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Reflecting on ‘Californiacation'

Neil Salter | Interrobang | Opinion | April 7th, 2008



Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
Sparky isn't the salesman he thinks he is.

I've heard him gloat and bellow and prance around screeching the good word of the hustle and puffing up all of the shysters he's brought down with his gall and skill and economic ballsiness, but take it from me; it's all shit.

I have also seen the reckless peacock ass-quiver in a sputtering huddle as he hunkered down with a phone in his hand, shaking too badly to even type in the number of a prospective client. So here you me, his heart is there, but his crank is tired.

And so, it was with these thoughts spinning as they seem to lately with more frequency, whether it's the stress of a catastrophic academic career slashed on the rocks of petty meanness, or the extreme consumptions of ancient liquor, or the feeling of conservative desperation and a reluctance--or at least an inherent difficulty--in accepting and being forced to admit that I have no fucking clue about anything, it was with those thoughts that I was skeptical when he told me about “Californication.”

I'd heard of it last year, this radical new show that was hilarious and setting the Showcase's of the world on fire. Sparky said, “It's about this author who gets drunk and fucks as many girls as he can. You'd like it.” The premise as he described it didn't endear itself to me, but I thought I should at least give it a chance, if, for nothing else, so I could scratch it off my list of ‘Modernist Shows I Should Watch,' leaving only “Weeds,” “Lost,” and “Six Feet Under” left for me to explore.

And so here I am, late on a Wednesday night with Elton John cranking his sphere around me and Wild Turkey carving along in a rugged and nostalgically destructive trek through my psyche as I finish another episode.

Becca saves the show. Short of Becca, “Californication” is the Curb Your Enthusiasm for the idle rich: a rollicking atavistic lust-hump mash with no spine and no heart. But she saves it. The secret to good comedy is heart. “Friends” had it. “Mash” had it. Even “Monty Python's Flying Circus” had it and so that's part of it. But “Californication” isn't a strict comedy. The humour is intentionally downplayed and provides (at most) a small, low note rumbling through the background. The much more obvious storyline focuses around the theme of Morbid Success. Duchovny, fatted on the success of a book and a film, but alone, desperate and struggling. This seems to be his type of show. In “Californication” he's on the other side of his barely coping spectrum to what he was as Jake in Red Shoe Diaries.

And so that is why the themes of the show mean that even if it ever comes back on the air, I will never be able to watch it after I'm finished with this first season. The reason is because this, more than any show I've ever seen before, is not a show for writers. Perhaps in a like way, “ER” was never a show for nurses or “CSI” is not a show for cops. The fear and discomfort that comes from “Californication” is that it hits a little too close to home. As I sat here watching Duchovny I have the acute and upsetting feeling that I'm looking into a crystal ball: that I'm watching myself in 15-years. Although that is the key to its downfall, in a strange way, that is also the key to its success. No other show have I ever watched where I have felt that connection, as painful as it is. And in a television world so purged and sterile as to rely on shows like “American Idol” and “Survivor,” it's empowering and offers a slim glimpse of hope to know that there are still productions out there that can make me feel. Because when the box clicks off, it's better to hurt like hell, than feel nothing at all.
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