Californication

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Californication

I don’t watch much TV nowadays; I’m definitely more of a Movie/DVD Box Set kinda guy. Partly it’s because I spent a ridiculous amount of my childhood mainlining on cheesy action-adventure American imports. This may have left me with an encyclopedic knowledge of The Six Million Dollar Man, Airwolf and Manimal, but it’s done little to improve my overall quality of life. Nowadays I prefer to do other things and make up for all that time spent suckling on the glass teat.

The other main reason why I avoid TV is because I can’t stand watching soaps, sports, reality shows, property porn or anything with a phone-in vote and/or the word “Celebrity” in its title. The TV schedules weren’t designed for people like me.

But last night I watched the show Californication for the first time and was pleasantly surprised. In case you don’t know, this is the new raunchcom in which David Duchovny plays Hank Moody, a highly-sexed and highly-troubled novelist who moves to Los Angeles. Despite not being an fan of the X-Files, I’ve always quite liked Old Blank Face and loved his oddball roles and cameos in Twin Peaks, Zoolander and especially The Larry Sanders Show. I thought I’d give it a try.

Anyhow, I was working on my laptop while the show was on in the background when something made me sit up and pay attention. Duchovny’s character was shopping in a convenience store and charming the hotpants off a scantily-clad surfer girl when he told her: “Life’ll kill ya.”

Hmm – thought I – that’s the title of a bloody marvelous Warren Zevon song and album. I’m a big fan of Warren Zevon – in fact, I’m rather evangelical about his work – so maybe the writers of the show are too. Or maybe they’re not. Maybe I’m just projecting my Zevon obsession onto their work. Who knows? And – more importantly – since when did blurting-out a Zevon song title work as an efficient chat-up strategy? I’ve got loads of his albums and can be a cocky sunovabitch at times, but I wouldn’t dream of approaching a member of the opposite sex and saying to her “Werewolves of London“, “Mr Bad Example” or “Excitable Boy“. It’s weird, freaky and inappropriate behaviour, even in LA. Granted, “Carmelita” might just work, but only if you were absolutely certain that her name was Carmelita.

This internal monologue was promptly settled when, later in the episode, Hank and his ex-girlfriend Karen

[Natascha McElhone] went to see a performance by their daughter and her band. What song do they play? A cover of Zevon’s haunting “Don’t Let Us Get Sick” [the final track on his Life’ll Kill Ya album]. There was a different cover of the same song later in the episode, just in case you missed it the first time around.

Apparently, the series is full of Zevon references. I found this on Wikipedia:

The show frequently references the work of musician Warren Zevon. When doing a crossword puzzle, Hank was stuck on a question for which the clue was “5 letter word for excitable boy”; the answer is Zevon. Excitable Boy is the name of one of Zevon’s most popular albums. In the episode “Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder”, Hank tells the surfer girl he meets at the store “Life’ll kill ya,” — the name of a Zevon song and album. In the same episode, Becca’s band plays “Don’t Let Us Get Sick” and later in the episode a cover of the song is played as well. And in “California Son”, the episode opens with “Mohammed’s Radio”. In “The Devil’s Threesome”, Hank tells Charlie “Your shit’s fucked up.” Charlie answers rhetorically “My shit’s fucked up?” The latter is the name of a Zevon song. In the episode “The Last Waltz”, a cover of Zevon’s song “Reconsider Me” by Steve Earle and Reckless Kelly can be heard.

The show features loads of sharp, snappy dialogue. I particularly liked the line where Duchovny’s character is described as an “Analogue guy in a digital world.” I might be paraphrasing, but that won’t stop me from using it at the earliest opportunity.

So there you have it. If you like Warren Zevon, you’ll probably like Californication. If you like sharp dialogue, you’ll probably dig it as well.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: if you like raunchy sex, there’s plenty of that, too…

2017-05-25T14:25:47+00:00

About the Author:

My name is Tom Lennon and I'm a freelance writer who specialises in humour at the geekier end of the pop culture spectrum. I'm based in Birmingham, UK, and my work has recently appeared in BuzzFeed and Time Out.

3 Comments

  1. Reid October 9, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    I’ve been enjoying this show recently, and one of the hidden gems is the unabashed reliance on all things Zevon. Brillian.

  2. peter December 23, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    absolutely. i’m a warren zevon novice but from what i read about him and from some of his music in general, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that hank’s character is largely based on warren zevon…

    -zevon and hank had mixed feelings about their lives in los angeles.

    -both are cynical and highly critical of others and society.

    -misfits and rebels

    -alcoholism

    -dark humor

    -both love bob dylan

    etc etc etc

  3. Tom December 24, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Hi Peter

    Thanks for the comment. I think you’ve got a point – Hank Moody could very well be a fictionalised WZ. As well as the shared attributes you mention, they both have a fairly laconic sense of humour…

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