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Californication: Season 2 - Review

Californication: The Second Season

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THE sophomore season of raunchy comedy Californication was a hit-and-miss offering that failed to live up to the heights of its first run – but it was still hugely enjoyable nonetheless!

Season two struggled for several reasons. Firstly, the filth factor appeared more desperate than charming this time around, as the show’s writers desperately attempted to find ways to top the exploits of season one. Secondly, it had backed itself into a corner at the close of the first season by placing its two main characters together. And thirdly, several of the new characters it introduced weren’t that likeable.

That said, David Duchovny’s Hank Moody remained a tremendously enjoyable character to be around; Natascha McElhone’s Karen continued to provide a nice romantic foil, and Evan Handler’s hapless friend and agent Charlie continued to provide endearing support.

The ongoing exploits of Hank also came into their own once the writers had found a way to split him and Karen up again. Not that their happiness could ever last, of course.

For one of the great joys of watching Californication unfold is seeing, quite literally, how Hank finds new ways to f**k himself up, while exacerbating the will they/won’t they nature of his relationship with Karen.

This time around, pregnant ex-girlfriends, cancer scares and hellraising new friends all conspired to place Hank’s loyalty in question… some more convincing than others.

But it’s credit to Californication that as filthy and smutty as some of the sexual exploits and vocabulary gets, it still has plenty of heart. An episode entitled In Utero, in which Hank has to contend with finding a testicular lump, aptly demonstrated this, and provided some genuinely intimate moments between Duchovny and McElhone.

While the season finale La Petite Mort showcased a maturer side to Hank’s decision-making and, again, delivered some nice moments between himself and Karen, as well as daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin).

Strong, too, was the see-saw relationship that unfolded between Charlie, his wife (Pamela Adlon) and a porn actress (Carla Gallo) he unwittingly and mis-guidedly falls in love with.

Of the sexual shenanigans, there was plenty of rude comedy to be found in Charlie’s involvement with a porn movie called Vaginatown, while Hank got to unwittingly have sex with the mother of Becca’s boyfriend. There was plenty of sleeping around, loads of embarrassing sexual revelations and, of course, plenty of frank dialogue – some of which slipped into bad taste this time around.

But then one of season two’s bigger problems was the new characters it introduced, who were less endearing than the show’s central protagonists. Callum Keith Rennie’s renegade lothario Lew Ashby was, arguably, the pick of the newcomers, even though he regularly tested the patience, but Angus MacFadyen’s Julian was a failure… a self-obsessed artist who failed to turn his outrageousness into anything close to endearing.

Paula Marshall’s Sonja wasn’t really used enough and felt wasted, while Madchen Amick provided plenty of allure as Janie Jones (Lew Ashby’s significent ex), but again seemed to fizzle out just as she was coming to the boil.

In spite of its shortcomings, however, Californication – Season 2 remained compulsive viewing and good, adult fun. It just came up short when compared to its outstanding first season.

Fortunately, a third season IS on the way, with Hank heading to university to teach. We can only look forward to the fun that assignment may provide him with… and hope it fully recaptures its early glory.

Certificate: 18
Episodes: 12
UK Release Date: August 10, 2009