The main character in Californication is novelist Hank Moody (David Duchovny). Hank has a bestselling book, God Hates Us All, that got turned into some crappy movie and that got him to L.A., made him rich and pissed him off. Now his wife has left him and his life is ruined. Seriously, that’s the plot.
The fact that Hank is a writer is, to use the proper term, a narrative device. The show, at least in Season 1, isn’t much about writing. The closest Hank gets is tossing his laptop against the floor in frustration, because he can’t write. When he does finally write something, it happens off screen.
The thing is, Hank isn’t really a writer anyway. Not in any realistic sense. His life isn’t about sitting around thinking about syntax, grammar and all that literary garbage. Hank’s life is all about easy women, drugs and booze, and sleazy adventures. Hank is a sexy boy-man; God’s gift to women except the one he wants.
Hemmingway, Mailer, Kerouac, et al., notwithstanding, writing is not a highly manly pursuit. You don’t kill anything or even chop down any trees. There’s no grunting or sweating. It mainly involves sitting in a chair. If it is historically associated with men, that’s only because men were for a large portion of history the only gender educated in writing. Nevertheless, there is a sort of myth or legend of the male writer as certain kind of man, and Californication works that legend as its fulcrum.
I don’t want to bag on the show too much, though, since I kinda love it, and also because embodying this mythological writer being has Ducovney producing some of his best acting since he was a transsexual FBI agent on Twin Peaks a million years ago. But, I have to make the point, Californication is not about writing or being a writer. It’s about being a *rock star*. Although, in this case, that rock star happens to be rocking out on an Underwood.
(Yes, literally. The fact that he uses a typewriter for the one thing he writes becomes a major plot point.)
What gives the show its narrative drive, what it gets, is the dynamics between men and women. Hank, whose baby momma left him because he never ‘put a ring on it,’ is sleeping with anyone and everyone who comes along. And lots of people come along, one or two in every episode. The way he flirts with, beds or avoids bedding all of these various L.A. tarts, is what the show is about and what makes it fun.
Californication is only about writing in the way that Sex in the City is about being a columnist — it’s a convenient setup. It bears other unfortunate resemblances to that show, as well, but with the genders, and coasts, reversed.