episode we also get a pretty good capsule description of Hank's tortured soul, which remains as unrepentantly corrupt as ever. The description is handed down by a judge who helps resolve some of the legal problems that have plagued him--temporarily at least. She tells him: "You live like an animal. You live in flagrant defiance of the rules of our society. Your true crime is that you seem committed to squandering your gifts and wasting what appears to be a rewarding life." That sure sounds like an abnormal and entirely unlikable character. Yet it is this charming charlatan who boldly anchors a hit premium cable TV series that revels in his bad behavior. As people have noted since the pilot, David Duchovny is the key to Californication
's success. He fully embodies the adorable piece of man who acts reprehensibly even as that little-boy smile is charming the panties off every woman in sight and inducing envy and resentment in other men (things that Duchovny has sometimes been noted for in reality).
Hank Moody lives a life of pure hypocrisy, and the situations in season four continue to bear that out. Facing some serious criminal charges for statutory rape and assault of various kinds, Hank continues to pine for and believe that he's meant to be with Karen (Natascha McElhone, stunning and strong as always). But his babe tally keeps ratcheting up in concert with his pants zippering down. His daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin, another strong, appealing cast member) is the only other thing he loves honestly and completely, yet he embarrasses and burns bridges with her at every turn. With no home and a career that's dependent on the show-biz industry he loathes as much as himself, Hank is truly sinking and doing his best to dig the hole deeper with alcohol, drugs, casual sex, and fisticuffs. Californication is always frank even when it's being funny, which is most of the time. It's pretty much the definition of unrestrained adult entertainment. After one of the many brawls Hank instigates, he explains by way of apology, "I do that, I make people mad." At least he knows who he is. His agent and only friend Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) has problems of his own--is there a baby in his vasectomied future? He also has some actual work to do now that Hank is in deep with Hollywood big shots. He's adapting his book with the unprintable title that chronicles most of what we've seen in the show so far. This narrative element makes for the entrance of more deliciously bedeviling characters. The always unpredictable Stephen Tobolowsky plays a neurotic producer with aging but raging hormones, and Rob Lowe literally goes nuts with his role as a Brad Pitt-like movie star who is probably certifiably psychotic. Carla Gugino is terrific as Hank's lawyer and possibly the only woman besides Karen who can make him grow up a little. Throughout it all Hank stays a self-hating jerk. But he's a jerk who people are inexorably drawn to in spite of his bald insincerity and unwavering defiance of the rules of society. --Ted Fry