TV Review: Californication

From the March 15, 2012 edition

For a series often hampered by inconsistency, this season of “Californication” has by far been the least consistent. Yet I’m still pleased with its outcome. A lot of story (and characters) have been packed into this season — probably too many — but the final three episodes do a nice job of wrapping things up for Hank Moody (David Duchovny) and his cohorts.

This season’s best new characters — RZA’s awesomely ridiculous Samurai Apocalypse and his sometimes paramour Kali (Meagan Good) — have mingled well with already excellent existing ensemble, but “Californication” is at its best when it keeps things simple.

Interaction between Hank and his agent/best friend Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) is always spectacular. Not so much with the messy stuff between Runkle, his ex Marcy (Pamela Adlon) and her well-hung hubby Stu (Stephen Tobolowsky). Those plots are fun but reduce the show’s best couple, Marcy and Runkle, to shrill cartoons too often.

While the Runkle family has become a dysfunctional mess, the Moodys — sans Hank—appeared to become more stable, with Karen (Natascha McElhone) marrying Batesy (Jason Beghe) and moving to the suburbs with Becca (Madeleine Martin). Naturally nothing in Hank’s life can be stable: Enter Becca’s douche boyfriend, Tyler (Scott Michael Foster), and Batesy’s return to the bottle.

I don’t want to give too much away, but Hank’s role as a father is tested (again), and “Californication” returns the focus to its core relationships — the Moodys and Runkles. The show is right on the top of its game.