Californication Season Premiere: Triple Threat

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Photo: Courtesy of Showtime
Episode Title
Wish You Were Here
Season
3
Episode
1

It would seem to be business as usual as Hank Moody gets a ride from a lithe brunette, but something’s changed — he falls asleep as it’s happening. Even worse, as the camera zooms in (David Duchovny directed this episode), we see that his hairline is receding. “I dozed, barely,” he blurts, waking. “This does not reflect badly on you!” But the brunette’s gone, bursting out his door just in time for Becca to spot her. “I thought you were all about keeping yourself pure, you know, for mom,” she says. Riiight.

As Californication’s junior year kicks off, Karen is in New York, replaced by not one, but three women (plus a trash-talking caricature played by Kathleen Turner). Showtime has said this season is modeled after the Warren Beatty movie Shampoo, with each of the new women in Hank’s orbit — Felicia, Jill, and Jackie — named after the characters played by Lee Grant, Goldie Hawn, and Julie Christie in 1975. Will three women be enough? Hank needs a lot of comforting; his book isn’t selling, not even to Hollywood. He misses his almost-wife. And he finds out, as they dive into bowls of breakfast cereal, that Becca and her best friend are stoned on his weed.

Weed’s a “gateway drug, leading to some pretty cool things,” Hank concedes, but it also causes “poverty … and man breasts.” Upset by it all, he gets high. The argument that addiction gets a bad rap gets a lot of play in this ep: Hank later nudges a college professor into breaking ten years of sobriety and is rewarded for it — the man cavorts naked and dives through a window, and his job opens up.

Charlie Runkle, mired in a divorce from snow princess Marcy, does little to cheer Hank up: “It’s the economy, Hank — no one wants to buy your goddamn book.” Indeed, the publishers deem it “too long,” “misogynist,” and “hateful.” Kathleen Turner’s blousy Agent Sue breezes in like a breath of stale air, barking dirty words as if she’s been marinating them in rum since War of the Roses. She’s Charlie’s new boss, and she wants every part of him. We suspect she’ll get her way; she rubs his bald head like a crystal ball.

The there’s Peter Gallagher, playing college dean Stacy Koontz, mostly with his eyebrows. Hank gets an invitation to the Koontz home from the mother of Becca’s bong buddy, college professor Felicia Koontz. She intended to read Hank the riot act over the weed but ends up charmed. “I googled you,” she tells Hank, thinking she’s flattering him. He seems put out that she had to look him up.

At the dinner, he apologizes for running his bicyclist host off the road, asks if their daughters are sapphic, and hits on the teaching assistant (played by Numb3rs’ Diane Farr, now a brunette). And because he’s Hank Moody, he gets a job offer out of it.

Meanwhile, a drunk Charlie escapes Sue and heads to the house he and Marcy must share, since it won’t sell in the depressed real-estate market. “Marcy Ellen Runkle, I love you,” he cries through their front door (a riff on Turner in Body Heat?) but she consigns him to the spare room. 

As a long day ends, Hank calls Karen in New York, which looks luminous through her window. (We’ve been waiting the whole episode for this connection; the show is going to have a hard time without it.) She hints that she’s cheating, too, by detailing the back hair of her latest date. He frets about the separation — what if they get over each other? And suddenly we’re back to talking addiction.