Not an adaptation of that Red Hot Chilli Peppers album
By Owen K. Craig
If I was to boil down the pilot episode of Californication to the bare essentials, it would be trying to say that David Duchovny is not a nerd anymore. He has sex with many hot ladies, mistreats his friends and is a famous writer. After all, that’s what you do when you want a career renaissance — you play a damaged, hyper-masculine lead. It worked for Dennis Leary, why can’t it work for Fox Mulder — I mean, David Duchovny?
The main problem here is that things aren’t introduced properly. Take the example of the supporting team. If you’re going to play the unlikable-lead angle, as the show does with Duchovny’s character Hank Moody, then you’d better make sure that your supporting cast is likeable. Unfortunately for Californication they’re not.
We get Hank’s ex-girlfriend (and mother of his child, played by Natascha McElhone) Karen, who we’re told he wants to win back with no real hint as to why; a best friend (Charlie, played by Evan Handler) who doesn’t seem to even like him; and a long line of women paraded around onscreen expressly to take their shirts off. In fact, if the show had cut down on the screen time of Hank’s sexual conquests and built it back up with more of Karen and Charlie, we might have had a better understanding of why they’re friends with him anyway.
The story suffers from the same lack of introduction. In the 40 minutes or so of Californication’s pilot we got thrown too many ideas, too quickly, without any decent development. We’re told that Hank has writer’s block, that his daughter is learning bad things from his sexual deviancy, that he wants his Karen back, and another major plot point that I won’t spoil for you. None of these developments interested me much, probably because none of them received much more than five minutes of screen time. In fact, the only plot point that seemed to warrant more than two scenes (besides the sexual deviancy and aforementioned topless women) was the one that ends the show, which was the only one that felt developed, and therefore was the only one that commanded any attention. It is also the only one I won’t shamelessly out on the internet.
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot to recommend about this show. The pilot episode of Californication seemed more intent on showing us a whole lot of David Duchovny having sex than telling a good story, and until the show can move on from that there’s really not much to talk about here.