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'Californication': That's my girl

November 23, 2009 |  9:32 am
Californication_308_0320 “Californication” is certainly intended for adults, but Sunday night’s episode got me thinking: What if this show spent just a little bit more time at the kids’ table? Or in the kids’ room? Or at the kids’ school?

This line of thought stemmed from watching this latest episode twice. The first time I found it amusing but felt as if this was more or less one of those bridge episodes that come along during the course of a TV season, a half hour that serves as a connector of sorts between what was and what’s next. Nothing much seemed to really happen, other than Marcy finding out what everyone else already had — that Rick Springfield is a degenerate (no offense, Rick Springfield). The rest was merely further fallout from last week’s romp.

But then I watched it again and realized that something major had happened; we just didn’t see it, and perhaps the show — like its parents — glossed over the event just a little too passively. Becca (Madeleine Martin) and her best friend, Chelsea (Ellen Woglom), had gotten into a fight, the physical kind, the kind that got them both expelled from school — a posh, all-girls private school, from what we can tell. But we only discovered this through Hank getting that phone call from the principal’s office and not by actually seeing the fight itself. Hank’s reaction? A big smile and an “Ah, that’s my girl.”

That response — and especially with David Duchovny’s always-hilarious line reading — made me laugh. But then later, when Hank’s ho-hum ways continued both at Becca’s school and at home, I felt Karen’s pain. “Do you know how frustrating you are?” she asked. Becca, meanwhile, whined to her parents as she usually does (and usually has reason for) before escaping to her room, slamming the door. Hank and Karen then fought with each other, and she kicked him out. Then Hank whined about the whole thing to Charlie.

Here is the problem: We’ve seen all of this before, so many times and in the same way, Becca closing the door on us, leaving us again with the misbehaving parents as they try to figure it all out. But what if we’d stayed with Becca instead, following her into her room? What if we’d heard her parents’ fight from in there? What if we’d actually seen the punch Becca threw, along with everything that led up to it? Instead we got the same old scenes: Hank in the dean’s office (they even used the pipe gag again), Hank and Karen in the principal’s office and then Hank in his own office, lying on the couch before Charlie. It’s like a game of musical chairs, but none of the chairs ever get taken away.

Last season’s finale ended on the powerful note that this story has in fact always been “about her” -- her being Becca, not Karen. So then why don’t we spend a little more time with her? My point is that I just find myself wishing that the show would take some more chances sometimes in terms of how it tells its story. If we spent a little more time with Becca and a little less time with Hank, it might raise the stakes of the scenes between them, make us feel the dramatic moments a little more than we do. It could also make the show feel a little less claustrophobic than it sometimes does.
 
“Californication” has done this before, and well. Remember the sweet heart-to-heart Mia (Madeline Zima) and Becca shared about sex way back in the first season? Or how about the one scene between Becca and Chelsea earlier this season, the two of them out on the lawn while their parents were getting hammered inside the house? Dad would probably be happier without me, Becca told Chelsea, the friend that had just introduced her to mushrooms. It was a revealing moment of honesty that added a lot more weight to what Dad was doing inside the home — getting altered himself by way of the bottle and having fun. Having a little too much fun. I’d hoped at the time that we’d get a lot more of these teenage talks to play alongside the adult misadventures, but those chats seemed to pretty much stop right there -- or at least for us they did.

Meanwhile…

-- If I hear Hank say “The Deanery” one more time, I might throw something. …

-- Hearing the dean refer to “the little dean,” however, made me chuckle. It should be noted that Peter Gallagher was pretty great in this episode; he plays the anti-Hank quite well.

-- It seems that the Rick Springfield story has come to an end. Cheers to Springfield for playing a slime ball so well, but the character was such a one-dimensional slime ball (unlike last year’s Lew Ashby, who at least had some moments of charm) that I won’t miss him. 

-- Speaking of exits, I keep hoping for Sue Collini to say “Collini … out” … for good. But I may be in the minority here. The other day I went to my local bar and, when a conversation about “Californication” broke out, the bartender asked, “Don’t you just love Sue Collini!?” I reached for my drink.

-- The title of Sunday's episode was "Mr. Bad Example," which is a title of a Warren Zevon song about a con man who steals -- "I like to have a good time and I don't care who gets hurt" -- but who at the end of the song sings, "I'm thinking of retiring from all my dirty deals."

-- With three episodes to go in the third season, all signs continue to point to a New York relocation. Then again, all signs pointed the same way last season, until Becca fell in love (whatever happened to Damien, anyway?) and Hank and Karen agreed to let Becca stay in California for a little while longer. Will they actually make the move this time? I’m emphatically hoping that they do, thinking a move to New York could completely change the complexion of this series at just the right time, heading into a fourth season.

Please share your thoughts on all of these topics below.

— Josh Gajewski

RELATED:

David Duchovny talks literarily

Last week's romp of an episode

Madeleine Martin feature

Photo: Madeleine Martin as Becca in "Californication." Credit: Showtime.

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