Judge Gordon Sullivan one-night relationships usually involve tempestuous games of Scrabble. Caliborification, anyone?
Our reviews of Californication: The Fifth Season (published January 9th, 2013), Californication: The First Season (published July 9th, 2008), Californication: The Fourth Season (published November 1st, 2011), Californication: The Second Season (published August 31st, 2009), and Californication: The Sixth Season (published March 25th, 2014) are also available.
"Hank Moody…No man is more committed to a midlife crisis."
We last left Hank in a peaceful but precarious position: his manuscript was stolen by the underage girl he'd had sex with, his rock-star subject was dead, his agent selling BMWs in the Valley, and the love of his life packed off to the East Coast for work. The second season of Californication was a pretty dark little beast, offering us a privileged peek into rock star excess and the pangs of true love as Moody deals with the aftermath of his many sexual liaisons. Californication: The Third Season represents a slight uptick in mood for the most part, putting Hank in a new environment and injecting the cast with a host of new faces. By the end, Mr. Moody is still in dire straits, setting up the show perfectly for a fourth season. Although this DVD set doesn't offer much in the way of extras, it's still worth owning for fans of the show.
Facts of the Case
The season opens a little while after we left Hank (David Duchovny, The X-Files). He's living with his daughter while Karen (Natasha McElhone, Ronin) is off in Manhattan. He's invited to a dinner party hosted by the dean of a local college when it turns out that their daughters attend the same school. There he meets famous writer Richard Bates who is supposed to be the writer in residence at the college this semester. Forcing a drink on the writer, Hank ruins Bates' sobriety in a spectacular way, leaving the dean without a writer for the residence. Hank steps in to fill the gap, and the rest of the season follows his misadventures as a teacher, dealing with young co-eds, a TA, and the advances of the dean's wife.
All twelve episodes of the season are presented on two discs:
• "Wish you Were Here"
Californication has, in some sense, always been about the women in Hank Moody's life. He's obviously a bit addicted to sex, and even if they're only in his life for one night, the show has followed the trajectory of his relationships with women. The third season really kicks that up a notch. The random one-night stands are minimized in favor of a strange five-sided relationship between Hank, Karen, the dean's wife Felicia, Hank's TA Jill, and his student Jackie. The show often reaches for farcical as Hank tries to balance the demands of fatherhood, being a writing teacher, and having romantic and/or sexual relationships with these three strong women. The relationships between Hank and these women (and amongst the women themselves) keep the individual episodes compelling while also giving the whole season a satisfying arc.
The introduction of all these women into Hank's life highlights on of Season Three's strengths: the acting gets a real shot in the arm from the new cast members. I'm always happy see Diane Farr (who I last left on Rescue Me a few seasons ago), and her portrayal of the reluctant and aging TA for Moody is remarkable. Ellen Woglom is charming as the dean's wife, her accent adding an exotic touch to the character that contrasts well with the down-home charm of Hank's student Jackie, who sidelines in a strip club. Add to that list Kathleen Turner as Runkle's boss and you've got a quarter of amazing actresses that get lots of screen time this season.
The impressive diversity of the newcomers only makes the talents of the core cast more obvious. David Duchovny is still the guy we love to hate (or hate to love) as Hank, Evan Handler is still vulnerable and goofy as Runkle, and Madeleine Martin as Becca really gets a chance to shine this season. I don't want to give too much away, but we get to see some old faces from the first two season that seemed to have left the show.
On DVD, Californication: The Third Season is on par with the previous seasons in terms of presentation. The show doesn't go in for any crazy visual changes or swooping camera moves, but the video here is still pretty impressive. The transfer handles the frequent transitions between well-lit California exteriors and the darker interiors that Hank usually finds himself in. The video is generally sharp, with little in the way of artefacting or compression problems despite the number of episodes divided between the two discs. The set includes a 5.1 surround audio option, but it's overkill. Aside from the show's frequent use of music, there's not much use of the stereo field or the surrounds. Luckily, the dialogue is easily discernable.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Honestly, though, Californication deserves better than this. Fans have to wait eleven months after the final episode of the season airs to get a paltry three extras: a blooper reel, a featurette featuring Marcie talking to a bunch of divorced women in LA, and interviews with the cast. The latter is only available online through "e-bridge" technology. Although these are fine for what they are, a show this strong deserves more. Show time also has the gall to advertise the inclusion of two episodes of The Tudors as a bonus here.
Hank's still an emotionally unavailable, reprehensible bastard of a writer, mired in complications that stem from his own problems and insecurities. He still smokes, drinks, and sleeps around. If any of those aspects caused you to avoid Californication, then this season will do nothing at all to bring you into the fold.
Californication: The Third Season is more of the same from Duchovny and crew. The slightly darker aspects of the show are generally held in check until the end, setting us up for a much darker fourth season. Although diehard fans will wish for more extras on this tardy set, there's nothing at all wrong with having all the season in one place like this. If the slightly darker turn at the end of Season Two turned you off, most of this season's lighter tone should fit the bill while still satisfying those looking for drama.
Hank's a bastard, but Californication: The Third Season is not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Showtime Entertainment
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