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Californication: “Raw”

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Californication

“Raw”

Season 5, Episode 8
A

Californication

“Raw”

Season 5, Episode 8

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The toughest stage of parenting might not be the terrible twos or traumatic teen years, but a child’s transition from vulnerable kid into self-defined young adult. For all his juvenile lapses as a father, Hank’s rift with Becca stems from what every father goes through—separation anxiety. Toward the end of tonight’s gangbusters, all-cylinders episode, Karen correctly advises her wayward ex to spend more time with his daughter as a peer and not her judge and jury. Not just because he’s forever a pot damning the kettle, but because it’s what every dad needs to hear at some point about his little girl.

For the first time this season, Californication got the beginning, end, and middle of a complete half-hour 100 percent right. For a moment, it seems as if the curtain will fall on Karen and Hank in each other’s arms, which would still be premature. Next, Hank arrives home to Samurai sitting in his living room, the lights darkened, holding a cocktail. It looks like the shit with Kali’s about to hit the fan just as Hank’s life has been reassembled after last week’s series of disasters. Instead, good ol’ Eddie Nero (a returning Rob Lowe, funnier than ever) spears Hank to the ground, pops back up, and announces he’s joining the cast of Santa Monica Cop. He’s also eager to share that he’s now sterile and celibate after a “year of living ambiguously,” and wants to be “the first film actor to have his genitals removed… like a Ken doll or a high-powered eunuch.” With Nero, Lowe is basically playing the under-nurtured inner child of his Parks And Rec alter-ego, Chris Traeger. If Californication were Multiplicity, Nero would be Traeger’s third and most id-driven clone.

This sets up some great material to come (no penile pun intended, despite the glut of phallic humor in “Raw”), but also ends the episode with welcome, spontaneous high energy, a nice complement to its sweet opening moments between a gradually reconciling Hank and Becca over breakfast. Both she and Karen, in fact, have softened a bit on their misguided patriarch. Karen was finally looped in about Bates and Holly (even though it’s still shocking she didn’t figure it out for herself), and Becca wants Hank to treat Tyler fairly and read his screenplay objectively.

Hank obliges the latter, thanks to Becca’s threats to hit the stripper pole, and is distressed and impressed that Tyler’s script is an impressive piece of work. He’s also disgusted and scared at how it graphically portrays his and Becca’s sex life, but soon realizes Tyler’s just a mensch who was putting on airs for Hank’s sake and grew up in an unconventionally loving household with two lesbian mothers. Just another day in L.A. 

Melora Walters was a great casting choice as Tyler’s uninhibited mother, Lisa, who photographs penises for a living but shacks up with her big dinner of a girlfriend, Debbie (Lea Delaria, also perfectly cast and very funny). When Hank misconstrues Lisa’s request to see his penis as a come-on, then nearly gets pummeled when Debbie walks in, it’s yet another instance in which Hank doesn’t see what’s coming in more ways than one. And, as has been the case all season, it’s charming to watch him be humbled and a bit embarrassed, but also nice to see he’s trying earnestly to reconnect with the more responsible version of himself that we’ve only seen in flashbacks. Heaven knows he doesn’t want to end up like poor Bates-y.

Or, for that matter, Charlie and Stu. Marcy’s current and former lovers, along with Marcy herself, were in prime degenerate form during the ever-aptly titled “Raw.” Lizzie’s a take-her-or-leave-her addition to the chemistry, and still appears to clearly be exploiting Charlie’s loneliness for her own gain. But dear lord, the few minutes in which a naked Charlie and Lizzie hid behind the couch while Stu and Marcy explored the sexual fantasy of Charlie being upstairs and crippled in a wheelchair was absolute comedy Manna. Hard to say what was funnier about the ensuing chaos: Stu politely apologizing to Lizzie for objectifying her and then proposing a healing orgy, or Charlie rising from his hiding spot, shouting, “How much disrespect can one man take?” while a gardener can be seen raking leaves in the background. (My vote’s for that last one.)

Two weeks ago, “Love Song” restored some humanity to the show, and then “Here I Go Again” nearly ruined that goodwill with an awkward setup episode that didn’t land as comedy or drama. But “Raw” was a perfect storm of good TV: great casting, unexpected character development, a number of howl-worthy punchlines, and some hysterical physical comedy. With Samurai and Kali presumably re-entering the picture next week and Nero fully on board, it looks to be a bumpy but mighty entertaining rest of the season. 

Stray observations:

  • I loved Hank’s hard "t" on his pronunciation of "agent."
  • Becca tells Hank that, “Sometimes I think you wish I stayed an asexual little goth Muppet creature forever.” Hank responds, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.” He also initially dismisses Tyler’s screenplay as “mumblecore bullshit.” Wouldn’t that be redundant?
  • Marcy presents Stu with the following, classically Marcy (oh, how we miss you) ultimatum: “You wanna sink the pink ever again in this lifetime?”
  • Does Charlie use a condom?
  • Just to be clear, Samurai will not stand for any “nut-guzzling shit in my movie.”
  • Fortunately for Samurai, Eddie hasn’t had an erection since last year’s Golden Globes.
  • I like that Hank’s a PC guy. 

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