One of my favourite scenes about writers is the one with Woody Allen in The Front, in which he plays a bookie pretending to be a screenwriter (as a front for blacklisted writers), who thinks his new found status is going to get him laid.
An attractive woman approaches him at the bar and asks ‘So what do you do?’ He smiles smugly and says ‘Heh. I’m a writer.’
She walks away.
Writer Hank Moody has no such problems. But then he is a fictional writer, and he’s played by charm-on-a-stick David Duchovny, who can get away with pretty much anything, and if the pilot of Californication is anything to go by, frequently will.
Hank Moody is a self pitying, washed up writer whose marriage has gone the way of his career and who seeks solace in sex. Lots of sex. I think I counted five different women in the pilot alone. In reality, of course, writers don’t attract groupies (not that I’ve ever tried, you understand).
In fact, maybe where the show is really accurate is in the fact that he’s not writing. Hank has been blocked ever since Hollywood took his great novel and turned it into a piece of shit vehicle for Tom and Katie. He’s also seperated from the mother of his 12-year old daughter and wants his muse back.
The show has been dismissed as cliched and peurile by most TV critics – which is a sure fire indication of excellence in my book. And the pilot really is exceptional precisely because it rises above the cliched premise and delivers with great characters and dialogue to die for.
Of course, there is gratuitous nakedness, and that causes problems for certain people, but I have a European sensibility about things like that and people who have a problem with it should just stop being so English.
Some people are calling it the male Sex and the City, but they are fools. Californication doesn’t dispense Patience Strong-style ‘wisdom’ and pretend it’s the last word on gender politics. It is much smarter than that, and thankfully avoids the hackneyed drama-about-a-writer-so-it-must-have-a-V.O. cliche.
Hank shouldn’t be a character we like (I mean, come on, he’s a man who’s unapologetic about his masculinity – isn’t that supposed to be illegal?), but it’s very skillfully written to engage our sympathies. He’s as socially fearless as many of us secretly long to be: laughing in the face of the sexually incompetent husband of the woman he’s just given a rare orgasm, cold reading with devastating accuracy the combative date his friends have set him up with, punching the lights out of the Twat in the Cinema Who Won’t Stop Using His Mobile. We’ve all wanted to do those things.
Or is it just me?
It looks like a show I’ll enjoy spending a half hour with every Thursday night for the next twelve weeks (and 30 Rock is on straight after it as well – Channel Five, you truly spoil us), and not just because I already know about the shy office assistant who turns out to be a secret Suicide Girl by night.
(Actually, now that Hank has started writing his blooooog for Hell-A magazine, there is minimal use of V.O. but it’s not that bad, to be fair.)