Monday, April 14, 2014

Californication Season Seven Premiere: "Levon"

Finding Its Way Home

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

The final season of Californication premiered last night and after seven years of Hank's (David Duchovny) debauchery, the show appears to be getting back on track. The first season as a whole proved that Californication was something different, a comedy that pushed the limits even for cable television, but one that had a lot of heart and soul. Many wrote the show off as being just about sex, when in fact it was anything but. As the seasons progressed, however, it was clear that the writers were more interested in sexual situation comedy, rather than the story of Hank and Karen (Natasha McElhone).

I questioned how Californication could last past a season or two and the answer was it couldn't and shouldn't have. This always was a short term story, at least for me, and while I wish things could have ended much sooner, I'm glad that this first episode in the show's conclusion indicates a return to form. It begins moments after the ending of last season, with Hank knocking on Karen's door to tell her he wants to make it work. Things don't go as planned, so Hank decides to get a job working in television. Easier said than done.

Fans of the show will remember that season five revolved around the making of the movie "Santa Monica Cop", which has now been adapted into a television series and is being run by Rick Rath (Michael Imperioli). Hank convinces Rick that he's worth hiring because of his life experience and that his pain in the ass work ethic is beside the point. "I'm on a quest to reclaim the best parts of myself before it's too late", Hank says at one point. The same can be said about Californication.

The core of the show has always been Hank and Karen's relationship, and their scenes together, sparse though they may be, always remind me of why I fell in love with the show in the first place. Duchovny and McElhone are so good that when they're together, it no longer feels like I'm watching two characters on a screen, rather, I'm a witness to two very real people having arguments and conversations that actually matter. And when the show is firing on all cylinders, the comedy comes out of the characters, not the situations they're thrown into.

Take Charlie (Evan Handler) and Marcy (Pamela Adlon) for example. They're the most unlikely couple in the series. Their chemistry is just perfect on as their co-stars and the funniest moments in "Levon" occurred when they were arguing about Charlie's erectile dysfunction. While Charlie has been the focus of ridicule throughout Californication's run, he's best served when Marcy is with him. Keeping them apart for so long was one of many missteps in the show's prolonged run, but now that they're living not-so-happily ever after, all could be forgiven. And yes, watching Charlie flounder about is always amusing, but it's having Marcy by his side that makes those scenes work. That's a testament to Adlon's comedic timing, which makes Marcy's mixture of bitter and sweet spot on.

It's that dichotomy that always made Californication work, and for too long, Tom Kapinos - the show's creator and, now, only writer - went for the wacky comedy instead of comedic character study. But for the first time in several seasons, I was laughing again and happy to see these characters for at least twelve more episodes. Let's hope that Californication, much like Hank and Karen, can get it right a second time.

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