Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guest Post: Californication, and Their Misguided Concept of "The One"

Today we have Dan Ingram of Fear the Cacti and Crossover Appeal taking over. You can read his previous post here.

I’m just a big a sap for a romantic comedy as the next poor unfortunate child raised in an era of John Cusack and John Hughes. But over the years I grew up, you know, like you do. And with that my taste changed. Low and behold Showtime introduces this show about a down and out novel writer that is sleeping his way around Venice, California.

In my masculine naiveté, I watched the show and loved it from minute one. Though the most misogynistic show I could possibly talk about on this blog, it quickly became one of the shows that I hate to love. Here’s why:

Hank Moody never develops as a character. 

Because why would I want that?
I’m generally okay with characters that don’t arc because they’re either animated characters or some of the most interesting dramatic characters on television.

Or they're voiced by H. John Benjamin. In which case, just go with it.
The difference that I see with this show, is that the reason Hank isn’t developing is pretty clearly stated, and is active in making sure that he doesn’t progress as a character.

Like I said, show me Serendipity any day of the week and I accept that fate has brought these two lovers together despite the obstacles of distance, time and a shortage of gloves provided by Eugene Levy.

What I CANNOT accept is that Californication keeps cramming the idea of “the one” down my throat while simultaneously telling me that it’s the worst thing that could happen in the world, then exemplifying it in a way that basically implies, “don’t try to fall in love kids because you’ll just end up as an alcoholic wash up yearning for yesteryear.”

“Why have any interesting interaction with these characters when Hank can default to the extrapolation of my high school girlfriend who dumped me before prom?” – Californication writers.
This happens to Hank and it happens to his agent friend Charlie. Both are in tumultuous times in their relationships. Hank never marries the mother of his daughter, Karen, while Charlie is in the middle of a divorce after sleeping with a porn star.

Both have a lot of room to become someone really interesting to watch, and arguably their best moments often come at times when they are developing relationships with other women.

Hank is a better example of this, and notably seasons 3 and 4 are the most frustrating because of it.

Season 3 witnesses Hank taking on a job as a professor at a nearby college and through that he develops relationships with three women. Simultaneously. It sounds like a real dick thing to do, and Hank really struggles with it, which shows something . . . man, it feels like it’s something important.

Oh yeah.
Interesting plots and character development. Is this why I watch TV?
Out of the three women there is at least one that would be beneficial to Hank, and it’s with his teachers assistant (seen above in the red). He also has a fling with one of his students who he wants to help get out of stripping as a profession.

Season 4 gets worse as Hank develops a semi-meaningful relationship with his attorney, played by my hands down exception to every rule ever: Carla Gugino.

Only a 13 year age difference. I'm here for you Carla. Call me.
Yet, again the writers see fit to stop all the character development by bringing Karen back into the fold and slamming you over the head with “Hey, don’t forget, he loves her MOST!”

Now, before I go further, I want to state that I don’t think this is Karen’s fault as a character, I think this is a faulty character that the writers only use as a foil for Hank’s exploits just because they can’t think of anything to do with her. That’s a real shame, because Karen is beautiful, smart, has a great job, and she gives it all up just to come back and get involved in Hank’s shit all over again. Then probably leave. Again.

While I recover from the bruising of 4 seasons in a row of Hank’s inability to recover, Karen moves on. Because even she realizes she’s better off without Hank. She gets married and goes on a road trip with her new husband, while Hank deals with his newly instated probationary period (not going to ruin the show for anyone still interested in watching).

But as soon as Karen is out of the picture, Hank goes to the set of a movie about his life and sleeps with the actress that’s supposed to play Karen . . . and envisions Karen while doing so.

"It's not weird, it's just me exorcising my crippling emotional demons." - Hank Moody
This is where I draw a line with the show. As a sufferer of a really bad break up with the girl that I thought I would someday marry, it can be very hard for people to get over an ex, and I don’t even have any illegitimate children running around emulating my promiscuity and alcoholism.

That I know of.
Karen and Hank are tied together forever because of their daughter Becca, and understandably so, it’s tough for Hank to see his former lover meet new men and start dating them. However, Karen serves more as a crutch and a reason for Hank to feel guilty rather than getting a decent story arc.

To me, the writers of this show just don’t know what to do with her and haven’t come up with any way to keep Hank from leaving California and thus ruining the premise of their show. So in response to that, they just decided to essentially make Karen the “evil-ex”, which isn’t fair to her or to viewers of the show.

Time and time again the writers tantalize the audience with women that are dimensional and then pull the rug out from under everyone, including the characters.

Karen doesn’t deserve to put up with Hank, and even gets away for a little while, only to come back “for a visit” . . . which never ends. As though the writers were flat out saying, “we just needed her back because things were getting too interesting around this joint.”

And that simply is not fair, Californication. Bad form.


They deserve way the hell better.
Dan Ingram works in television and has his Master's in Screenwriting from New York Film Academy. If he could live in a Ghostbusters costume while driving the Delorean, he'd basically never complain about anything ever again.

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