Even more than most roles, Hank had to have been a challenge to cast. It wasn't enough to find a star who could do comedy and drama equally well. He also had to have enough sexual appeal to make us believe he could seduce so many women — and enough charisma to stop us from resenting him for it.
How lucky for Californication that it found David Duchovny, who makes the unlikeliest twists believable and the most heinous behavior forgivable. And how lucky for Showtime that it found Californication, which may just be the perfect match for Weeds — and gives Showtime one of the best sitcom combos on cable.
When we meet Hank, he's suffering from a crisis of faith brought on by a Hollywood system that turned his thoughtful novel God Hates Us All into a romantic comedy starring "Tom and Katie." His solution to his writer's block is to win back ex-girlfriend Karen (Natascha McElhone), the mother of his precocious 12-year-old daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin). That will not prevent him, however, from having sex with a bookstore pickup — played by an all-grown-up Madeline Zima, the youngest daughter in The Nanny.
He may be sexually loose, but Hank is not unprincipled, which helps keep the character from becoming reprehensible. This is a man who, when caught cheating with a married woman, pauses to give the husband a lesson in pleasuring his wife — which while not nice is kind of noble. Or at least funny, as is a terrible blind date set up by his agent (Evan Handler).
If you haven't guessed by now, Californication is an adult comedy, and a premium cable one at that, so few holds are barred. The language is earthy, the situations border on the obscene (what is it with TV and nun fantasies this summer?), and partial nudity is not just expected, it's apparently required.
Granted, pay cable exists to give a paying audience what it wants. Still, exposing the breasts of four women in one half-hour does seem to go beyond freedom to exploitation.The show is not designed to appeal to prudes, but the writing and the acting are too good to be wasted on the prurient.
I've got my DVR series recorder set, as I look forward to what new situations Hank can get himself in to, and out of, this season. Look for Californication, every Monday night following Weeds, on Showtime at 10:3o, 9:30 central.