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CALIFORNICATION
DVD region 2. Paramount.

While some people still cling to the ludicrous idea that British TV is 'the best in the world' - despite all the evidence to the contrary - the best television of the last twenty years has all come out of America. Yes, I'm sure they have plenty of crap too... but unlike UK broadcasters, they pepper their manure piles with a handful of diamonds.

Californication, from cable channel Showtime (also responsible for serial killer hit Dexter) is a prime example, a refreshingly cynical - yet ultimately romantic - look at sex and love in the big city.

David Duchovny (best known as Fox Mulder in The X-Files) plays hank Moody, a man drowning in a world of mediocrity. An acclaimed writer, he's relocated to Los Angeles, where he's seen his novel turned into a bland rom-com starring Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, split with his partner and developed writer's block. he fills his time with casual sex, drinking, smoking and self-loathing, all the time trying to get his life back on track and convince 'wife' Karen (Natascha McElhone) to reconcile.

And to complicate things further, he's had sex with Mia (Madeline Zima), who not only turns out to be the daughters of Karen's new fiancé, but is also, at 16, still a minor...

Californication starts out with a bang - a dream sequence where Hank has sex with a nun in church (a scene that caused predictable outrage worldwide) - and packs plenty of sex and nudity into the early episodes, sometimes with a decidedly kinky bent - Mia punching Hank in the face as she rides him, his best friend Charlie (Evan handler) getting into a sub-dom affair with manipulative Suicide Girl Dani (Rachel Miner), threesomes and more. Interestingly, as the series develops, the sex levels drop and the nudity disappears (other than a memorable threeway where Charlie discovers that the woman he's going down on is 'a squirter' in a moment I guarantee you won't have seen on TV before) as the story develops.

It's possible that the later episodes become a little too sentimental in nature, though to be fair it works - the plot needs to move forward after all, and there's no way (unfortunately) the show could sustain itself simply on Hank fucking, drinking, snorting and punching his way through life. The final episode is a little weak - without wanting to spoil the ending, it panders too much to (assumed) audience desires, and it'll be interesting to see how season two develops. Not well, I fear - if ever a show was designed to be a single season product, this is it.

Duchovny is excellent as Hank - his deadpan delivery and worn-down look fits the character perfectly. British actress McElhone lets her accent slip from time to time, but has good chemistry with Duchovny, while the supporting cast are all good - including the many women who are nothing more than one-scene naked foils for Hank. Production levels are good and the writing and direction are as consistent as any TV show can be.

It's not for everyone - the sex, the nudity, the constantr swearing (even from little kids) and the black humour will put the small minded and prissy off. If you are reading this, I'll assume that isn't you anyway. Everyone else will find this a rewarding experience, even if the DVD set is pretty basic (a few podcast interviews and single commentary are the sum of the extras).

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

BUY IT NOW (USA)

 

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