January is a debaucherous month at Showtime. After all, it's when the network’s trio of serially addicted men — Frank (William H. Macy) on Shameless, Marty (Don Cheadle) on House of Lies, and Hank (David Duchovny) on Californication — all return to the pay-network to get back to the business of being bad. So it's quite fitting that Showtime is labeling Jan. 13, the date that all three shows begin their new seasons, “Sinful Sunday."
But while we’ve got a serial drinker in Frank, a career liar in Marty, and a compulsive fornicator in Hank, the characters are hardly just sinners. Fans of the three series would agree with President of Entertainment at Showtime, David Nevins, who notes Frank, Marty, and Hank are far more layered than your average bad boys. “We try to make sure that all of our characters have a real complexity to them, and that goes for both men and women,” he says.
So while Macy, Cheadle, and Duchovny's roles are characters that could likely only exist on a network like Showtime, Sunday's well-rounded trio impossible to pigeonhole. “I think [Macy and Cheadle] are making full human beings,” Duchovny says. “Across the board, [these characters are] human.” That's likely what makes House of Lies the top performing comedy on Showtime, according to Nevins. It's also probably what brings fans of Hank Moody back season in and season out and keeps Shameless fans — a notoriously obsessive set — as rabid as ever for more Gallagher family hijinks. Of course, each of the series' leading men have their own ideas about what keeps the fans coming back for more.
Your Friendly, Neighborhood Rascal: Shameless's Frank Gallagher
As the patriarch of Shameless’ Gallagher family, Frank isn’t exactly the poster child for father of the year. The perpetually drunk (or, at the very least, tipsy) South Side Chicago native is a man only his family (and Macy... and Shamelessfans everywhere) could love. Macy gets that, and it’s what makes his job so challenging. “This is my take on Frank,” he says. “He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s got a wicked sense of humor. He sees the irony of life and so he holds things somewhat lightly, but he’s very hard-working, entrepreneurial, and dogged. He never gives up.”
Of course, that’s not exactly what most people would say about Frank, who ended last season asleep in the Chicago snow after punching his son Ian (Cameron Monaghan) over a case of Old Style beer. “I like the guy. [Laughs] But at the same time, he’s deplorable,” says Macy. “If I do my job right [the audience] will have enough forgiveness in them and the next week they’ll tune in again.”
So the audience may continue to come back for more, but what about the Gallaghers themselves? At the end of Season 2, they seemed to have had it with Frank. But all is not lost — Fiona (Emmy Rossum) and Co. may be a wild bunch, but when it comes down to it, they’re family. “I happen to know the family is not done with Frank, nor will they ever be done with Frank,” Macy says. “As perplexing as it is, even to me, there’s a part of it I find very moving. We say blood is thicker than water and that family trumps all, but the Gallagher family is living proof of that."
And heading into Season 3, Frank faces a few additional challenges beyond his own addictions. “At the end of this next season, he’s got some health issues … he bears his health problems stoically,” Macy says.
So it seems, even Frank can figure it out when the straights become dire. Macy’s not hoping Frank gets it allfigured out though. “I’ve got the role of a lifetime," he says. "At first [my scenes] are uncomfortable and icky, but if I just [bring] up [my] courage and throw [myself] into the scene as Frank would do, oh boy, I feel like the king of the world."
House of Lies and Marty, King Con of The Corporate World
Sinful Sunday's youngest member is the sophomore series House of Lies, produced by and starring Cheadle as Marty Kaan, a leader in the ruthless, opportunistic world of management consulting. Together with the rest of his pod — or team of consultants — he swindles his way into deals with major corporations, but such a ruthless existence has its consequences outside of the office.
But those consequences have led to success for the network and Nevins, who boasts House of Lies as the “strongest comedy on our schedule, ratings-wise.” “It just feels like this show is starting to happen,” Nevins says. Even Macy admits he’s a fan, albeit a jealous one: “Cheadle is just great, but he should pay themto do that role,” he says. Indeed, Cheadle is enjoying the freedom of starring on a Showtime series. “There’s definitely a style of writing that appears on cable that definitely doesn’t happen anywhere else … definitely not on network television and unfortunately, not any more really in the movies, a lot of times,” Cheadle says.
