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Californication: The Third Season
Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 11/9/2010
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/10/2010
Having watched and reviewed the first two seasons ofCalifornication, I was intrigued to see that two episodes from Season 3 of the series were available as an extra on the Dexter: The Fourth Season DVD. But, after watching just a few minutes of the first episode, my wife asked that I turn it off, as she'd forgotten just how over-the-top the show can be. And she was right. Within just a few minutes of starting, the episode appeared to be daring us to keep watching. Well, when Californication: The Third Season arrived for me to review, we decided to give it another shot, and learned that the season intro was just a sample of the depravity which awaited us in the show's most uneven season to date.
The third season of Californication picks up not long after the events of Season Two. Hank Moody (David Duchovny) is living in Los Angeles with his daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin). Becca's mother and Hank's on-again/off-again soul-mate Karen (Natascha McElhone) has moved to New York for work. Hank is struggling with Becca, as the girl has become more rebellious. Hank was once a promising and acclaimed writer, but he hasn't been able to write anything. Through Becca's best friend, Hank meets Felicia Koons (Embeth Davidtz) and Stacy Koons (Peter Gallagher) who are a professor and the dean, respectively, at a nearby college. Hank is offered a job teaching writing, and as his agent, Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler), hasn't been able to move his last boo, Hank accepts. Of course, being the consummate ladiesí man, Hank immediately finds himself attracted to both students and fellow staff-members. Meanwhile, Charlie is dealing with the odd advances of his new boss (Kathleen Turner), while trying to stop his wife Marcie (Pamela Adlon) from going through with their divorce.
Californication has always been about dysfunction. Hank is a chain-smoking borderline alcoholic tortured artist who pushes everyone away despite the fact that women find him irresistible. He clearly loves Karen and Becca, but through his lack of self-control, he always manages to do something to anger them. Hank had once been a literary darling, but those days are far behind him. Charlie is a tenacious talent agent, but his chronic masturbation caused him his last job and a bout of promiscuity cost him his marriage. At first glance, the women in the show come off as better, but look a little closer and youíll see that the show portrays them as having issues as well for being with these guys in the first place.
All of this dysfunction is cranked up several notches in Season Three to an almost unbearable level. This is perfectly illustrated by the premiere episode mentioned above. Within minutes, Hank manages to insult a lover, assault a bicyclist, and cause a recovering alcoholic to relapse. Things only escalate from here, as it appears that the goal of Season Three is to show us that the life of anyone who gets close to Hank is going to fall apart. As the season progresses, Hank will become involved with three women, four if you count his on-going relationship with Karen. And of course, Hank canít keep any affair a secret and the revelation of his indiscretions creates havoc with everyone around him. During all of this, Hank continues all of his usual self-destructive behavior.
Apparently, the powers-that-be at Californication think that we care just as much about Charlie as we do about Hank, as his plot-lines get almost as much screen-time. If you donít already know this, youíll quickly learn that Charlie is much better as a side-kick than being in the spotlight. The whole thing with Kathleen Turner playing his sexually-aggressive boss is just weird and it gets very redundant very fast. The show focuses too much on Charlieís dismay over his impending divorce, but doesnít offer any explanation when he does things to further anger Marcie. Then, we get an odd subplot where Rick Springfield becomes one of Charlieís clients. Springfield is portrayed as an egotistical monster. Is this supposed to be funny? Is this how he really is? (I know from reading a review of his biography that he cheated on his wife.) The only funny thing here is that everyone calls him Rick Springfield. Not Rick. Not Mr. Springfield. Just Rick Springfield.
With all thatís happening in Season Three, we really miss what isnít there. This season is woefully lacking in the funny department, and I only laughed out loud a few times. I love Duchovnyís ability to play the smug smart-ass, but Hank simply isnít funny in the third season, nor is anyone else for that matter. Presumably so that they could make way for Hankís stint as a teacher, the show moves away from his writing. One of the most interesting aspects of the first two seasons was seeing Hank as an artist who was always struggling to find his voice. In this season, heís apparently given up completely. Not having Natascha McElhone for the first half of the season really hurts the show. As for what the show is, the show really wallows in the fact that itís on cable and the characters can say whatever they want. Instead of simply being ribald, the show wants to shock us and it only comes off as childish. The freedom afforded to cable is supposed to reflect how real people really talk, not to try and find as many different terms for body parts as possible. Californication still has the makings of a good show, but the quality dropped off considerably in Season Three.
Californication: The Third Season refuses to wash the Porsche on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The two-disc set contains all 12 episodes from the showís third season. The episodes have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain at times. There are no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, although the image is a tad dark at times. I noted some mild artifacting, but not nearly as much as this series has shown in the past on DVD, so it was an improvement. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The dialogue and music is always crisp and clear, showing no hissing or distortion. The stereo effects are incidental, but effective. The same goes for surround sound effects, which generally contain street noises or musical cues.
The Californication: The Third Season DVD contains only a handful of extras. We get a 4-minute BLOOPER REEL. "Marcie's Pajama Party" (3 minutes) has actress Pamela Adlon talking to a quartet of divorced women about marriage and single life in Los Angeles. There are text BIOGRAPHIES (we don't see those very often anymore) for the primary cast and a PHOTO GALLERY.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2010.