In Praise of Californication

Hank, Karen

Finally got around to the Californication season finale over here. This show was never really an immersive watch for me, usually I regarded it with a seemingly appropriate level of ironic detachment. I’ll watch it because nothing else is on, etc. They haven’t done themselves any favors by basically marketing it as low brow T&A fare, which, of course, it can be, but it does have a little bit more going on, now finishing up its third season.

In general, the plot scenarios can feel contrived, the characters drift into cartoony caricatures, the dialogue’s not particularly clever, and the acting by anyone other than Duchovny or Natasha McElhone is hit and miss. I don’t know that any of this improved markedly in this season, but somehow it snuck up on me. I can’t deny I felt something over this crazy Moody family not being able to live happily ever after, so the show must be doing something right. I give it respect for having the balls to close shop for the season on such a downbeat note (if not even close to the downer on which Dexter ended) even if flying in a lingering threat from seasons past is a bit deus ex machina.

Not to damn it with faint praise, but it’s become a far better “L.A. show” than Entourage these days, to make the inevitable (admittedly lazy common) comparison. It might not have the flashy high end brand name-checks and big time celeb cameos that the HBO vehicle does, but there is an overall mood (maybe dominated by Hank’s own ennui) and a tone (frustration, mostly this year) hovering about the show that is tapping in to something distinctly L.A. It’s hard to define, but it’s right there in any of several candlelit dinner party scenes or random Venice daytime exterior scene. It’s also more true to life on an interpersonal level than Entourage–the Hank/Karen relationship alone is as fraught with more recognizably real world difficulty than Vince’s, E’s, Turtle’s, Johnny Drama’s and Lloyd’s love lives combined–if not as accurate in the shiny surface details. Here’s to looking forward to season four.