After an award winning first season, Californication returned for a second outing on Showtime…and with great success. Hailed by fans and critics as even better than its first season, Californication’s second season proved that the formula the first season experimented with could hold water and carry over for many more on top of it. Despite the fairy book type ending that the first season ended on, the second season didn’t find itself in a magically happy world and, quite the contrary, ended up placing us in an almost identical situation with Hank and his wife. The great exception to this season was the addition of a new character, a rock star that Hank was hired to write the autobiography of. Even with the changeups during the season, however, Californication once again proved that it was one of the smartest and superbly written shows on television…even if it is a bit overly dirty and laden with salty language.
David Duchovny is back in his Golden Globe-winning role in this critically acclaimed hit series from Showtime. In Los Angeles, famed novelist and former New Yorker Hank Moody (Duchovny) is struggling to get his career back on track after suffering a severe case of writer’s block, while also attempting to raise his teen-age daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin) and hoping to keep things civil with his ex-girlfriend, Karen (Natascha McElhone). But he’s enjoying his new life in the Golden State, and all his requisite vices—drink, drugs and women—with a refreshing sense of honesty and unapologetic candor.
There are few shows that I recommend to people as much as Californication (Rescue Me being one of the others). If you aren’t shy or offended by incredibly vulgar language, visuals and adult situations, then Californcation is quite possibly one of the most enjoyable shows on television to watch. There isn’t a single one of the characters on the show that isn’t a delight to watch and the humor that comes out as a byproduct of this show is nothing short of fantastic. It’s wholly original and there isn’t a single episode in the batch that doesn’t have you laughing your head off or wanting more after it’s over. Sadly the season is composed of twelve episodes that are under a half an hour each, so you breeze through the entire season quite quickly…but it’s such an easy show to watch that before you know it you’re done with the whole set.
And that’s even on the second viewing. I watched this season as it aired originally and never once found myself waiting to watch an episode—whenever it aired, I was right there to watch it. It’s such an addictive and contagious show to watch as even Hank and Co. dirty up the screen with scandalous behavior, it always comes back to the core of the show: Hank trying to win his wife back and stay connected with his daughter. As dirty as the show itself can get from episode to episode, especially with the Lew Ashby (Callum Keith Rennie) from this season, it really comes back down to those core fundamentals. While the motives of Charlie (Evan Handler) and Marcy (Pamela Adlon) are questionable at times, there really is a moral center to this show…even if it is surrounded by questionable material.
The major highlight of this season for me was the introduction of the aforementioned Ashby character. Rennie was absolutely fantastic in this role and the comradery between him and Hank was what really made this second season such an incredible treat to watch. I was surprised by how satisfied and simultaneously saddened I was by the ultimate outcome of the character; even more so because of how the original Showtime bumpers for the show made the “next week’s” episode look when, in fact, we ended up with something wholly different. Although I’d prefer that over them just flat out spoiling it like some other networks do (*cough*Fox*cough*), but still…it was definitely a turning point in the series, both for the writing as well as the characters that Ashby directly affected.
Of course the season wasn’t just about Hank and Ashby, although they were without a doubt the focus. We had a side story developing with Charlie and the eventual dissolution of his marriage with Marcy and the hilarity that ensued because of it, as well as the further exploration of the Mia character, although her participation in this season was greatly dialed back compared to the first season (and the complete disappearance of her father was suspect…). Wherever the season went, however, there was entertainment to follow…especially in the “whose baby is it” plot that had one of the most hilarious resolutions (courtesy of Hank’s reaction) I’ve seen from a show.
Honestly what makes this show so great isn’t the vulgarity or extremeness in which the jokes and situations are taken on the show. It’s just how original and fresh everything about the plot and characters feels that makes it such an enjoyable series. If you’re in the market to have funny and drama bones tickled at the same time, then Californication is a prime place to start. Highly Recommended.
If you are worried that you will be offended by the series, then look no further than this season two DVD menu. There is a loop of clips that play from the show that basically sum up what the show’s style of humor is in a nutshell; if you haven’t seen the season it’ll almost be slightly spoilerish, but at the same time still a hilarious little introduction to the season. The packaging itself is a standard clear amaray two-disc case without any inserts or the like. Disc art is a plain grey wash and the reverse side of the jacket sports episode and disc information. A single insert advertising $25 cash back if you subscribe to Showtime is included, with an advertisement for the next season of Dexter on the reverse.
Video for this series is…once again, a mixed bag. The show itself doesn’t need to be seen in HD to be enjoyed, but the interlaced transfer here is riddled with compression and blocking issues at times and I am just astonished as to how this has happened for the second time in a row now (the first season had similar video quality issues). On top of that there seems to be some kind of strange tracking information on the top of some of the episodes; a thin black bar with white lines at the top. Not entirely noticeable if you’re watching it on a TV, but I watched some of this on my PC and since the monitor isn’t 16×9, it showed the strange black and white lines on top of the episode. Not all episodes have this, which makes it even stranger and the compression and interlacing is rather inexcusable as the first disc in the set has over two gigabytes of free disc space that could be better utilized to make for a better quality transfer. Despite not being required to be in HD to enjoy, I hope the series sees an eventual Blu-ray release, if only so I can enjoy it in something other than compressed 480i.
The audio mix isn’t anything to write home about either, although both DD5.1 and English 2.0 tracks are offered. Audio is pretty generic and while the 5.1 wins over the 2.0 obviously, most all you get in the surrounds is some of the series superb soundtrack. Also included is a mono Spanish track.
Extras? Well…it’s quite sad, really. “Coke Dick and the First Kick” has a commentary by actress Pamela Adlon who, despite being hilarious to listen to (and a whole lot like the character she plays on the show), is an odd choice for the sole commentary on the set. It’s mostly just her joking about what’s going on screen and her time on the set and…well, its fun to listen to but ultimately saddening because this is the only track on the disc. At least the first episode had the star and producers on tap for a pilot commentary…but here we just get a co-star running solo on the commentary? Strange.
Other extras include a Conversations with the Cast (19:12) letterboxed widescreen featurette with interviews by Duchovny, Zima, McElhone, Adlon, and Handler. These are nice segments, but were either recorded at the beginning or mid-season as they don’t talk about the entire seasons worth of material. Next up is a Marcy’s Waxing Salon (3:05) featurette where Adlon is shown aiding a bikini (and more) wax store owner in stripping her clients of their body hair. An…incredibly strange extra in of itself, but…whatever.
And…that’s it. There are no other extras aside from these EPK-like extras and I am continually disappointed with the treatment that Showtime shows get on DVD and Blu-ray. Dexter gets absolutely nothing and Californication gets what appears to be an effort to produce some decent extras but ultimately ends up with a piss poor collection in the end. Incredibly disappointing…especially for a show like Californication, which has to have a ton of blooper reels, deleted scenes, and behind the scenes footage to share.
There are a few other extras as well, such as the Win a Trip (1:02) video (wasn’t this on the first season set too? Hmmm…) and the first two episodes of The United States of Tara’s first season and the first two episodes of The Tudors third season via some kind of “PC Ebridge” technology…which his basically a waste of time, unless you absolutely want to watch those episodes.
Overall this could have been a much stronger release, both in terms of extras and in technical presentation. I’m well aware of the limitations of the DVD format in terms of space and capacity, but when so many other shows can make do with the disc space and not show quality problems, then I wonder how we get saddled with 480i transfers of a Golden Globe winning show. Oh well, at least they’re anamorphic widescreen. Recommended just for the season, as it is well worth owning.
Californication – The Second Season is now available on DVD.
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