Empty10:30-11 p.m., Monday, Aug. 13
As the title correctly implies, this is a series about California and fornication. At the center is a self-loathing writer, Hank Moody (David Duchovny in great form), who hates the former and loves the latter. "Californication" can be unabashedly self-centered, judgmental and off-putting, but it is redeemed by occasional hilarious moments, an appealing father-daughter relationship and Duchovny's skillful creation of a charismatic boor.
In this series, writer Tom Kapinos can be, if only vicariously, fearlessly and painfully honest with a variety of pretentious people. The aptly named Moody is honest to a fault, except with himself. Sporting a perpetual three-day growth, he scowls at the idea of compromise with the mercenary suits who control and homogenize all creative output. Not that they care. So he stays unemployed and semi-despondent.
Moody had a best-seller, the angrily-titled, "God Hates Us All." Hollywood turned it into a piece of fluff, "A Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Now he's mad at the system and mad at himself.
He claims he has writer's block but that requires making an effort to write. In the first couple of episodes, he mostly busies himself by finding pain relief with smoking, drugs, drinking and fornicating, fornicating, fornicating. (You'd be amazed at the number of strikingly beautiful women who can't wait to have sex with an unemployed, scruffy, tobacco-scented guy.)
Moody moved from New York and he hates Los Angeles, particularly because of how the city messes with the minds of women, making them insecure and treating them like sex objects. Which is, ironically, what Moody does on a smaller scale.
Moody has an ex-girlfriend, Karen (Natascha McElhone), who still cares for him but has grown weary of his aimlessness and immaturity. Together, they have a daughter, teenage Becca (Madeleine Martin), who has a wise-beyond-her-years understanding of her father's situation. He, in turn, puts her welfare above all else, even his inner turmoil.
Rounding out the cast are Bill (Damian Young), Karen's new and somewhat improbable boyfriend; Mia (Madeline Zima), Bill's sexually precocious teenage daughter; and Charlie (Evan Handler), Hank's friend and agent and, sometimes, admirer.
It's a reach to believe the ultracool Karen would pair off with stodgy Bill, even for the stability and security he provides. Yet there's such an earnestness about the performances that you're willing to swallow it.
Director/executive producer Stephen Hopkins avoids transitions, turning each scene into a distinct event and asking the viewer to connect the dots, which becomes part of the enjoyment of watching this show. Also praiseworthy is production designer Gabrael Wilson's efforts to create a less-than-glamorous L.A. to reflect Moody's tragicomic experiences.
Agressive Mediocrity Inc. in association with Twilight Time Films
Executive producers: Tom Kapinos, David Duchovny, Stephen Hopkins
Co-executive producer: Melanie Greene
Producer: Anne Kindberg
Co-producer: Kate Garwood
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Director of photography: Peter Levy
Production designer: Gabrael Wilson
Editor: David Brixton
Music: Tyler Bates
Set designers: Maggie Martin, Megan Malley Cannon
Casting: Felicia Fasano
Hank Moody: David Duchovny
Karen: Natascha McElhone
Becca: Madeleine Martin
Mia: Madeline Zima
Bill: Damian Young
Charlie: Evan Handler