I think that one of the reasons for the popularity (and perhaps quality as well) of the show Californication is how Dave Duchovny’s character is a sort of everyman for our century who is semi-famous but with a truckload of personality flaws and weaknesses. Hank talks to many of us in our 40s by exaggerating our fantasies and breaking some of our taboos but while remaining likeable, funny, and interesting. The story could be the typical boring “guy-doesn’t-get-the-girl” story, but it transcends that category by the addressing current social issues – particularly in the current season – such as homosexuality, feminism, drug and alcohol abuse, divorced parenting…and I think it says cautiously positive things about them while at the same time poking fun. When I think about it, I am sure Frank Zappa would have loved this show because the sense of black humor is quite similar. OK, so Hank sleeps with loads of women (speaking once again to our fantasies) and he irresponsibly does drugs (thus breaking a taboo that many of us hold back from breaking), he is a borderline alcoholic (and many of us face that risk particularly given some alcoholic family history like in my case), and yet he is a passably good and definitely loving father (some of my favorite moments are between Hank and Becca) and – despite his many, many slips – he still loves Karen like crazy (who wouldn’t!). I think I don’t really care anymore if they get back together. I just love to laugh out loud at Marcy’s wise cracks and Runkles hilarious misadventures while seeing Hank try to make sense out of LA and his increasingly complex relationships with suitors, subjects, and close friends. Californication gives us 40-something lifestyle porn where we can identify with an imperfect hero in Hank and be somewhat jealous of his relative freedom and his occasionally rich and famous friends, and yet we are reassured that he oftens pays the price (and heavily on occasion) for that freedom. The show is – in my opinion – not gratuitous at all in that Hank gets nothing for free. His writing is painful and the result of internal struggle. Perhaps he is a little like Batman in that sense – a superhero but who is deeply and unpardonably human.
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