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Californication: The Final Season (2014)

Showtime Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/5/2014

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/14/2014

It's become very "hip" over the past few years for things in entertainment to be meta. For those of you who aren't familiar, a movie or television show is meta when it comments on itself in a way which shows that it knows that it's a movie or a television show. For example, The Muppets knew that they were making a sequel in the recently released Muppets Most Wanted. This device is usually utilized simply to show how clever the writers are, and they want us to know that they are in on the joke. But, it can also be used to comment on what is happening in the story. In Season Seven of the series Californication, Hank Moody, the show's main character, takes a job writing for a TV show which is banal and predictable. Is it merely a coincidence that Californication has also reached that point, or is the show attempting to make an ironically meta statement?

As Season Six of Californication came to a close, Hank Moody (David Duchovny) gave up a spot on a rock 'n roll tour -- which would have lead to Broadway -- to return to Los Angeles to profess his love for Karen (Natascha McElhone), his on-again/off-again long-time flame. When he reaches her, the timing is all wrong, so he decides to wait to make his big speech. Meanwhile, Charlie (Evan Handler), Hank's agent and best friend, informs Hank that he's been contacted by a kid who wants to interview Hank for his college newspaper. The kid, Levon (Oliver Cooper), shows up at the house which Hank shares with Charlie and his wife Marcy (Pamela Adlon), and it's revealed that he's not there for an interview -- he's Hank's son from a brief relationship 20 years ago. Hank attempts to ignore this news for the time being and decides that if he is to woo Karen, he must get a job. Having burned his bridges in the world of film, Charlie gets Hank a job writing for Santa Monica Cop, a TV show based on a film for which Hank did some writing. The work is beneath him, but Hanks like the vibe of series producer Rick Rath (Michael Imperioli). As Hank attempts to learn to work well with others, he must contend with Levon, and find a way to break the news to Karen.

When Californication premiered in 2007, it was somewhat of a revelation, as it mixed several familiar ideas into a unique concoction. We had an insider's view of the bizarre world which is Hollywood. Following in the footsteps of the 80s' HBO show Dream On, we had a man whose whole life plays out like one long sexual fantasy. We had an insane amount of profanity and scatological references, which pushed the boundaries of even pay cable. But, wedged inside of those insightful notions, we got a portrait of a truly self-destructive man who was his own worst enemy and seemed to do anything to sabotage his own happiness. We also got some genuine emotional moments at times.

Man, does that feel like a million years ago, as Californication now feels like a parody of a parody of itself. Blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of series creator Tom Kapinos, as he has received sole writing credit for every episode of the past few seasons. This isn't surprising, as each subsequent season is simply a carbon copy of the last one and we get the same story elements over and over again. Hank claims that he wants Karen in his life...and he then goes after other women. Hank drinks a lot and uses some drugs. Hanks gets a great job opportunity and he then blows it. And in the background, we always have the marital conflicts between Charlie and Marcy. If the show is trying to tell us that life is just a series of repetitious events, then it's doing a great job, but that doesn't make for good entertainment. We get it, Hank makes the same mistakes over and over, but we would like to see something different.

And for a show which was once cutting edge, this seventh and final season is especially weak. Given Hank's promiscuous nature, the introduction of a love child isn't surprising, but it's certainly a cliched way to shake things up. This idea becomes especially destructive as Levon is one of the most annoying characters ever put on TV. Who thought that this guy would be the least bit appealing and how high was the person who decided that Levon looks like a combination between Duchovny and the actress who plays his mother (I won't spoil it for those who don't know who guest stars this season)? The idea of placing Hank in a room with other writers on a TV show probably looked good on paper, as he's incredibly anti-social, but the result feels like just another workplace comedy... with a lot more sexual harassment. If Californication and Kapinos really wanted to do something ground-breaking and unique for their last hurrah, they should have had Karen and Hanky actually spend the season together attempting to work things out. This is something that they've been teasing for years, and it would have to be better than the same-old story which is the finale of this season. The ending isn't infuriating like Dexter, but we are left with the feeling that a lot more could have been done.

Californication: The Final Season makes dolls scary once again on DVD courtesy of Showtime Entertainment. The two-disc set contains all twelve episodes of the show's seventh season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing a hint of grain at times and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, although the show likes to de-saturate things at times, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is a tad soft in some scenes, but the depth is fine for a DVD. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The show's music sounds fine and provides some audio from the rear channels. Otherwise, most of the audio comes from the front and center channels.

The only bonus features found on the Californication: The Final Season DVD set are text biographies for the primary cast and series creator Tom Kapinos.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long