Screen Savors: Duchovny's x-rated debauchery

While Duchovny fans should be happy to have him back, we're still waiting for that X Files movie to come out.

david duchovny 88 (photo credit: )
david duchovny 88
(photo credit: )
Poor Hank Moody. He's got a bad case of writer's block, his ex-wife wants to get married, and his daughter's just been caught necking with a classmate by her teacher. What's a California guy to do? Well, if you're Hank, it's pretty much shack up with anything that moves, at least based on the first episode of Showtime's new series Californication, starring David Duchovny. And we really mean anything, including an opening sequence involving a nun in a church that most Catholics would probably advise should not become habit-forming. OK, turns out it was a dream sequence, but this is definitely not a show to watch with the kids. As a former X Files freak, we definitely missed Duchovny, who since leaving the show would pop up for occasional hysterical appearances on interview programs, but usually just to promote one of a series of rather lame movies. Now he's back as Hank, a womanizing writer trying to make sense of his life as he motors up and down the LA highways, trying to keep both his agent and his libido happy. Well, one out of two ain't bad. Hank's good at offering advice and analysis - whether it be an explanation of the female anatomy for the guy he's just cuckolded or a five-minute summing up of a potential date's entire life, sending her running from the room - kind of Fox Mulder in his wise guy stage. But when it comes to his own family, he's basically clueless. His ex-girlfriend Karen despises his carousing and gives him what he calls "the look that shrinks my testes." When she tells him she's getting married, he pleads with her to marry him instead, and when the quickly developing Becca ends up at a wild party in the LA hills, he carries her out of the house, but doesn't really know how to handle her budding sexuality. "You have this gift. You have this incredible talent and you're throwing it down the toilet," Karen tells him. But Hank's content letting his life go to hell, so long as he can keep getting all the sex he wants, which includes picking up Mia, a young fan at a bookstore who's into his last successful novel. Turns out Mia's passion packs quite the literal punch. As she reaches the height of pleasure, she belts Hank in the face. At first he laughs it off, but discovering her to be the daughter of the guy Karen plans to marry, he reflexively covers his face for a moment when they meet again. That scene was one of the highlights of a show categorized as a comedy/drama and which Showtime was touting as part of a daring doubleheader with Weeds. But the Mary Louise Parker program about a pot-selling California mom is a lot more fun. Don't get us wrong: Duchovny is fine here, offering a more comic approach to his acting which fans saw occasional flashes of in the X Files. And we stood up and cheered when Hank took away a guy's cell phone at the movies when the obnoxious fellow wouldn't turn it off during the film. However, other than a few scenes, there wasn't too much to laugh about here and we found ourselves waiting for more - either more drama or more laughs. By show's end, we didn't feel we'd gotten either one, although there were almost more sex scenes than the young Duchovny's earlier TV effort, The Red Shoe Diaries. Sure, there were some good lines, as when Becca's teacher, getting ready to drop the bomb on her parents, outlined all her good achievements in school to start the conversation. "I sense a big hairy 'but' lurking around the corner," Hank says. That's good for a laugh, and there are a few, but essentially it's hard to get too excited about Hank, who says of himself, "I'm disgusted with myself and my life, but I'm not unhappy about that," and whom his wife aptly describes as "a walking Id." While Duchovny fans should be happy to have him back, we're still waiting for that X Files movie to come out. Those who prefer Duchovny as a blocked writer whose only word, typed onscreen as the show closed was a four-letter one starting with f, might still enjoy tooling with him through Californication. We think his best role is still out there. Californication airs locally on Xtra HOT Sunday nights at 10 p.m.