Californication's Hank Moody Needs to Get Hurt

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It would be nice to be Hank Moody. David Duchovny's protagonist on Californication lives in a world without consequence, where you can carry on three simultaneous relationships and no one gets hurt, where the love of your life finds you amusingly frustrating rather than thoughtlessly cruel, a world where you never have to grow up. As an escapist fantasy, it works. As a television show, it's getting old fast.

With three episodes left in the third season, Hank has ruined an alcoholic's sobriety, broken up a marriage, destroyed his daughter's only friendship, allowed Rick Springfield and Runkel to use his house, where his daughter lives, as a brothel. All of this has turned out pretty well for him, the biggest consequence seeming to be that Karen, the love of his life, is mildly annoyed.

Now, there have been hints of larger consequences for Hank—his last book didn't do well, and more importantly, he is slowly but thoroughly destroying Becca's adolescence—but the merry satyr that Hank sees himself to be is not what he actually is. Hank is a dick. He's a terrible father, boyfriend, and friend. Characters like this need to face comeuppance, not because of some overarching moral imperative (this is television, morality is kind of irrelevant), but because otherwise it's boring.

Californication can go one of two ways at this point: It can be Entourage or it can be Mad Men. On Entourage, Vince and his unbearable gang do whatever they want, everything predictably works out, and it's neither funny nor entertaining. On Mad Men, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is the darkest and most loathsome "hero" since Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), but he is penalized for his choices, and it's compelling. Entourage is a successful show by any non-critical metric, but it's much more interesting to watch a character like Draper, who is likable despite the horrible things he does. Let's hope that in the next three episodes of Californication, Hank feels some pain. Trust me, you'll like it.

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