Every Sunday night I settle into my friend’s oversized couch to watch Dexter and Californication. We started the ritual Showtime meetings after discovering both series on DVD. Dexter continues to be amazing but Californication fell off the deep end. I accept the possibility that it may never resurface.
I knew of the show when it first hit the scene but without cable or motivation to internet hunt I never watched. My breaking point came after 4 people in one week exclaimed, “You study sex but you haven’t seen Californication!?” So I hit the video store to fulfill my obligation.
I LOVED the first season. Complex issues of sex, fidelity, taboos and relationships dominated the first season. Hank Moody (main character, bad boy asshat extraordinaire) served fine as a lens to explore these topics. I was enchanted.
But something happened. They wrote themselves into a corner by focusing on Hank’s chosen depravity instead of humanity’s potential depravity in lands with access to excess. Every female character became a mere prop for Hank Moody, two-dimensional figures with breasts and limited sexual desires trained on Mr. Moody.
There was potential there to talk about sex in broader terms. Becca, Hank’s eerily wise young daughter, has only passing observations on his sexual proclivities and accepts him unconditionally. Mia, the teenage sociopathic fame-whore that knowingly slept with Hank in the pilot episode, was an excellent character that writers ignored. What was her motivation? How did the rest of her sex life play out? Karen, Hank’s long-suffering partner and baby-momma, swung between tempered frustration and sweet adoration. Where were her emotions? What logic inside her mind kept her with Hank? What were her sexual desires for Bill (Mia’s father and the man she nearly married)? Then there was Marcy, the loud-mouth waxer married to Hank’s best bro, but we only saw minor character development and once she separated from her husband she faded into the background. I loved Marcy. I want to be her when I grow up.
The closest we came to character expansion was Marcy’s husband Charlie Runkle, Hank Moody’s best home-bro. We saw his sexually charged hubristic decline from high-power agent to BMW sales guy but nothing deeper. He still served as a prop man to Hank Moody.
If that series is to survive, the plotline needs to expand to talk about fornication in hedonistic southern California. In shorter parlance, they need to make the Californication show not the Hank Moody cliché disaster show.