Disregard All the Hand-Wringing About Sexism; See David Duchovny's Californication Tonight!
Regular readers of this space know I've been jetting between Florida, Los Angeles and Las Vegas for three of the past four weeks, so I've let some things slip by me. The slip I regret most right about now, is failing to get a review of David Duchovny's excellent new series Californication in the newspaper.
I'm particularly peeved because I've seen some critics get distracted by all the topless sex in the debut episode. Duchovny is playing a New York writer who has moved to Los Angeles and seen his successful novel turned into a hollow, hackwork big budget film -- an experience which has cursed him with a mountain-sized writer's block and penchant for endless streams of meaningless sexual encounters. (check the trailer here)
True enough, the sex scenes mostly feature bodacious young actresses bouncing up and down on Duchovny naked -- in much the same way Brian Benben's character kept finding ways to get shirts off women in HBO's long-ago funny sitcom Dream On -- shrewdly enticing the viewer with well-paced T&A. (Hey, it's on Showtime, and they have to do something to show it's an edgy, modern sex comedy)
But the scenes also set up Duchovny's Hank Moody (okay, WAY too obvious a name) as an omnivorous, self-centered spiritual black hole. Even he doesn't know why he's driven to bed these women, because getting them to give it up only makes him feel more hollow. Until he beds a woman he can't shake -- if I explain why, it will give away too much -- and is forced by the deteriorating circumstances of his life to deal with the ennui threatening to capsize his fragile world.
Only an actor like Duchovny -- working an offhand, oddball charm that even he probably doesn't fully understand -- can make Moody's moods more than bearable. They're actually compelling; and when he goes on a blind/double date with a pal, only to completely eviscerate the woman brought along as his companion with a series of spot-on observations about her shallow life, you wonder when he's going to turn that high-powered lens fully on his own sad circumstance.
It helps that Duchovny has some great support; Natascha McElhone (Ronin) is his long-suffering ex-wife, and Evan Handler (Sex and the City) is his pal/agent/unfortunate double date partner. Time after time, you watch Moody stumble into one personal shitpile after another, wondering why you still care about a character who is the ultimate cliche -- the disillusioned Hollywood writer.
Behold, the genius that is Duchovny. Check it out at 10:30 p.m. tonight on Showtime.