The series revolves around Hank Moody, a novelist plagued by alcoholism. He blames his longtime writer's block on reasons ranging from the hedonism of Los Angeles to the departure of his partner Karen. Hank constantly deals with the consequences of his inability to say "no" to temptation while trying to show his family that he can be a responsible, caring father to Becca and a reliable partner to Karen.
The show was renewed for a second season on September 7, 2007. The Season 1 finale, titled "The Last Waltz" (in homage to Martin Scorsese's concert film), originally aired on Showtime on October 29, 2007. Season 2 began filming in April 2008, and was underway as of June 2008. The premiere episode of Season 2 aired September 28, 2008. The first season was released on DVD in the US on June 17, 2008. Showtime renewed Californication for a third season, which premiered on Sunday September 27, 2009 at 10 pm.
The show is laced with rock culture references. It frequently alludes to Warren Zevon and featured Henry Rollins in a guest appearance; some episode titles, such as "Filthy Lucre" and "Turn the Page", allude to album and song names (Sex Pistols' "Filthy Lucre Live" and Bob Seger's "Turn the Page", respectively). Hank's lawyer in Season 4 is called Abby Rhodes; his first three novels, "South of Heaven", "Seasons in the Abyss" and "God Hates Us All", are all named after Slayer albums. The books Crack The Sky and Blood Mountain by Richard Bates are also the names of two Mastodon albums. The movie based on "God Hates Us All", "A Crazy Little Thing Called Love", is named after the song by the rock band Queen from their album "The Game". The segment before the Opening Theme is the intro to The Stooges' song, "I got a right".
Season 1 (August 13 – October 29, 2007) followed Hank and the other main characters in the months leading up to Karen's planned marriage to Bill, a Los Angeles publisher. Hank wallows in self-loathing following the release of A Crazy Little Thing Called Love, a drastically altered and watered-down—yet commercially popular—movie adaptation of his most recent novel, God Hates Us All.
Hank spends most of his time drinking and not writing. One day he picks up a younger woman in a bookstore; after they have sex, he discovers that she is Bill's 16-year-old daughter Mia. Mia proceeds to harass Hank during his visits to his family. She uses the threat of illegal sex charges to extort stories from him that she passes off as her own for her high-school creative-writing class.
The death of Hank's father drives Hank on an alcohol-fueled binge and a sexual encounter with Karen. After the funeral, Hank stays in New York to finish a manuscript for a new novella. Upon returning to L.A., he believes the original copy to be lost when he is carjacked, but Mia had previously stolen the manuscript, and now she takes credit for it herself and attempts to have it published. On Karen's and Bill's wedding day, Hank chooses to be unselfish and accept the situation so as not to destroy his beloved's wedding day. But that evening, as he and Becca leave the reception, Karen runs out and jumps into his car, presumably to resume their life together.
On June 3, 2008, Showtime released the Season 1 soundtrack Temptation: Music From The Showtime Series Californication, which features music from the original series. Included artists are The Rolling Stones, Peeping Tom, My Morning Jacket, The Doors, Tommy Stinson, Bob Dylan, Harvey Danger, Madeleine Martin, Gus Black, Mexican institute of sound, Warren Zevon, The Heavy, Champion, Steve Earle, Elton John, and two original tracks created for the show by Tyler Bates and Tree Adams.
In Season 2 (September 28 – December 14, 2008), Hank and Karen's relationship seems to be working out, Becca seems happy again, and their house is on the market as they plan a move to New York. Hank gets a vasectomy and attends a party thrown by Sonja, a woman he had sex with in Season 1. A mistake and a fight with an obnoxious police officer land Hank in jail, where he meets world-famous record producer Lew Ashby, who commissions Hank to write his biography.
Office masturbation costs Charlie Runkle his job. Circumstances lead him to go into the porn industry, as he becomes the agent/paternal-figure of a porn star named Daisy, and spends the majority of his and wife Marcy's nest egg financing the artsy porn movie Vaginatown (a take on Chinatown), starring Daisy. Marcy goes into treatment for her cocaine addiction, and Charlie starts an affair with Daisy. Hank proposes to Karen on the night they discover that Hank could be the father of Sonja's child. Karen refuses his proposal, leading him to go back to his old ways; continuing the show's central focus on clandestine sexuality.
