Californication: The First Season

Californication: The First Season

In a sadly typical scene from Californication's pilot, debauched wordsmith David Duchovny grabs the cell phone of a guy jibber-jabbering during a movie, angrily hurls it against a wall, and then engages in spirited fisticuffs with this offending patron of the arts. Duchovny's fellow moviegoers begin clapping in rapt appreciation, because let's face it: A brawl in the middle of a movie theater is way less distracting than a guy talking on his phone. It's the insufferable series in a nutshell: We're clearly supposed to see Duchovny as a gutsy, iconoclastic truth-teller who says and does what we'd love to, if only we had the balls; in fact, he's really just a self-absorbed prick. Actually, the scene isn't entirely representative; in order to truly convey the show's nauseating grand gestalt, Duchovny would have to pick the fight while receiving oral sex from two topless nymphets, then immediately sharing a heartwarming heart-to-heart with his adoring daughter. Californication is nine parts smug, self-congratulatory, foul-mouthed snark, and one part unearned sentimentality.

Californication casts Duchovny as a misanthropic author who drowns his frustrations in liquor and casual sex. But alas, under Duchovny's jaded exterior lies the pure heart of a family man and true romantic. While he sleeps with half of L.A.'s female population, he pines for lost love Natascha McElhone and dotes on their precocious daughter. This is supposed to humanize Duchovny; instead, it comes off as pandering. Duchovny wrestles with writer's block, yet his every quip has the overwritten feel of something that's been polished and re-written until it bears zero resemblance to plausible human communication.

How could the process of writing possibly compare to Duchovny's lifestyle of constant sex and basking in fan adoration? What of said literary genius? Californication shows precious little of Duchovny's actual writing, but it does include zingers from his blog like, "I probably won't go down in history, but I will go down on your sister." For that extra burst of self-infatuation, it even has Duchovny giggling uproariously at his own line. In the pilot, McElhone accuses Duchovny of being a walking cliché. It's the only line in the series that rings true.

Key features: The slim features package includes cast and crew biographies and a photo gallery.

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