Typically, throughout the life of a long-running TV drama (or dramedy, or high-brow comedy), we see main characters go through massive internal changes. The most obvious example would be Breaking Bad‘s Walter White, who morphed from goofy science teacher to terrifying meth kingpin in about a year. Then there’s someone like Nurse Jackie, who — albeit initially unwillingly — recently made the decision to face her decade-spanning addiction and be a better mother. The list goes on and on, but one guy who will likely never make it is Californication‘s Hank Moody — the emotional terrorist and lifelong black hole idolized by college males who want to make it big and sleep around in Los Angeles, worldwide. He returned last night for his sixth go-round, and though everything should be different — last season ended with his broken-hearted ex (Natalie Zea) poisoning him in an attempted double-suicide — it’s just not. Hank is depressed, destructive, self-indulgent, and incapable of surviving without the help of the people who still somehow manage to love him.
”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,” David Duchovny said in a recent interview with Hollywood.com. “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.” Duchovny has a point — completely eliminating his character’s self-destructive tendencies would be a fatal mistake, but when you get as far as Season 6, there can only be so many failed interventions and sordid affairs before at least a solid attempt at change becomes necessary.
Last night’s premiere, for the unseasoned viewer, did show a drastic change — it flashed back and forth between Hank and Karen’s charming early courtship, and Hank’s current state, where he was too disgusted with himself to be in the same room with her. Which was actually pretty strange, because in five seasons Hank has conducted many affairs, ruined his familial relations via drinking and drug use, etc etc, but the fact that his ex-girlfriend ended up being a crazy pants who tried to poison him was like, the one thing that was not his fault. The guilt he feels over her death (as he was the last one to break her heart) is completely natural, but dealing with it via another Hank Moody meltdown that will inevitably lead to him losing everything but Runkle is tiresome.
This is why the end of the episode, which found Hank waking up for a meeting in a ridiculously expensive rehab, was a relief. An entire season of Hank’s drunken escapades is the very last thing this show needs. Watching him try to confront his issues head on — while trying to launch an absurd Broadway musical — has the potential to be very interesting, as well as revitalizing for this aging show. Besides, there is just as much comedy to be found in the rehabilitation process as there is in the downward spiral.
Which brings us to the vomiting in cocaine incident: Runkle managed to trick Hank into a meeting on rockstar Atticus Fetch (Tim Minchin)’s private plane. Fetch, so far, has the potential to bring great comedy — if they manage to not turn him into an Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) parody. Anyway, Fetch wanted to turn Hank’s book “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” into a Broadway rock opera, an idea that the shitfaced Hank absolutely hated. He hated it so much, in fact, that he projectile vomited onto Fetch’s giant mount of cocaine, which probably means he owes him a favor.
All in all, it was a solid — if well-tread — return to the series. The addition of the rock opera plot line, Fetch’s antics, and Hank’s journey through rehab should lead to good things down the line. After all, a little change, as they say, can do you good.
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[PHOTO CREDIT: David M. Russell/Showtime]