[09/26/08 - 10:25 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Californication" (Showtime, Season Two)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

(Sundays at 10:00/9:00c beginning September 28)

The network's description: Slip of the Tongue" (September 28): "After reuniting at the end of season one, Hank and Karen decide to pack up and head to New York. As part of the reconciliation, Hank undergoes a grueling vasectomy at Karen's request. That night Hank and Karen meet Charlie and Marcy for drinks. They wind up bumping into Sonja, the vomiting Scientologist from Season One, who's now pregnant, and her new boyfriend Julian, a renowned self-help guru. The group heads to a party at the home of record producer Lew Ashby, where Hank has an accident when he confuses a partygoer for Karen. On the ride home, Hank gets arrested for driving under the influence and assaulting an officer."

Descriptions for "The Great Ashby" (October 5), "No Way To Treat A Lady" (October 12) and "The Raw & The Cooked" (October 19) weren't released.

What did they leave out? David Duchovny directs the season premiere. Plus, keep an eye out for a lot of Season One faces - Paula Marshall, Michelle Lombardo and Judy Greer.

The plot in a nutshell: Welcome to the deballifcation of Hank Moody (David Duchovny) - literally. After getting his "The Graduate" ending in season one, Hank has fallen back into blissful domesticity with ex Karen (Natascha McElhone) and daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin). He even finds himself drinking less, trying to quit smoking and back to using condoms during sex. Yup, the Moodys are almost back to how it was - they're even moving back to New York. But life has different plans for Hank - beginning with his vas deferens. After issuing his latest complaint about wearing a condom during sex, Karen requests he get a vasectomy. And with that the snowball begins to build - Becca is less than enthusiastic about moving back to New York; Karen gets a dream job offer to help Sonja (Paula Marshall) restore an architectural marvel; Hank inadvertently goes down on the wrong woman - no joke - at a music producer's party; and during the ensuing fight with Karen, he gets pulled over and subsequently arrested.

But all is not lost for Hank. While in the drunk tank, he makes friends with the aforementioned music producer, Lew Ashby ("Battlestar Galactica's" Callum Keith Rennie), who asks him to write his biography. It seems he, like Hank when we first met him, is still pining after the one that got away. From here - as you can undoubtedly guess - Hank finds spending his days with a music producer lead to all sorts of temptation, not to mention an increasingly less understanding Karen at home. Meanwhile, Hank's agent Charlie (Evan Handler) and his wife Marcy (Pamela Adlon) also find themselves flying off the rails - the former due to the most embarrassing montage sequence you can ever imagine and the latter due to a reintroduction with her old vice - cocaine. And yes, Mia (Madeline Zima) is still around too - offering counsel to her pseudo-sister Becca, who's starting dating. Yes, Hank's life is still a mess - and we wouldn't have it any other way.

What works: You really have to give it to David Duchovny - I can't imagine anyone else playing Hank Moody without coming off as a selfish dick. I mean, sure he's a selfish dick on paper, but somehow Duchovny makes him charming and... dare I say sympathetic. Even after being accused of "mouth raping," you just can't help but crack a smile at his foibles. Even better, the show actually turns out to be so much more than Hank tripping over his johnson. He's amusingly opinionated (watch how he handles the handlebar mustachioed Angus MacFadyen, whose character has written a book about how there's an artist inside of all of us); an astonishingly good father to Becca, who even with her happy ending is still waiting for the other shoe to drop; and perennially smitten by Karen, who's about as cool, smart and funny as any dream girl you could ask for.

What's interesting then is that - even with the perfect girl and the perfect daughter - Hank's still in rocky waters or as Karen so aptly puts it - "What if [love's] not enough?" From his previous transgressions to his still somewhat reckless lifestyle, there's always going to be something that hurts one or both of them. And when the biggest of possible bombs drops in episode four (during a dinner party that would rival "Brothers & Sisters"), it's clear that perhaps these two weren't meant for a happy ending. (Between "Chuck," "Gossip Girl" and this show, is this the year of the heartbreaking couple realization or what?) Kudos to Tom Kapinos and company for making a half-hour that's truly funny (Hank's interrogation of Becca's newest suitor is beyond priceless) to truly real (i.e., the last half-dozen sentences).

What doesn't: For some reason Pete Wentz turns up. Really?

The bottom line: Everyone calls Showtime the new HBO. Why? Because it is.

  [september 2008]  


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