Hank moves in with Ashby, who—to Hank's dismay—starts a romance with Mia. Becca finds a boyfriend named Damien. Mia's book is a hit and Ashby holds a party in her honor, where Damien cheats on Becca while Charlie announces he wants to leave Marcy for Daisy. After the party, Hank sees that Ashby's old girlfriend, the one who got away, has finally resurfaced. Hank then heads to Ashby's room, finding him with girls and cocaine. After Hank convinces him to rekindle the relationship, Ashby snorts some of what he believes is cocaine (but is actually heroin he had grabbed from a pile of drugs earlier in the party) and overdoses. This incident is believed to be an homage to Mia Wallace's overdose in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.
Hank finishes Ashby's biography. Charlie ends up working at a BMW dealership in the Valley, introducing himself as Chuck Runkle. Sonja's baby arrives; it is biracial, which proves that Hank cannot be the father. Hank and Karen slowly move toward reuniting. Karen is offered a job in New York and Hank is happy to go there with her. But when Damien apologizes to Becca and they reconcile, Hank decides it would be wrong to take Becca out of L.A. and stays there with her while Karen starts her job in New York. The season closes with Karen's plane leaving for New York and Hank and Becca walking on the Venice boardwalk.
Season 3 (September 27 – December 13, 2009) began where Season 2 ended. Key elements include Hank becoming a creative writing teacher and the various shenanigans he gets into when let loose on a college campus.
The father/daughter relationship between Hank and Becca becomes decidedly moodier as she progresses through her teenage years. Hank keeps questioning his fatherhood ability as he watches his daughter become more like him than he ever wanted. He also continues to complicate his relationship with Becca's mother, his longtime love Karen, with various relationships with females of all ages. Hank's various relationships include a female student, his teaching assistant and the dean's wife, all of whom fall for Hank.
In the season finale, Hank has recurring nightmares of floating in a pool, drinking heavily while talking to his most recent conquests, who are swimming naked around him; Karen and Becca watch poolside. In reality, Mia returns to Hank's home and invites the family to the media launch of the paperback edition of her book. At the after party, Hank talks to Mia's manager, who is also her new boyfriend, who says he knows of Mia's history with Hank and offers Hank a way out by coming clean to the press about how the novel came about. But as it will affect Karen and Becca, Hank must decline.
When they meet again, the men fight and the manager/boyfriend threatens to call the police. Hank hurries home to Karen and confesses that he slept with Mia when she was 16. Karen breaks down uncontrollably, the argument bursts onto the street, and a police car arrives as Hank is trying to calm Karen. When an officer grabs Hank from behind, Hank belts him and is bundled into the back of the car as Becca runs out to try to stop the police. The final scene shows a dream sequence of Hank in the pool again, drinking out of the bottle. He falls from his seat and drops his drink. The last shot shows Hank sinking while the bottle remains visible.
Season 4 (January 9, 2011 – March 27, 2011) filming began on April 19, 2010. Guest stars included Carla Gugino as Hank's lawyer Abby; Zoë Kravitz as Becca's new friend who gets her to join Zoë's band, Queens of Dogtown; Addison Timlin as Sasha Bingham, a movie star; and Rob Lowe as Eddy Nero, a famous actor who wants to play Hank's character in a movie. Zakk Wylde, singer and guitarist for Black Label Society and former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, has a cameo as a guitar-shop employee in episode 2, the title of which, "Suicide Solution", comes from the Ozzy Osbourne song. Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee also has a cameo in the episode "Lights, Camera, Asshole" where he performs his solo version of Mötley Crüe's song Home Sweet Home, on a piano at a bar at the end of the episode. Michael Ealy played a new love interest for Karen in four episodes, and Madeline Zima returned as Mia for four episodes.
