There are some womanizers that are easy to despise. Having sat through I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell last year, the character of Tucker Max, as played by Matt Czuchry (a fine actor whom I’ve liked in all of his previous work), is the biggest d-bag in the world and there is nothing I wanted more than to see that asshole brought down to his knees and humiliated. Charlie Sheen’s character on Two and a Half Men used to be a funny womanizer I could sit and chuckle at. Lately, the character, like the actor, just seems pathetic and smug. Still, the show remains one of television’s top rated series.
Then there’s Hank Moody, the philandering lead character in the Showtime hit series, Californication. David Duchovny’s excellent portrayal of the novelist, Moody, is more poignant than anything else. Although he seems content to piss off everyone with his “I don’t give a shit” attitude and his penchant for drugs, booze and bedding any woman who’ll fall for his cocky bullshit, under the surface there appears to be a real desire to become a better man and father. I suppose that’s why I enjoy spending time with Moody more than Max or Charlie. The other two are just out for pleasure; Moody seems to be searching for something.
Season three of Californication finds Hank struggling to come up with another idea for a book. His agent, Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler), has been fired from his high profile job for jacking off in his office. Charlie is now struggling at some low tier literary agency with the writer blocked Moody his only client. Moody’s beautiful wife, Karen, (Natsha McElhone) has taken a job in New York, while Hank stayed behind in Los Angeles to try being a father to their teenage daughter, Becca (the delightful Madeleine Martin). Hank pines for his wife, so he does the only think he knows how to numb the pain: drinks plenty of alcohol and begins screwing around.
To make ends meet, he lands a college teaching job. This little twist in the story of Califronication allows for plenty of fornication by Hank, as he not only hooks up with one of his pupils (Eva Amurri), but also his T.A. (Diane Farr) and his bosses spouse (Embeth Davitz). Peter Gallagher, drawing on his wide range of “I’m aghast” expressions, is priceless as the dean who reluctantly hires Hank and watches him seduce his wife.
Pretty much every episode of season three also involves the ongoing saga of Charlie and his wife, Marcy, (the always funny, Pamela Adlon). In this season, the two are going through a bitter divorce. Charlie also strikes up a relationship with his boss, hilariously played by Kathleen Turner, and Rick Springfield appears as scuzzy meta version of himself.
At 30-minutes an episode, Californication is another dramedy that keeps things moving and only slows down when they really want you to feel uncomfortable. In those moments I always find myself squirming. It’s the mark of good writing that I actually care about Hank Moody, that asshole. So much of the care for the character stems from Duchovny’s performance. He plays the dickhead well, but he also has moments of real poignancy that suck you in and make you understand why all of the women on the show fall for him. By season’s end, Hank has to face his past in a big way. His future doesn’t look bright, but it sure doesn make me look forward to season four (which begins on Sunday).