Follow TV Tropes


Series / Californication

Go To

Californication is a Showtime dramedy created by Tom Kapinos and starring David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone and Evan Handler.

Duchovny plays Hank Moody, a ladies' man and occasional novelist who likes his booze and pot a bit too much. When he is first introduced in the first season, his life has slowly fallen apart since his longtime girlfriend Karen (McElhone) left him. He struggles to be a good parental figure to his and Karen's daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin), and he fails to produce any kind of written work due to his drug use and sex addiction. He becomes more unstable especially after his book, "God Hates Us All", gets turned into a gooey, flowery movie called "A Crazy Little Thing Called Love". His producer and best friend, Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) constantly goofs up mishap after mishap, as his marriage to his wife Marcy (Pamela Adlon) crumbles.


The show premiered in 2007. The final seventh season aired in 2014.

Not to be confused with the Red Hot Chili Peppers album of the same name, or with Hollywood Provincialism, a trope that is often called "Californication" outside this wiki (especially in the western US)note .


Californication provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The Showtime series pitch by Stu, Marcy, & Charlie about a waxing professional to the stars. It seemed to go well (eventually), but what happened with it?
  • Adaptation Decay: In-universe. Hank is so unhappy about the movie adaptation of his book God Hates Us All that he is hostile towards the film director and makes remarks about the time he slept with the man's wife. A brawl and a cell ensue.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Hank, Charlie, and just about every other male character really.
  • All Women Are Lustful: And Hank has trouble saying no.
  • Amicable Exes:
    • Hank and Karen, for the most part.
    • Marcy and Charlie, to the extent that they remarry.
  • As Himself:
  • Bittersweet Ending: Too many to list. Numerous episodes close this way, as well as most of the seven season finales (with the salient exceptions of Season One's played-straight happy ending and the disturbing cliffhanger at the end of Season Five). Usually consists of Hank riding off into the sunset, either toward or away from LA. Actually, the tone of the series as a whole is rather bittersweet.
  • Blackmail: Mia does this to Hank, who can choose between waving his stolen book goodbye or being charged with statutory rape with an outrageous family scandal on top of it.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed:
    • Marcy starts dating Stu Biggs (played by Stephen Tobolowsky) in the fifth season and he looks very similar to Charlie at first, but then it's revealed that their main difference is not visible when clothed.
    • Hank has a huge penis. And he never is shown to leave a girl unsatisfied.
  • Bookends : The Pilot begins with "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and Hank in his car, and the Season 4 finale ends with the song playing over Hank driving out of LA. Thus begins and ends the main story arc.
  • Bottle Episode : Season 3 Episode 8 - "The Apartment" is set entirely in - you guessed it - an apartment.
  • Breast Attack: Charlie Runkle suffers some serious nipple damage while attempting to have a three-way with his wife and his secretary. This is later referenced during the third season.
    • Hank is fond of inflicting titty-twisters on people he hates.
  • Butt-Monkey: Charlie, played for laughs.
  • The Casanova: Hank, overlapping with Chick Magnet.
  • Casting Couch: Lizzie's favorite tactic, to Charlie's chagrin.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Hank's 'Matharfakaaaa' and 'nailed it!' in a falsetto voice.
    • Collini, out.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: jailbaitJailBait. Becca later attends the same school, much to Hank's chagrin.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: It's Hollywood, so many bizarre individuals and MadArtists appear time and again. Eddie Nero and Samurai Apocalypse are two of the regulars.
  • Cliffhanger: The end of season 5 doesn't show the aftermath of Hank getting drugged and slipping into unconsciousness.
    • Season 6 ends with Hank leaving Faith and Atticus Fetch's tour to go back to Karen. He knocks on her door... and cut to credits.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Lew Ashby, most prominently.
  • Comic Sutra: Sue Collini knows way more than she lets on. Charlie has trouble saying no.
  • Cringe Comedy: Charlie constantly. The season 6 plot of pretending to be gay and the following "Date With Rosie Palms" events could be the crowner. Hank often gets involved in these by association, by ruining the relationships of other people.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Charlie jerking off in his office. Constantly. Doesn't he know there are cameras everywhere?
  • Darker and Edgier: While Californication's tragicomedic tone remains monstly consistent, nuances of the show's feel tend to shift back and forth a lot. A good example being the show's progression from season 1-4 towards a somewhat darker and more serious tone. This turns backwards after season 5, though, as the storytelling reverts back to a slightly goofier feel.
  • Dinner and a Show: Every time Hank is at a dinner party, you can expect something will derail the pleasant evening. It's almost a Running Gag. Hank being outed as an accidental father (though this proves to be false), Marcy admitting the real father of her child, Hank tearing his daughter's boyfriend to shreds, and Hank getting completely chewed out by his ex are just some of the notable examples.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Hank is incredibly quick and sharp-tongued, he has a poignant and casual remark for every situation. Many are equally witty and offensive.
