Before I get ahead of myself, I should address the fact that Californication is a television show, albeit one that airs on a premium cable network.
There's a general belief out there that television and writing are mortal enemies. Stephen King says as much in his book "On Writing." He straight up tells you to stop watching television, as it's no good for you or for your work.
It's not an unreasonable stance. I don't think anyone can deny that the rise of television led to the decline of reading, and the decline of reading has a pretty serious impact on those of us who write. Hell, if television didn't exist, it would probably be much easier to get a book deal. Television put a cap on the demand for books.
And let's face facts: television is a time suck. The average network television series is 22 episodes a year. For an hour long show, minus commercials, that 880 minutes, or 14.666 hours. If you watch two, hour long shows, you're ultimately giving up over a day of your life. Imagine how much writing you could get done in a day.
But all the negative beliefs about television overlook a very clear positive: stories are stories. Sure, you can debate the quality of the storytelling on the average network television show, but in a world of ebooks self-publishing, I don't know that we can claim the average written work is that much better anymore.
And so we come back to "Californication," a show I can, in fact, watch whenever I want because it's available on-demand. It's a half an hour long and it features a writer, so it kind of does double duty.
"Californication" is male fantasy. Hank Moody is a drunken, partying writer who has success without trying and has lots of sex in much the same way. And, as the male fantasy holds, the one true love of Hank's life remains relatively chaste as he sleeps his way through a certain demographic of Los Angeles.
Hank is brutally honest in a way that almost none of us could ever be. His only notable family is his father, who he indirectly wrote horrible things about, and who dies a few seasons in. He has a daughter that you can't actually imagine him ever taking care of when she was a little girl, but we come in when she's on the verge of being a teenager. His daughter's mother, the aforementioned one true love of his life, always manages to be nearby, but just out of reach, mostly through Hank's own doing.
And what red blooded, heterosexual, American male writer doesn't, at some point, wish they could have that life? Who could deny the appeal of partying like a rock star and yet still being able to come home to the loving and beautiful muse and the amazing fruit of that union in physical form?
It's a character that I don't think really exists anymore or, rather, a character that we don't really care about anymore, at least when he's real. We enjoy Hank Moody, but I doubt we'd tolerate him were he real, and I can't imagine the publishing world would have any time for him. He's written one novel that was turned into a shitty movie and another novel that was stolen by the underage girl he slept with. He's not a guy that publishing companies are lining up to give a book deal.
|Yes, that's his fictional book.|
"Californication" is the fantasy. It's the romanticism of writing. It's hilarious and occasionally heartbreaking and it's often inspirational. As the writer who is more highly regarded than Hank says to him, you have to sit in that chair until your ass bleeds. You have to put the work in until putting the work in seems like punishment for some crime you've yet to commit.
And perhaps that's what writing really is. Perhaps we're all just doing penance for the sins down the line. And perhaps that's why "Californication" is so appealing, because Hank Moody is getting away with the sin...for now.