Californication hit our screens with a lot of hype and a lot of anticipation. It was Duchovny's first TV series since his very successful 9 seasons of The X-Files. Could he strike gold again? Indeed he could. Most actors spend their entire careers searching for that one great role; now Duchovny has two. But his character in Californication, writer Hank Moody, is about as different to Fox Mulder as it is possible to be.
How different, I hear you ask? Well, take the pilot episode in which we meet Moody, suffering from writer's block and a mid-life crisis, entering a church to ask "the big guy" for some help. He's interrupted by a nun ("a totally fucking hot nun") who offers him a blowjob. It is, of course, just a dream, but one that in less than a minute has set up the character and the show ... an adult comedy that's about as black as they come. Moody is a best-selling author with an appetite-and-a-half for beautiful women that keeps landing him in hot water. Especially as he wants to get back together with his ex, Karen (McElhone), so they can play happy families for teenage daughter Becca (Martin). One slight problem, though, is that Karen is engaged to Bill (Young) ... whose 16-year-old daughter, Mia (Zima), Moody ends up in bed with one night after meeting her in a bookstore (he thought she was a college student). Of course, that's Moody's other big problem — he can't keep it in his pants long enough to show Karen he's ready to commit, settle down and grow up.
Californication is easily the best new TV series of 2008, and another hit for the Showtime cable network (which also airs Dexter and The Tudors). Its adult nature, blatant sexuality and raw language has drawn considerable flak — not least of which in Sydney, Australia, where a rabid right-wing religious group called Family First actually picketed the television network that aired the show. Elsewhere, critics have either been scathing or gushing in their praise. I'm in the latter camp; this show is one of the greatest TV pleasures since The Sopranos. Duchovny is outstanding as the cynical, wise-cracking, hard-boozing, brawling womaniser who wants to get back together with the mother of his child. Duchovny shows once again what a superb actor he is with his perfect portrayal of this broken man who really just wants to be loved. The supporting cast, too, are first rate, from the gorgeous McElhone to the underrated Evan Handler (last seen in Sex and The City and Studio 60). And what a find is Zima, who simply burns up the screen whenever she appears. Hang the controversy and roll on season 2.
EXTRAS ** A commentary track on the pilot episode with star Duchovny, series creator Tom Kapinos and executive producer Stephen Hopkins; interviews with cast members Duchovny, McElhone, Zima and Handler, and creator Kapinos.