  • Deceptive Disciple: Mia.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Happy flashbacks in one episode shows Karen and Hank as they come to decision to move to California. These flashbacks are in black and white.
  • Destructo-Nookie: Mia punches Hank while riding him. In season 4 Sasha Bingham does the same after being goaded into it by Hank, after she asked him how hard Mia punched him.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: In-universe. When Hank tries to teach Becca that Drugs Are Bad, they find Marilyn Manson doing drugs and chilling out in Atticus' house. Becca finds the experience incredibly cool and Hank's aesop completely backfires.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Discussed.
    Hank: I think it's awful, unless it's a woman raping a man. That's inherently funny.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Karen can smell it.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Eddie Nero muses about going on one of his crazy escapades and invoke the trope. Hank and Charlie look puzzled at each other and an opportune phone call prompts them to leave.
    Eddie: I think we should kill someone tonight. I mean like a hobo or something.
    Hank: Thank God!
  • Double Standard: Hank and Charlie have no qualms about sleeping with any woman who happens to cross their paths (even if they're currently committed or married) but become insanely jealous when either Karen or Marcy date or sleep with someone. Ironically, Charlie submissively accepts Marcy's much more promiscuous behavior, while Hank displays outright and sometimes violent hostility when Karen dates someone in the traditional sense.
  • Dumb Blonde:
    • Averted with Karen. Still, she is a bit insane to have a 15-year on-and-off relationship with Hank.
  • Erotic Asphyxiation: When Hank and Charlie are supposed to meet a producer who is funding "Fucking and Punching", the movie, they discover that he has killed himself via auto-erotic asphyxiation. And Charlie kills the producer's pet monkey. Shenanigans ensue.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: When Mia tries to publish Hank's manuscript as her own, she describes it as a book "with lots of fucking and punching." "What's the title?" "Fucking and Punching."
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Especially Hank in the early seasons.
    • RZA (the guy who plays Samurai Apocalypse) was interviewed on David Letterman's show, and almost said the exact same words.
  • Face Palm: Karen facepalms when Hank starts talking about polishing her lady parts when she told him he's not capable fo polishing his works.
  • Fair Cop: In season 4, Hollywood actress Sasha Bingham is seen starring in a Show Within a Show where she plays a very sexualized cop. Hank Moody appreciates her outfit.
  • Fanservice: There is a spectacular amount of nudity in this series, mostly female, with each season sporting about fifteen to twenty different nude scenes. Seasons of twelve half-hour episodes here. Slightly justified by being a series about a straight man with a sex addiction. Tim Minchin's first introduction to co-star Natascha involved double doors and lots of nekkid.
  • Fille Fatale: Mia.
  • Flanderization: Charlie goes from a capable agent and helpful friend in season one with a weakness for kinky women to a stupid manchild in season four who will stick his wiener in anything with a pulse and actually tells a sex story in court. Seriously, the man has been a very successful agent for twenty years prior to the series, he should know better than that.
Funnily also his main rival and doppelgänger Stu Beggs goes through some serious flanderization, starting out as an eccentric wealthy Hollywood movie producer with a slightly unhealthy crush on Marcy, to become her lapdog after marrying her, to become legitimately obsessed with her to the point of being pathological by their divorce.
  • Follow the Leader: In-universe Show Within a Show examples:
    "The wall of cocks sequence alone would have blown people's minds."
    • Samurai's movie Santa Monica Cop, a ripoff of Beverly Hills Cop. Samurai himself pictures it as his "Eddie Murphy moment."
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Hank was never married to Karen in the first place, but his behavior is analogous.
  • Generation Xerox: Charlie's son is a carbon copy of him. Down to the whole masturbation in public shtick.
  • Genre Blindness: No matter how many times they get caught, none of the characters ever learn that it might be a good idea to lock the door when masturbating or engaging in whatever bizarre sex act strikes them at the moment. Also, hiding behind the desk never works, yet they keep trying.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Hank loves this trope and uses it quite amusingly. His passable El Spanish "-o" makes a hispanic Girl of the Week laugh.
  • Happier Times Montage: In one episode, there are Happy Flashbacks of times when Karen and Hank were together. The final part is a montage with lots of holding hands, hugging, kissing, laughing etc.
  • Has Two Mommies: Becca's season 5 boyfriend Tyler was raised by a lesbian couple, Lisa and Debbie.
  • Hollywood Law:
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Played straight often.
  • Horrible Hollywood: Depicted both by the show and within it; Hank constantly remarks how much he hates LA.
  • Hot for Student:
    • Hank becomes a teacher in season three. You can imagine how that turns out.
    • Richard Bates to Karen, before she met Hank.
  • Ho Yayinvoked: Hank and Charlie (well, mostly Hank) often joke about their friendship becoming more sexual.
  • Impersonating an Officer: In the course of doing research for Santa Monica Cop, Samurai Apocalypse does this after his real cop companion suffers a stroke. Hilarity Ensues after he and Hank decide to go with it and drive around in the police car.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Richard Bates takes one look at Hank, one look at a whore he cheated on Karen with, and one look at Karen. He immediately downs a bottle of the nearest alcohol (despite his sobriety) and gets the hell out of there.