The story picks up 72 hours after Hank is arrested at the end of Season 3 and revolves around Hank's thoroughly destroyed life. His secrets have come to light: the world knows that he penned Fucking & Punching, and that he slept with the underage Mia. Karen is disgusted and Becca is disappointed, so Hank goes to live at a hotel. Season 4 follows his new legal troubles, such as his lawyer's attempts to get him acquitted of statutory rape charges, plus the development of a film adaption of "Fucking & Punching" and his sexual involvement with Sasha and Abby. Other developing storylines include Charlie learning his vasectomy may have been botched, Marcy moving in with a movie producer and learning she is pregnant by Charlie, Becca joining an all-female rock band, and Karen finding a new boyfriend.
On January 11, 2011, the Season 4 Soundtrack was released. Exclusive tracks include Tommy Lee's solo version of "Home Sweet Home" and three rock covers from the show's on-screen band Queens of Dogtown. Other artists on the soundtrack are Shooter Jennings & Hierophant, Eagles of Death Metal, Better Than Ezra, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Monster Magnet vs. Adrian Young, Cracker, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Warren Zevon, and Gregory Alan Isakov. The soundtrack was co-produced by Nora Felder and Budd Carr, the show's music supervisors.
The show returned to Showtime for its fifth season in January 2012. Creator Tom Kapinos said that the show needed to take on a completely new direction to stay fresh. The narrative takes place 2 years and 9 months after Season 4, almost at the end of Hank's probation. Hank has since made New York his home, but he returns to Los Angeles for a short, business-related visit. His family issues end up extending it. Karen is married to Professor Bates, 19-year-old Becca is in college and has a new boyfriend, and Marcy is married to Stu Beggs, sharing the custody of her son Stuart with Charlie. Hank meets with rapper-turned-actor Samurai Apocalypse, who wants Hank to write a screenplay for a movie starring Samurai. Hank originally turns down the job, but eventually ends up writing "Santa Monica Cop" because he needs the money. Hank has a hard time working with Samurai, and their strained relationship leads to some unpleasant situations. Hank is disgusted with Hollywood after his book God Hates Us All was adapted into a movie that he hated and is not thrilled with the prospect of working on another movie.
Season 6 started on January 13, 2013. Its storyline revolves around Hank's relationship with Faith (played by Maggie Grace), whom he meets in a rehab facility, in parallel with Hank's artistic participation in the music industry. Initially, Hank reluctantly agrees to rehab, not because of a drug dependency, but rather because of depression over his role in ex-girlfriend Carrie's suicide at the end of Season 5. After being dumped by him, Carrie, emotionally devastated, drugs Hank as well as herself, but Hank is the only one who awakes, making him lose control over his alcoholism for feeling deeply guilty. At this point, Hank's family and best friends intervene, sending him to rehab.
Faith is a famous rockstar groupie/muse who is in rehab dealing with the recent death of a rockstar with whom she was involved, ultimately becoming Hank's muse. Faith and Hank seem to be made for each other as they take off in a bus to follow a tour of Atticus Fetch (played by Tim Minchin), a rockstar who recruits Hank to write for him during the season, but in the end Hank is too weak to move on from Karen and even though it appears that their relationship has run its course, he leaves Faith and goes back to see Karen.
Production for the seventh season began in 2013. In December 2013, Showtime announced that Californication would end its run after the seventh season. Mary Lynn Rajskub plays a neurotic writer, whom Charlie Runkle takes on as a client. Michael Imperioli plays Rath, a television producer for whom Hank begins to work.
On June 4, 2013, actress Mercedes Masohn announced she will have a guest role as Amy Taylor Walsh, a TV star whose plea for Hank's help ends up putting him in an uncomfortable, compromising position. Amy apparently has ties to a Season 4 character, Sasha Bingham. Roger Howarth plays Karen's yoga teacher.
Oliver Cooper plays Levon, Hank's son from a previous relationship; Heather Graham plays Levon's mother, named Julia. Comedian Jim Florentine plays a pimp, and Rob Lowe reprises his role as movie star Eddie Nero.Henry James "Hank" Moody (David Duchovny) is an erratic but esteemed writer who frequently becomes embroiled in bizarre, scandalous situations. One reviewer likens Moody's character to that of writer Charles Bukowski. In the fourth season, his daughter, Becca, notes that he behaves like a "poor man's Bukowski". Similarly, in a flashback scene to the night they met, his girlfriend Karen calls him Bukowski.