According to the critically beloved actor, his series steps outside the boundaries of most other cable and pay-cable series. “I don’t know a lot of shows that deal with cross-gender kids and deal with parents and how to talk about that, and I don’t see a lot of [Marty’s son] Roscoe and not a lot of black leads in anything, so I think we were just able to stretch out in ways that are a little different,” Cheadle says.
Season 2 is also going to allow the characters themselves to stretch, now that the ordeal of explaining the giant world of management consulting has been dealt with in Season 1. “We’re getting to know everyone a little better,” he says. “We’re getting deeper and more nuanced … bringing in elements of race. [And] one of our characters deals directly with the Occupy [Wall Street] issue."
Of course, social politics add dimension, but fans of the show are likely waiting in fitful anticipation to see what happens between Marty and Jeannie (Kristen Bell) after last season's finale, during which she broke up with her fiance and the narrative hinted that it had something to do with her hooking up with Marty. Cheadle says Season 2 will have some serious work to do in sussing out what it all means for their relationship after their implied moment: “Well, we’re definitely trying to figure out what happened between Marty and Jeannie. Is this the start of something?”
After all, that's a question that lingered throughout the show's first season. The duo has spent 12 episodes flipping back and forth between potential romance and potential mutual destruction. “I think they clearly had this love, this strange dynamic between them of partners, and friends, and adversaries," Cheadle says. Of course, the actor won't tell us exactly where Marty and Jeannie will find themselves once they broach the love subject, or whether or not that hint in the season finale was a giant tease. We’re not that lucky.
Hank Moody, The Californicat-or
Last, but not least, comes Duchovny’s seasoned Showtime vet Hank Moody, the champion fornicator of Los Angeles. Over the five years we’ve known Hank, we’ve followed him through his life as a writer in Los Angeles: He wrote a book, taught some college classes, stood trial for statutory rape, wrote a movie for Rza of the Wu Tang Clan, and now, in Season 6, he will take a stab at writing a musical. Clearly, nothing is off limits for Hank. But, of course, despite Hank's many talents, his main draw will be the series' original peg: his apparent sex addiction.
Of course, as he embarks on year six of Moody’s chronicles, Duchovny wants to make it known that Hank is more than a rapscallion. “I tend not to think of [Hank] with one flaw, but as flawed. And by flawed, I mean human,” he says.
Despite his seemingly unwieldy life, Hank is always brought back to earth by some circumstance or consequence for his actions. It’s a cycle that works for him... and for Duchovny, who’s not looking to morph Hank into something he’s not to keep the show “fresh.” "I think it’s a temptation over a long-running series to try to reinvent the character, when in fact the character is the essence of the show,” Duchovny says. “If you change the character and reinvent it, you’re actually making a different show. As fun as it may be for the actor, it’s kind of a dissolution of the bond you’ve made with your audience,” he adds.
And that’s why, time and again, Hank goes through his own form of “reinvention,” according to Duchovny. “The touchstone for Hank instead of reinvention is to come back to the original relationship [with Karen and Becca]… It’s a rediscovery of what’s most important to the characters.”
Heading into Season 6, that’s exactly where we’ll find Hank, who’s just survived his crazy girlfriend’s attempted double suicide. “This year picks up with him getting physically better in the first episode,” Duchovny says.
If we know anything about Hank, it’s that he seems to be able to survive anything. And his reward, this year, is a little time with guest star Marilyn Manson, who Duchovny says got on the show by emailing with the creator Tom Kapinos. “[Manson’s] a fan of Hank’s and Hank’s a fan of Manson,” he says of the rocker’s two-episode stint in which he plays himself.
And while Duchovny’s excited about the guest star, he’s mostly excited to be back. “If we weren’t brought back, then that would have been the end of the show — Hank would have been killed by his crazy lover,” he says.
Luckily for Duchovny, and for his fans, Hank Moody doesn’t go down that easily.
Sinful Sundays … And Beyond
Sundays are loaded up with plenty of laughs and drama starting in winter, and the success of shows like Shameless, House of Lies, and Californication will only lead to more off-the-wall content on the network, like the upcoming Showtime series Ray Donovan, about a professional “fixer” for wealthy families, and Masters of Sex, about the pioneers of the science of human sexuality, airing sometime in 2013. “I feel an enormous sense of freedom and opportunity right now [because] the best people in the business want to be making shows on television," Nevins says. "We’re reaping the benefits."
Lucky for audiences, we all share in that bounty, too.
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[Photo Credit: Showtime (6)]
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