Commentary, TV

Californication and House of Lies Like it "Raw"

March 6, 2012

Not good or bad. A work in progress. I guess.

That’s more or less ripped from a line in episode 8 of Californication (“Raw“; directed by Bart Freundlich), in reference to Hank’s younger counterpart, Tyler (Scott Michael Foster; Becca’s boyfriend). And in a round about way, that’s pretty much how I’m feeling about the series at the moment.

Sunday’s episode pursued the plot line introduced previously, with Tyler asking Hank to read his screenplay. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we’ve completely lost the beautiful Kali, who initially seemed to be more integral to the plot.

However, Calvin (Apocalypse) is still sticking around for some reason. Not that I really mind RZA‘s involvement, but it seems somewhat unnecessary within the context of the show’s more complex relationships.

It seems like the themes this season are all over the place, so it’s understandable that things come and go. But overall, the sticking point for me is how (or whether) Hank will be able to re-establish a connection with his daughter, and to a lesser extent, his ex-lover.

The completely far-fetched dark comedy that is Runkle, Marcy, Stew, and the nanny teeters between entertaining and non-interesting, which hardly makes sense. The comedic moments are awkwardly funny, but the relationships are so unbelievable that I hardly find any pathos with these character arcs. Which is a shame, because I really do enjoy Stephen Tobolsky‘s acting.

It was surprising (and odd) to see Eddie Nero (Rob Lowe) character again (he was introduced last season). While I’ve loved his character on Parks and Recreation, where he plays a caricature of an overly obsessive health nut, his portrayal of the over-the-top “been there, done that” mainstream actor is not quite as charming. But then again, he only had a few scenes in season 4.

In the end, I still find enough to like in this season that keeps me coming back. But I couldn’t rightly say that this season is good. But I equally couldn’t say that it is bad, either. However, that’s not saying that it is tepid or mediocre.

If you’re confused, so am I.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is both very good, and very bad. A season in “progress,” I guess.

And since I’ve been doing these together from the get go, I might as well say something about Californication’s fraternal twin, House of Lies.

The latest episode managed to cut out on much of the ridiculousness I complained about before and decided to be very focused on a particular plot point that involves the MetroCapital merger.

The episode (“Ouroboros“) involves Marty setting up a certain “would be” replacement for his own position, as the impending merger threatens his job. In the backdrop, the custody hearing for his son is referenced, but not dealt with directly.

Episode 8 serves as a holding cell of tropes and themes that will somehow be resolved within the next 8 episodes, or left strategically untied in hopes of a season 2 audience.

In spite of some of the quirkiness that temperately keeps the darker themes in check, this last episode reinvigorated my hope in seeing this series succeed and take a life of its own.

While Californication is primarily centered on Hank and the close relationships around him, House of Lies lulls my interest its anti-corporate subtext, as well its gray area of ethical dilemmas that most of the characters are facing (or will have to face later).

Only 4 more weeks to see how things end up.

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