Karen Van Der Beek (Natascha McElhone) is Hank's long-term, on-and-off girlfriend and mother of his daughter. She is an interior designer and an architect.
Rebecca "Becca" Moody (Madeleine Martin) is Hank and Karen's daughter. (Main Seasons 1-6; Guest Season 7)
Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) is Hank's agent and best friend.
Marcy Runkle (Pamela Adlon) is Charlie's wife, later ex-wife, then wife again, with whom she has a son, Stu. (Recurring Season 1; Main Seasons 2-7)
Mia Lewis (Madeline Zima) is Bill Lewis' teenage daughter. In the show's pilot, Hank has a one-night stand with her, oblivious to her age and identity. Her pen-name is Mia Cross. (Main Seasons 1-2; Guest Seasons 3-4)
Bill Lewis (Damian Young) is Karen's ex-fiancé, Mia's father, and Hank's nemesis in season 1. (Seasons 1 & 4)
Meredith (Amy Price-Francis) is a friend of Charlie and Marcy, who is introduced to Hank in the show's pilot. She and Hank have a short relationship. (Season 1)
Todd Carr (Chris Williams) is the director of A Crazy Little Thing Called Love, the movie adaptation of Hank's novel God Hates Us All. (Seasons 1 & 4)
Sonja (Paula Marshall) is a friend of Karen. She has a brief affair with Hank. (Seasons 1 & 2)
Michelle (Surfer Girl) (Michelle Lombardo) is Hank's friend and, on at least two occasions, lover. (Seasons 1 & 2)
Beatrice (Trixie) (Judy Greer) is Hank's prostitute friend. (Seasons 1, 2, 4 & 5)
Dani (Rachel Miner) is an ambitious agent who was formerly Charlie's assistant. They had a brief affair. (Seasons 1 & 2)
Lew Ashby (Callum Keith Rennie) is a record producer who comes to Hank with a book deal; to write his biography. The character is believed to be based on the real life producer Rick Rubin and the scenes in Ashby's house were actually filmed in Rubin's house. (Seasons 2, 5 & 6)
Janie Jones (Mädchen Amick) is Lew Ashby's long-lost love. (Season 2)
Daisy (Carla Gallo) is a porn star. She is Charlie's client, and later his extramarital lover. (Seasons 2 & 3)
Ronny Praeger (Hal Ozsan) is a porn director and Charlie's business partner in the Vaginatown project. (Season 2)
Julian (Angus MacFadyen) is Hank's season 2 nemesis, Sonja's husband and spiritual guru. He is the author of The Artist Within. (Season 2)
Damien Patterson (Ezra Miller) is Becca's boyfriend, son of her English teacher, Mrs. Patterson (Season 2).
