I had a short piece about David Duchovny's "Californication" in Sunday's Beacon Journal, but it doesn't appear to be on ohio.com yet, so I'll just put the text after the jump. (Short review: I'm not enthused.) Also thoughts about "Weeds," which like the Duchovny series begins new episodes tonight. I think you'd be better off with IFC's "Jackie Woodman" or HBO's "Flight of the Conchords" ...
I've been trying to muster some enthusiasm for the new season of "Weeds" and I just can't do it. The show is indeed unpredictable, and sometimes interesting, and I'm a fan of Mary-Louise Parker, and love what Elizabeth Perkins does on the show. (Sometimes I think she's playing her "Big" character grown old, and embittered by losing her true love when Tom Hanks became a kid again.) But I get to the end of an episode, and the only thing I feel is a vague urge to find out what happened next. And not that big an urge. And tonight's premiere doesn't change any of that.
I'm much more amused by Laura Kightlinger's "The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman," very much in the vein of the UK "Office" or "Extras," but with a marvelous depth of anger. (Also, Nicholle Tom, late of "The Nanny," is much better served by this than former co-star Madeline Zima is by "Californication." But more about that directly. And I will try to stop being so parenthetical.) And I've just, belately, gotten around to "Flight of the Conchords," and the first episode gave me major giggles. You could be a part-time model, indeed. (See what I'm referring to here.)
As for "Californication," the following is what I said in the Beacon Journal. Erratum: The character I called Duchovny's ex-wife is actually an old girlfriend.
David Duchovny spent a lot of years trying to unravel the mysteries of The X-Files. But an even bigger mystery hangs over his new series, Californication
What was he thinking when he agreed to this?
Premiering at 10:30 p.m. Monday on Showtime, immediately after the third-season premiere of Weeds, Californication deals more than a little with sex. And nudity. And strong language. Fans of the sitcom The Nanny are in for a shock when they see what Madeline Zima -- who played Grace Sheffield -- is up to in this show.
Duchovny, meanwhile, plays Hank Moody, the writer of a best-selling novel that has -- to his great discomfort -- been twisted into a big-screen romantic comedy starring Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
Separating himself from the movie is just one of Hank's problems. He still longs for his ex-wife (Natascha McElhone), which makes it difficult for him to have a serious relationship with another woman. On the other hand, it is no impediment to his repeated and meaningless sexual encounters with other women, including some who are considerably younger.
He also drinks considerably; Duchovny's performance has slurring echoes of William Powell's bibulous Nick Charles in the Thin Man movies. He is trying to be a good father to Becca (Madeleine Martin, the most interesting performer in the show), but is unsuccessful at hiding his bad habits.
And, on top of all that, he has stopped writing. Nor does it appear he will start again any time soon.
So is any of this interesting? In the premiere episode, not especially.
It's not just that Duchovny, who has to carry the show, gives a boring performance. The jaded writer is pretty standard Hollywood fare, whether your taste runs to Sunset Boulevard or Wonder Boys. Californication tries to be provocative, starting with a scene that goes from a church to the bedroom. But while it may provoke people who think of Duchovny as a broadcast-television actor, it's not much in the larger context of premium-cable movies and series.
Still, Californication can be more than a little creepy when it deals with Hank's womanizing, and it gets distinctly creepier at the end of the premiere. There's a joke near the beginning about Hank's age relative to one of his conquests; by the time the credits roll, the joke isn't that funny.