I’m disappointed in Hank Moody. Like all of the other women on his show, I’ve grown sick of the bullshit. And I didn’t even need to sleep with him to find that out.
Season six of “Californication” returned to the Sunday night lineup two weeks ago, and to even higher ratings than its former season. The show focuses on the famous misanthropic writer Hank Moody (star and executive producer David Duchovny); when he’s not serving up charming, irreverent quips in the wake of the newest self-destructive decision, Hank is having sex with every beautiful extra or sexy guest star the show can manage to snag (Carla Gugino, Meagan Good and Maggie Grace). And that’s just scraping the tip of the iceberg.
But the newest viewers to tune in will witness Hank’s character slipping away. A character that was defined by both his similarity to the actor that played him and, more importantly, their subtle differences.
The problem with “Californication” isn’t the proliferate of sex, the incessant drug use, nor the lack of meaningful relationships. That’s actually the best part of “Californication” — it can successfully promote lewd vice and excess as both fun and hilarious while maintaining a daring sense of dignity.
“Californication” ’s issue began to manifest itself toward the end of last season: Hank began to seem less and less silly, and more and more stupid. His clearly insane ex-girlfriend from New York, Carrie, tracks him down in California at the close of the last season. On the cusp of romantically reuniting with Karen, both his on-and-off-girlfriend and baby mama, Hank encounters Carrie waiting for him in his home. What turned into a quick stop becomes a confrontation that Hank allows to go too far. Though the object of his pining pursuit for five seasons is in his grasp, he stops to have a drink with Carrie.
But Carrie has the drink drugged; it is intended to kill both Hank and herself. The success is only with the latter.
So, season six opens with both Hank waking up in the hospital room after the ordeal, along with my own desperate hopes that Hank would soon be getting back to what he does best: loving women, weed and writing while seeking misadventure with his ridiculous agent Charlie Runkel (Evan Handler). Finally, the character that men want to be and women want to be with would come out swinging.
How terribly wrong I was.
Hank goes on a month-long bender that, well, is shockingly boring. And since when is “Californication” boring? If anyone has seen the “Monkey Business” episode of season four, they would agree with me. But the man feels guilty for Carrie’s death, going even further to say it’s because he broke her heart. While no one disagrees that this is a sad aspect of the plot, it’s confusing and honestly bizarre that his character is so upset about it. It’s forced, almost unnatural. How many girls’ hearts have you broken, Hank?
Then, Hank accompanies a new female friend to her former lover’s funeral. The next thing you know, the famous writer is outside being sexually serviced by the deceased’s widow. Really? Before, Hank was a ‘yes man’ — but a ‘yes man’ with taste. Now, he just chases whatever he can get, and it seems to be less and less of the beautiful Karen. No one is asking for the storyline to tie up nicely with the couple happily ever after. “Californication” is not a romance. And to be honest, Karen may be the best character because she’s the only woman that doesn’t want to be with Hank.
In other words, I think the problem with “Californication” is Hank Moody. As the lines that separate actor and character seem to slip away more and more, I can’t help but think that the Hank Moody I wish new viewers could see has instead been replaced with the lazy David Duchovny, simply playing himself.
“Californication” used to be the cool, hilarious comedy that possessed subtle zeitgeist undercurrents of a Bret Easton Ellis novel. Five seasons later, it seems amateur. Hank Moody, David Duchovny, the writers — they cannot continue to expect that continual use of the same ingredients will yield them a success.
Anyone can follow a recipe. What makes a show special is the ability to use those same ingredients, mutter, Screw the recipe, let’s make it our own and serve up something fresh. “Californication” has lost that special touch.