Mrs. Patterson (Justine Bateman) is Damien's mother and Becca's English teacher. She and Hank engage in a brief affair. (Season 2)
Stacey Koons (Peter Gallagher) is the Dean of the college where Hank teaches. Hank once teasingly called him Dean Koontz. (Season 3)
Felicia Koons (Embeth Davidtz) is the wife of Dean Koons and a teacher at the college. She and Hank engage in a brief affair. (Season 3)
Chelsea Koons (Ellen Woglom) is Becca's best friend and the daughter of Hank's bosses, Felicia and Stacey Koons. (Season 3)
Richard Bates (Jason Beghe) is Karen's old professor and later husband in season 5. Bates had published Blood Mountain, which Stu Beggs bought the rights to turn into a movie. (Seasons 3, 5 & 6)
Jill Robinson (Diane Farr) is Hank's TA. They engage in a brief affair. (Season 3)
Jackie (Eva Amurri) is Hank's student who moonlights as a stripper. They engage in a brief affair. (Season 3)
Sue Collini (Kathleen Turner) is Charlie's boss and occasional sex partner. (Season 3)
Paul Rider (James Frain) is Mia's manager and boyfriend. (Season 3)
Abby Rhodes (Carla Gugino) is Hank's lawyer. Besides business, she and Hank have a short relationship. (Season 4)
Stu Beggs (Stephen Tobolowsky) is a movie producer and Marcy's boyfriend and later husband. (Seasons 4, 5, 6 & 7)
Sasha Bingham (Addison Timlin) is an actress scheduled to portray Mia in Hank's upcoming movie. She and Hank engage in a brief affair. (Season 4)
Eddie Nero (Rob Lowe) is an actor set to portray Hank in his upcoming movie. (Seasons 4, 5, 6 & 7)
Pearl (Zoë Kravitz) is the vocalist for Queens of Dogtown, the band in which Becca plays guitar. (Season 4)
Ben (Michael Ealy) is Pearl's father and Karen's love interest. (Season 4)
Carrie (Natalie Zea) is Hank's girlfriend in New York. (Seasons 5 & 6)
Kali (Meagan Good) is a singer and Samurai Apocalypse's former lover. She and Hank meet on a plane flight to Los Angeles and immediately hit it off. Later, they engage in a brief affair. (Season 5)
Samurai Apocalypse (RZA) is a rapper-turned-actor, and a business associate of Hank. (Season 5)
Tyler (Scott Michael Foster) is Becca's boyfriend, disliked by both Hank and Richard. (Season 5)
Lizzie (Camilla Luddington) is the nanny of Marcy's and Charlie's son and she later becomes Charlie's occasional sex partner. (Season 5)
Atticus Fetch (Tim Minchin) is a rockstar writing a musical with Hank. The name is a play on Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. (Season 6)
Faith (Maggie Grace) is a famous rock-star groupie/muse who makes a serious emotional connection with Hank and seems to be the only woman in Hank's life with the potential to replace Karen in his heart. (Season 6)
Ophelia Robins (Maggie Wheeler) is Marcy's man-hating spiritual guide. (Season 6)
Krull (Steve Jones) is Atticus Fetch's bodyguard. (Seasons 6 & 7)
Trudy (Alanna Ubach) is the widow of Atticus Fetch's former guitarist with whom Faith was involved up until his death and previous to meeting Hank. Hank and Charlie both engage in brief affairs with her.
Levon (Oliver Cooper) is Hank's alleged son from a previous relationship. (Season 7)
Rick Rath (Michael Imperioli) is an old-school TV producer and former writer. (Season 7)
Julia (Heather Graham) is Hank's ex-girlfriend and Levon's mother. (Season 7)
Melanie (Tara Holt) is Rick's assistant and Levon's crush. (Season 7)
Goldie (Mary Lynn Rajskub) is Hank's co-worker and Charlie's new client. (Season 7)
Amy Taylor Walsh (Mercedes Masöhn) is the female lead in Hank's show. She is also best friends with Sasha Bingham. (Season 7)
Amber Heard plays herself, an actress on the set of A Crazy Little Thing Called Love. (Season 1)
Pete Wentz has a cameo as a guest at Mia's Party. (Season 2)
Rick Springfield plays a depraved version of himself. (Season 3)
Peter Fonda plays himself as Sue Collini's first client. (Season 3)
Zakk Wylde has a cameo as a Guitar Center employee. (Season 4)
Fisher Stevens as Zig Semetauer, a potential investor for the movie adaption of "Fucking & Punching". (Season 4)
Tommy Lee has a short cameo as himself. (Season 4)
Peter Berg plays himself in one scene, where he ends up fighting with Hank. (Season 5)
Drea de Matteo plays a stripper who has sex with Richard, Karen's then-husband. (Season 5)
Sebastian Bach has a cameo as the dead rockstar. (Season 6)
Marilyn Manson plays himself, a friend of Atticus Fetch. (Season 6)
Artie Lange plays himself, AA member. (Season 6)
The critical reaction for Californication has been generally favorable, with a rating of 70 on Metacritic. However, American critic Nathan Rabin gave Season 1 an "F" rating on The A.V. Club, calling it "insufferable".
