Commentary, TV

Californication & House of Lies: "Here [We] Go Again"

February 22, 2012

Now that we are past the midpoint of the alpha-male programming I’ve written about in the past, I figured it might be a good point to revisit some of my thoughts about Showtime’s Californication, and in a smaller way, House of Lies.

While I initially thought to do episode recaps, I found a lack of motivation after the past few episodes. Not because I thought they were bad, per se, but rather, because both shows seemed to be in limbo between the necessary absurdities demanded by dark comedies, and their attempt to reel in the dramatic elements that tug at the heart-strings.

And not that there is a problem with that either. Some of the comedic moments are well worth it. But sometimes they linger for so long that character development is given the short end of the stick.

Take, for instance, the end of episode 3 of House of Lies, where Marty is seen “stealing” a car and taking it out for a joyride as he is trying to cope with the news that Greg Norbert will be taking over his firm, that he has no friends, and that his relationship with his son is strained.

The next episode makes absolutely no reference to this, and brings in Jeannie’s side story about her engagement to Kurt (of which her coworkers are unaware). Following episodes introduce interesting ideas as well, such as Roscoe’s time spent with his mom, and April’s (the stripper) reintroduction into the show.

Meanwhile, the actual “consulting” gigs become farcical and far-fetched comedic setups which, while sometimes funny and almost always raunchy, fail to really connect with the serious parts of the story.

It does seem like the series may pick up steam for its remaining 5 episodes. “Bareback Town” (ep. 7) left us with a threat by Monica (Marty’s jealous ex) stating that she would be seeking custody of their son.

We’ll see.

Californication has suffered from some of the same symptoms, but recouped quickly, if only because of the universe its already created for itself.

After episode 3, we were taken to a strange dinner party with all sorts of dirty talk and strange revelations (Bates has some strange sexual preferences). While this episode reintroduced Hank’s nutty ex (only seen in the first episode), it was merely for her to make the assertion that Hank will never be “over” Karen. Uh, yeah. We’ve had 4 previous seasons to make that assertion. Big deal.

Aside from that, we’ve had a ridiculous episode where Hank , Charlie, and Sam (Apocalypse) take a joyride on a cop car, with a disturbing sexual episode with Charlie, and another naked exhibition by a drunk Bates (as seen in season 3). Another one where Hank helps Kali write a love song.

As Hank seems to keep trying to keep things together, a lot of the “fornication” seen in previous seasons has gone by the wayside. Well, not all of it. It seems like, in order for the show to keep its balls out, a lot of the awry sexual encounters are left to Charlie, if not with a tranny, then with a blind date set up by his nanny, or the nanny herself.

And to be honest, these are the weakest segments of the show. Not that they are offensive or anything, but rather, somewhat uninteresting. Charlie’s story used to be interesting when he was still with Marcy, and his strange relationships all along the way were funny but also heartbreaking.

But now, it’s like I really don’t care much about his character, or Marcy, who is barely on the show anymore.

Hank’s tortured soul, however, is far more sympathetic this season, as I pity his attempt to be chivalrous, all whilst being misunderstood by those around him (namely, Karen and Becca).

The latest episode (“Here I Go Again”) left him with a cantankerous stripper as he tries to “protect” Karen from the truth (Bates cheated on her). Becca also calls him out and he’s left with a cigarette staring off into the distance as the credits roll.

This is familiar territory for Californication. Perhaps the episode should have been titled “Here We Go Again.”

But… I am interested. I don’t know if it’s because I’m invested into Hank’s character, but I find much more pathos in his than Marty from House of Lies. The shows are very similar, sure, but I feel as if Californication has a better handle on its lead, whereas House of Lies is still developing and fleshing out Marty’s soul.

I’m not sure if I’ll find anything more from either of these shows, but I’m hoping they both have a strong finale.

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