Is it possible to avoid learning anything from your past mistakes without it affecting you? That was part of the premise behind the sixth season premiere of Showtime's "Californication," which allowed for the cast to realize the error of their ways without making some humorous new ones.
"Californication" followed days after one of Hank Moody's (David Duchovny) former girlfriends tried to kill him after she couldn't except the end of their relationship. Fortunately, Hank survived, but she ended up on life support which ended up impacting him greater than he expected. He ignored the concerns of his family and friends to go on an extended drinking binge, which prompted a trip to rehab. Hank's best friend/agent Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) tried to keep him out of trouble, but he couldn't avoid it himself. Hank also received an even bigger shock when his daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin) told him that she wanted to drop out of college and become a writer like her father. He also had the support of his on-again/off-again girlfriend Karen (Natascha McElhone) as he tried to make his way back to her as they tried to keep their daughter Becca on the straight and narrow. Meanwhile, Karen is living with her close friend Marcy (Pamela Adlon) while they are both growing through major personal transitions. Will Hank be able to fix his mistakes or will he continue to mess up everything that comes his way?
In terms of questions, each episode of the show delivered with near certainty that Duchovny's Hank was going to make a huge mistake that would get him into a lot of hot water. It was a nice change of pace that the show allowed Hank to truly regret his actions for a change. Instead of sweeping everything under the rug, he was forced to deal with everything and how his life got to that point. Of course, the show won't fully embrace a reformed Hank Moody, because it just wouldn't be the same without Duchovny's fun loving character making a fool out of himself. Over the years, Duchovny has managed to make Hank the ultimate comedic anti-hero because viewers wanted to like him, even when he did something heinous. Unlike Charlie Sheen's role on "Anger Management," Duchovny's Hank knows that he wasn't the ideal person to be in Becca and Karen's lives, but he still wanted to be anyway. He gave Hank the right balance of vulnerability and comedic vigor to make things interesting each season. The show needs to keep Hank on the straight and narrow for now, because the detours that the character took in the last few seasons were starting to get a little too over the top. A simpler but still complicated Hank will be the key to keeping the show around for at least another season. Only time will tell if that's the case.
As for breakout stars, Duchovny and Martin seemed to reign supreme time around because each season gets to explore a new facet of the unique father/daughter bond their characters shared. Their most memorable scene came towards the end of the season premiere when Hank's intervention went off the rails and it was Becca who persuaded her father to get help. The scene ended on a sweet note as they embraced after he realized that he did indeed need some help. Martin has given Becca a new level of maturity that needs to be explored this season as she embarked on a new career path. An honorable mention should go to Handler as he continued to take chances as Hank's man child best friend, which also demonstrated that he wasn't above making a fool out of himself for laughs. The premiere was smart to focused on Duchovny's rapport with both Martin and Handler as they tried to get Hank to sober up. Handler did the comedic approach, while Martin's version of a pep talk had the right amount of calm and blunt honesty to make Becca more grown up this season. Let's hope that tone remains the same for the season, but it's doubtful since she's her father's daughter after all.
"Californication" premiered on January 13th and airs Sundays at 10:30 PM on Showtime.
Verdict: The new season has Duchovny's Hank taking stock in his choices and making some new mistakes along the way.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)