The show and the lead actor, David Duchovny, were both nominated for Golden Globes in 2007; Duchovny won the lead actor award, but the award for best TV series in this category went to Extras.
American Cinema Editors (ACE)2007: Best Edited Half-Hour Television Series (for "Hell-A Woman", nominated)
BAFTA Television Awards2007: Best International (nominated)
Casting Society of America2007: Outstanding Casting — Television Pilot: Comedy (nominated)
2008: Outstanding Casting — Television Series — Comedy (nominated)
Emmy Awards2008: Outstanding Casting — Comedy Series (nominated)
2008: Outstanding Cinematography — Half-Hour Series (Peter Levy, for "Pilot", won)
2009: Outstanding Casting — Comedy Series (nominated)
2009: Outstanding Cinematography — Half-Hour Series (Michael Weaver, for "In Utero", won)
Golden Globe Awards2008: Best Actor - Musical or Comedy Series (Duchovny as Hank Moody, won)
2007: Best Series - Musical or Comedy (nominated)
2009: Best Actor — Musical or Comedy Series (Duchovny as Hank Moody, nominated)
2008: Best Series — Musical or Comedy (nominated)
2010: Best Actor — Musical or Comedy Series (Duchovny as Hank Moody, nominated)
2012: Best Actor — Musical or Comedy Series (Duchovny as Hank Moody, nominated)
PGA Awards2010: Producer of the Year Award in Episodic Television — Comedy (Kapinos, Duchovny, Fattore, Dyer, Fusaro nominated)
Prism Awards2009: Comedy Episode (for "The Raw & the Cooked", nominated)
Satellite Awards2008: Best Actor - Musical or Comedy Series (David Duchovny as Hank Moody, nominated)
Screen Actors Guild Awards2008: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series (Duchovny as Hank Moody, nominated)
Telekamery Tele Tygodnia2010: Nomination for Best Foreign Television Series
The Red Hot Chili Peppers filed a lawsuit on November 19, 2007 against Showtime Networks over the name of the series, which is also the name of the band's 1999 album and hit single. They state in the lawsuit that the series "constitutes a false designation of origin, and has caused and continues to cause a likelihood of confusion, mistake, and deception as to source, sponsorship, affiliation, and/or connection in the minds of the public". Pointing to Dani California, a character who appears in both the series and three songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (including Californication) as well as confusion when shopping for their album and that of the series soundtrack, the lawsuit asks for unspecified damages, and requests that a new name be found for the show.
Showtime Networks argued that the band did not in fact create the term Californication. They point out that the term appeared in print in Time magazine in 1972, in an article called The Great Wild Californicated West, while show producer Tom Kapinos cites the inspiration as coming from a bumper sticker he saw in the '70s that read "Don't Californicate Oregon". Canadian art-rock band the Rheostatics released an album called Whale Music in 1992, with a song called "California Dreamline". In this song, the word Californication appears in the phrase "Californication, spooning in the dry sand".
Kim Walker, head of intellectual property at Pinsent Masons, states that the band should have registered Californication as a trademark. Instead, the only application for such was filed in April 2007 in the US, by Showtime. The mark has not yet been registered. Walker has also stated:
Successful songs, albums and movies can become brands in themselves. What's really surprising is how few songs and albums are properly protected... The Chili Peppers could almost certainly have registered a trade mark for 'Californication', notwithstanding Time's article. They made the word famous, but it doesn't automatically follow that they can stop its use in a TV show.
If they had registered the title as a trade mark covering entertainment services, I very much doubt we'd have seen a lawsuit. The TV show would have been called something else. As it is, the band faces an uphill struggle.
In the United States, character names and titles of works are only subject to trademark protection, not copyright protection.
According to an article on Hollywood news site The Wrap in 2011, the lawsuit was settled out of court.
The Season 2 finale drew 615,000 viewers, with a combined total of 937,000 for the evening, retaining less than 50% of its lead-in from the season finale of Dexter. Season 3 steadily gained viewership, and the show was quickly picked up for a fourth season by Showtime.