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When we last left transplanted New Yorker and "debauched moralist" Hank Moody (David Duchovny), he was reunited with his ex-girlfriend and runaway bride Karen (Natascha McElhone) and his beloved daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin). Sounds like the makings of a happy-ever-after ending, but Hank's life is no fairy tale. Or maybe it is. Though a total screw-up, he remains irresistible to a bevy of women who throw themselves at him, from the nurse participating in his vasectomy to an A-list prostitute ("You really got under my skin, Hank Moody"). The new Hank is determined to make grown-up and responsible decisions, but before the dust has settled on the season opener, he once again finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong woman, albeit accidentally. No wonder Karen needs time to mull over his marriage proposal. Californication takes as jaundiced a view of Southern California hedonism as did the classic 1975 film Shampoo.
In season 2, fast-laner Lew Ashby (Callum Keith Rennie), a legendary music producer, recruits Hank to be his biographer. Hank's agent Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) is fired from his agency and takes a fledgling female porn star under his wing. Charlie's wife Marcy (Pamela Adlon) becomes a coke fiend. Seventeen-year-old Mia (Madeline Zima) becomes a critics' darling when Hank's manuscript, which she stole in season 1, is published. Sonja (Paula Marshall) the Scientologist is pregnant and Hank may be the father. Duchovny's laid-back charm imbues Hank with what one character calls "infuriating magic." As the precocious Becca tells her mother, "You have to love him for who he is, not his potential." For all its explicit language and graphic sex, Californication is a compelling character study of a seriously flawed man-child. To quote a review of Mia/Hank's book, "It isn't about sex, but loneliness. It's hauntingly hopelessly romantic in the best sense of the word." Big ups! --Donald Liebenson