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'Californication': B-, shows potential

October 4, 2009 | 10:31 pm

With Hank Moody, the field trips are always fun. The bookstore, the dinner party, the movie theater -- wherever he goes, exciting things happen. It’s just the way he rolls. But home is where the heart of this story has always been, and that’s where we finally returned to at the end of Sunday’s episode -- and to good effect.

All the fun Hank (David Duchovny) was having -- in this case, smoking and drinking his way through his new gig as a writing professor -- finally yielded a sobering consequence: His daughter, as it turns out, is beginning to detest him. “Hate” was actually the word Becca (Madeleine Martin) used, and when she screamed that she hated him, the word cut. And then the man with a way with words didn’t know what to say, so he just screamed the same thing back at her, for lack of a better comeback.

That’s where we left off, and what gives me hope. Up until that last scene, I’d felt very lukewarm about these first two episodes of Season 3 -- not bad, not great. But “potential” is now the operative word, because it’s about time that the Hank-Becca relationship begins to show some cracks. For all his faults, Hank has always been a pretty good father to Becca, one who lives for their nightly chats or afternoon trips to get ice cream. It was sweet, but maybe sometimes a little too sweet. And she probably gave him a few too many passes on those faults of his, usually reacting with more of a “That’s just Dad” eye roll than anything else. Now this: She’s smoking weed and cursing him out. It’s an intriguing turn and a reality check that Hank Moody needs right about now.

Meanwhile, Charlie Runkle is truly an idiot.
We knew this, of course. But now he’s taking idiocy to a whole new level: pulling pantyhose over his face and sneaking up on Marcy in her sleep, thinking she’d be into it. Moron.  

For her part, Marcy (Pamela Adlon) has really become an intriguing character on this show -- much more so than Charlie (Evan Handler). She’s sort of a female Hank, someone unafraid to do or say whatever she wants. Seeing her wade through the L.A. dating scene could be very, very fun.

Some final, scattered thoughts:

-- Let’s talk about the titles. Last week’s season premiere was titled “Wish You Were Here,” the title of the Pink Floyd song that contains lyrics made for Hank and Karen. “We’re just two lost souls/Swimming in a fish bowl/Year after year/Running over the same old ground/What have we found/The same old fears.” This week’s Charlie-inspired title, “The Land of Rape and Honey,” was the title of a 1998 album and song from metal band Ministry.

-- Another blog mentioned that this season is largely inspired by the 1975 film “Shampoo,” in which Warren Beatty’s hairdresser character juggles several sexual partners in a 24-hour period. And three new characters this season -- Jill (the TA), Felicia (the dean’s wife) and Jackie (the sexy student) -- do in fact share the same names as characters from that film. If this storyline follows a “Shampoo”-like path, Hank could be in for a fun ride, but one that ultimately leads to a very lonely place. Time will tell if this plays out as closely as last season's "The Great Gatsby"-themed season.

-- Line of the night: After tearing his student’s world apart by telling him he might want to reconsider being a writer, Hank finds himself with a bottle of whiskey in one hand, a beer in the other. “Teaching’s not so hard,” he says, before taking a swig -- during office hours. An honorable mention goes to the scene in which a high Hank, while being scolded by Dean Koons (Peter Gallagher), looks up at him and softly states, “You have beautiful blue eyes.”

-- Josh Gajewski

Photo: Hank (David Duchovny) tries to get the attention of his daughter, Becca (Madeleine Martin), on "Californication." Credit: Showtime