Californication's excesses take a turn for the worse

Honestly, when it started six years ago, Californication was provocative, ballsy and fun, with laugh-out-loud dialogue and plenty of smart musings about love, sex, family and responsibility. Over five seasons, anti-hero Hank Moody (David Duchovny) has drank and fucked his way through a series of Hollywood writing jobs, all the while anchored by his on/off soulmate, Karen, sweet but cynical daughter, Becca, and well-meaning best friend, Charlie. The show has always had its ups and downs but remained pleasurably watchable throughout...that is, until now. Showtime is currently halfway through Season 6, and thus far, this thing has been awful to the point of embarrassing, at least 80 percent of the time. So what the hell has gone wrong?

Californication has always clung to a sense of humor that is absurd, extreme and, in a lot of ways, farcical. Take the episode in Season 4 in which a house party results in monkey murder and an autoerotic-asphyxiation death, or that time in Season 3 when all of the many women Hank was sleeping with wound up in his home at the same time. With each passing year, things have been kicked up a notch, so now, six seasons in, the scenarios featured are so extreme they're no longer funny, just cringe-inducing.The Los Angeles setting has always allowed for flamboyant side characters — lunatic movie producers, lunatic record producers, porn stars, student strippers, nymphomaniac agents. The problem with Season 6 is that it's moved onto rock stars — and the writers of the show clearly don't understand anything about musicians beyond lazy stereotypes. So what we're left with is a cartoon version of what TV people think rock stars are: an amped-up combination of '70s rock decadence and '80s metal sleaze — neither of which actually exist anymore.

The side characters are no longer even vaguely believable. The latest alluring lady, Faith, dislikes the word "groupie," so considers herself a "band muse." Anyone who has ever been anywhere near a tour will tell you that no such thing exists (in reality, groupies are girls that get used for sex, kicked off the bus, and laughed at by the band afterward). Then there's gorgeous gay movie star Robbie Mac, who started the season believably enough, but now starts lunchtime conversations with questions like "Tell me, Charlie. How many dicks have you sucked today?"

Episode 3 hit a particular low when the widow of a recently deceased guitarist (played by Skid Row's Sebastian Bach, incidentally) gives Hank a blow job behind a tombstone, having met him three seconds earlier. This shit isn't funny, provocative or sexy; it's gratuitous and stupid, and it patronizes the viewers.

Californication is now so concerned with trying to outdo itself, it has stopped even paying attention to details. The "British" rock star, Atticus Fetch, speaks with an Australian accent. And the aforementioned horny widow had an English accent so awful, we're pretty sure she learned it from watching Dick Van Dyke's chim-in-ee sweep-ah in Mary Poppins.

Worst of all, there is now a side storyline developing in which Karen's best friend and Charlie's ex-wife, Marcy, has started following the teachings of a radical feminist named Ophelia (groan). Ophelia started out in Episode 2 saying things like "Men are wild animals, and they must be regarded as such." She graduated to "The penis is not only a disgusting appendage, it is also a deadly weapon," and descended, in Episode 5, to putting Marcy's ex-husband's penis in a torture-inducing male chastity device.

Since Ophelia has arrived on the scene, Marcy has learned to refuse drinks from men in bars and say no to sex. Because, apparently, even outspoken and intelligent female business owners who have been through two divorces can't equip themselves with such skills without the influence of a true man-hater. We are absolutely terrified of where this storyline is going...but if it ends with Ophelia being seduced and realizing what she's been missing out on, we will be visiting the Showtime offices and slapping someone across the face.

In conclusion, Californication has jumped the shark in a massive way. It has gone from being one of the most entertaining things on television to being almost entirely unwatchable. Worst of all, this sinking ship has already been approved for a seventh season. We can only hope that between now and then, the writers relearn the ability to take things over the edge while still retaining the humanity of the characters — because right now we're watching a bunch of cartoon characters. And none of them are even remotely likable.

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I was looking on here to see if there was going to be a new season now that I know there is let me say this. Season 6 was horrendous please bring us something different. They always end with Hank and his ex wife getting back together and begin then new season with him messing up somehow and her being pissed and throwing herself at somebody else. No woman in their right mind would continue to love someone so blatantly nasty. And maybe recast their daughter she is boring with that flat monotone voice that was fine when she was a moody 15 year old but seems ridiculous as a college woman. By the way it looks like Frank Mooney is some drug addicted old man that they brought out to slump his way through a few lines and they sent him back to the drug house after taping.


I could not agree more. This has always been a guilty pleasure.  A pleasure because of the whip smart writing and hilarious concatenation of Hank's relationships. And I say "guilty" because there is something truly ridiculous about a 50 year old guy acting like a teenager and sleeping with young women. But the writing and the surprising sadness of the show redeemed it as a diversion. We all want to be Hank Moody is some way, probably not a good one.  

But not anymore. His groupie relationship is creepy, the stuff happening all around him this season is laughably dumb, and the writing is puerile and crude. Actually, things started to slip last season, with that dumb rap music plot. This year they fell off the tracks. Simply awful. 

Get the old writers back and pay them whatever they want. Have Moody honestly deal with aging instead of being a continuing chick magnet for little girls. Do something. Fast. 


@gumpchun  Thanks for the heads up. I used the Xfinity "watchathon" marathon to get hooked on the old episodes. But, after hearing your comments (you and the org article) I think I'll pass on trying to keep current.  I thought the first few seasons (1 - 3) were smart and well written. Even those were a bit heavy on the "groupie" and the "guilty" pleasure.  Oh well, glad I saw the good years. And, have a couple of seasons left for the next time I need a break from reality.  Duchovny is pretty fun to watch. Loved him from the old X Files days.


Glad we could save you hours wasting your life with Seasons 5 or 6. You still have Season 4 if you want to dip into some funny/sick/sad tribulations from Moodyland. I suppose, given Hank's basic "lostness" it could never end well and so far, it hasn't. The end of Season 5 should have been the end of the series, by all rights. The episode where they go around in a cop car with the rap star is actually funny, but that is about it for the season, really. The rap star is so stereotypical he should be using burnt cork. Season 6 is a complete train wreck. 

If they really wanted to make the show work, they would honestly deal with Hank getting old and show how an aging Lothario starts to exit the scene, usually with disasters, rejections and a whimper, but funny and touching. With the original writers.

I don't want to be prejudiced, but I suspect the new writers are all 20-somethings: the stuff is callow, infantile, unresearched and lad-driven. None of the nuance, depth and artfulness of the first three seasons. I've stopped watching. 


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