10:30 p.m. Mondays
Midway through the premiere of Californication, David Duchovny’s character, the perfectly named Hank Moody, sums up what makes this comedy so appealing: “I’m disgusted with my life and myself,” he says, “but I’m not unhappy about that.”
Really, Hank ought to be miserable. And he is. His biggest problem: He feels the pressure to come up with a new book that’ll top the success of his best-seller, God Hates Us All, which was turned into a Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes movie and renamed A Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
But Hank suffers from writer’s block. Not only that, his ex-girlfriend can barely tolerate him and their 12-year-old daughter is rapidly discovering sex and drugs. All this makes Hank self-destructive enough to do and say things he knows he shouldn’t do or say.
Rather than wallow, though, he fills his life with gallows humor and loads of sex. The debut episode includes three sexual encounters with smokin’ hot women. (If you’re ever on a downward spiral, opt for this as the way to go.) Psychologists would say Hank’s compensating, and they’d be right. But if a television character’s life is headed down the toilet, does that mean he must drag viewers down with him? In this case, thankfully, no.
Duchovny takes on this juicy role with a gleeful smile, and he’s been teamed with a charming, low-key cast. British actress Natascha McElhone, in particular, does a terrific job as Karen, Hank’s long-suffering girlfriend and mother of his child. She’s never shrill, no matter how exasperating Hank is, and watching them together you can actually imagine that they once had a happy relationship.
Hank doesn’t figure to experience much happiness for however long Californication lasts. But that’s OK. His misery is our entertainment.