Californication: The Second Season (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus watches Hank Moody prove he's the coolest character on TV once again
Previously on Californication... Hank Moody (David Duchovny) is a writer struggling to write his follow up book. Drenched in self loathing due to the mistreatment of the movie adaptation of his last book as well as dealing with the love of his life, Karen (Natascha McElhone), who’s planning her marriage to someone else, Hank bounces from situation to situation (all of which usually end up with drinking, drugs and plenty of sex) without much care for his own happiness.
As season one progresses, Hank slips in and out off many an incredible sexual encounter, lives through many mishaps, has lots of heartfelt moments, sleeps with a fan, who actually turns out to be Karen’s fiancée's manipulative sixteen year old daughter and ultimately rekindles his turbulent love affair with Karen and builds bridges with their daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin). As the season ends, everything in Hank’s life was perfect and essentially we’d had a show that felt like a perfectly constructed, crazily enjoyable one off series that had a beginning, middle and a beautifully rewarding end. But that’s a fairytale ending and life goes on.
When I heard that season two of Californication was happening, I had a mixture of feeling both ecstatic because Hank Moody (one of the most enjoyable characters on TV probably ever) was returning and worry because of how well the first season had ended. Considering what I loved about season one was Hank's 'fuck it' attitude, his many outrageous escapades and his ongoing quest to get back with Karen, all of which had been tied up. In my mind there was really nowhere left to go now that Hank was, well, happy. Thankfully season two proved me very, very wrong, even if it had a bit of shaky start.
The first few episodes of season two can feel a little forced, with dialogue seemingly on an all out mission to be shocking and the characters trying too hard to find a laugh. At the centre of this Hank remains great, with his usual sharp and funny dialogue, quick witted remarks and that fine balance between confidence and winging it. The writers of the show even manage to have Hank end up in bed with another woman without making you dislike the character and totally understanding how this mistake could have come about (it also creates a great ongoing gag about Hank being a mouth rapist). This sets up a good start point for the season, showing Mr Moody as a guy who is doing his best to keep his relationship with Karen going, but the world around him and, of course, his reputation always tainting his mostly honourable intentions.
As for the supporting cast for season two, Californication continues to do a stellar job with its fine batch of characters. Runkle (Evan Handler) has a great arc, leading him into separation from his wife Marcy (Pamela Adlon) (whose dialogue is always hilarious) and ending up in the world of porn with new girlfriend Daisy (Carla Gallo). Julian (Angus MacFadyen), a spiritual guru and partner of a girl Hank may or may not have got pregnant last season, plays a blinder here as well, and more so because of how Hank doesn’t smile and put up with his bullshit like everybody else.
Out of the entire supporting cast, the introduction of Lew Ashby (Callum Keith Rennie) is what makes season two so much fun. Lew, a legendary music producer who’s asked Hank to write his biography is a character who isn’t immediately likable, but around mid way you find yourself enjoying every second he’s on screen and even more so his rock star lifestyle. The combination of Lew and Hank is a thoroughly enjoyable one and both of their inter-connecting arcs in season two prove to be as funny and shocking as they are enjoyable and full of heart.
By the end of the second season Hank is every bit as cool, funny and enjoyable to be around as he was in season one. There’s lots to smile about in Hank’s many wild adventures and I really love how the show balances the depiction of this character as not only the most effortlessly cool man on the planet but one who is shown as a responsible father and dedicated to his family (even if the surface would imply the opposite). Where the writers have taken him in this second season worked and it worked well and this time out they’ve left him with an open ended story and the promise of a third season which starts soon.
Generally the transfer here is bright, sunny and full of colour. This makes Hank’s clothing choice of black t-shirts and dark jeans a nice counter to the world around him. Skin tones (and there is a whole lot of skin on offer) are captured well and even if the image is a little soft and comes with a slight TV grain in the lower lit scenes, on the whole the transfer holds up well, even in the darker scenes, mainly due to some good lighting.
The transfer here is a whole lot more impressive than I’m used to for a TV broadcasts and even though it begs the question ‘where’s the Blu-ray release?’ this DVD set does a fine enough job until that arrives.
Being all about the dialogue, Californication is a front heavy affair and does a great job at presenting everything clearly. The rear speakers are only ever really used at parties or bars and even then the track only drops a thin layer of music or conversation to add atmospherics.
Basically put, this sounds like most other TV dramas or comedies on DVD, not really looking to step out of its comfort zone and just dealing with the job at hand. It’s a solid track but a typical one.
Disc one comes with a fun little commentary on one episode from Pamela Adlon. She provides a few laughs and a nice insight into the cast and the show. It’s just a shame it’s only on one episode.
There’s a splattering of Factoid fact tracks across six episodes on discs one and two but the main body of the features reside on disc three:
‘A Conversation with Tom Kapinos' (06:04) is an oh so brief talk with the show’s creator, giving his insight into how the show came together.
‘Heart, Balls & Swagger’ (08:02) is essentially an EPK for the show, with cast interviews, lots of clips and a nice overview,while 'Caliwood’ is a little animated map of the locations with cutaways to clips when selecting the areas.
‘Name That Girl’ is a quiz with six of Hank’s conquests. You are presented with a small clip of each and then given multiple choice options for their name.
Lastly there’s a ‘Stills Gallery’ and ‘Bios and Filmographies’ for the cast.
Californication is the most fun I have with any TV show in my current viewing schedule. Duchovny does the impossible and gives us another classic TV character who I'm enjoying as much as I did Fox Mulder was back in the X-Files days. In fact Hank Moody is considered somewhat of a God among my circle of friends and thankfully, against the odds, season two has Hank Moody’s ongoing adventures proving to be every bit as entertaining as they always were.
The disc itself is a little thin on extras but has a nice video presentation and a solid audio track that shows off the show nicely. So all in all, this is an easy recommendation for anyone who wants their TV shows sharp, funny, heartfelt and decidedly adult. Bring on season three.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 10th August 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Extras: 'Coke, Dick and the First Kick' Commentary, 'Heart, Balls & Swagger' Cast Interview, Trivia Factoids, Tom Kapinos interview. Name That Girl, 'Caliwood' Bubble Map, Cast Bios and Filmographies, Stills Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: David Duchovny, Adam Bernstein, Ken Whittingham, Stephen Hopkins, Michael Lehmann
Cast: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Callum Keith Rennie, Evan Handler
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 324 minutes
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