  • In Love with the Gangster's Girl: Hank and Kali. Samurai does not take this lightly, but eventually forgives him.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence:
    • Hank and Mia in the pilot episode, who later names her book ''Fucking and punching''.
    • Recreated later with the actress Sasha, only with Hank encouraging her to hit him even harder.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: A common source of comedy and awkwardness. Charlie in particular has a tendency to be caught by Marcy at inappropriate times.
    Marcy: Charlie, are you inside that woman?
    • Hank and Sonja in the first season. It gets tremendously awkward after Hank throws up on Bill's valuable painting and Karen, Bill, Marcy, and Charlie all rush in.
  • Ironic Nickname: Eddie Nero calls Charlie Goldilocks.
  • It's a Small World After All: Appears many times. Richard Bates is not only the man Eddie Nero took in his mouth, but is also the professor Karen had an affair with as a college student and never got over. Also, Eddie Nero claims to have pooped on someone. That someone turns out to be a hooker Hank's son hired in the final season.
  • Jail Bait Taboo: Mia, and she really cashes in on the jail ramifications.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hank really loves his daughter. And Karen, too.
  • Jizzed in My Pants: Charlie Runkle, more than once. On one occasion he gets off in a strip club during a lap dance at this moment. He tries to present it as a compliment. The stripper doesn't respond so well either way.
  • Kinky Spanking: Churlie Runkle spanks his secretary who deliberately messes up to earn more spanking. They both enjoy it.
  • Large Ham: Eddie Nero and Richard Bates are boisterous larger than life characters with peculiar speech patterns.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Whenever Hank sleeps with a woman who isn't Karen, it will bite him in the back. Hard. Even when the resulting mess isn't really Hank's fault. Especially when it isn't Hank's fault.
  • Like Mother, Like Daughter:
    • At the end of season 5, Becca looks like she'll go down the same road as Karen, as she has fallen in love with Tyler.
    • Becca uses this to justify her getting high, claiming that it runs in her genes.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Becca's boyfriend Tyler is a younger version of Hank. Acknowledged in-universe, which Hank does not take well.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Blue jeans and black T-shirt for Hank, with the occasional dark shirt or jacket. And the sunglasses.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Becca.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Charlie to Stuart. Especially after Marcy had been in a relationship with Stu Beggs for a while, and Charlie was supposed to have had a (successful) vasectomy.
  • Lying to Protect Your Feelings: Janie Jones does this to Hank. She initially lies to Hank that she left Lew because she felt that he was cheating on her with a singer, but it turns out that Lew actually forced Janie to have an abortion.
  • Manchild : To varying degrees, most of the men in the show—despite tremendous career success—are drunk and irresponsible without much care or consequence.
  • Marry Them All: Hank is proposed to by Felicia, Jill, and Jackie all in under five minutes. While he's in a relationship with Karen. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Hank Moody is always in the mood for sex.
    • Eddie Nero has a voracious appetite for... "deviant" sexual acts. Nero was a Roman Emperor notorious for his debauched behavior who presided over a city that was equally notorious for this too, and it would get worse. The name also makes an obvious connection with Robert De Niro, with whom he shares the extreme implication with a role.
    • Lew Ashby's surname reflects he is an expy of The Great Gatsby.
  • Method Acting: Eddie Nero's crazy/awesome take on interpretation: Behold his approach to a gay HIV plus role. In-universe Academy Award ensued.
    Eddie: I took a man in my mouth. I played his skin flute like Kenny G, like Kenny G on ecstasy [gargles] And then he gave me his gift, gave it to me on the inside.
    • This becomes even funnier when, in season 6, it's revealed that the recipient of that blow job was none other than Richard Bates.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Hank and others. Philandering aside, Hollywood and literature are two of the main subjects.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Most women appear topless. Averted with Karen and Marcy.
    • Averted as well with some of Hank's love interests; Felicia and Faith do not have a single topless scene with Hank.
  • No Nudity Taboo: Bates. At least, while he's drunk. No male organ in sight though; he instead tucks it between his legs and turns it into his "man-gina", much to everybody else's disgust, and Hank's amusement.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Hank's long anticipated novel in the first season. One of the drawbacks of writing it on a typewriter. He gets savvy and starts to use digital media throughout the series.
  • Naughty Nuns:
  • Naughty Under the Table: Dinner Table version. In a first-season episode, Hank's date squeezes his thigh. Seated on his other side, Mia goes right for his crotch.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Hank is loosely based on Charles Bukowski.
    • Lew Ashby is loosely based on music producer Rick Rubin.
  • Oh, Crap!: A muffled one of epic proportions when Hank discovers that Mia is not only 16 years old, but also the daughter of Karen's fiancé, and to compound it even more, a close friend of Becca's.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Charlie is remembered as "the masturbating agent" wherever he goes. He tried to get Redtube to take the video down, but it still gets a lot of hits.
  • Pals with Jesus: Hank is rather casual when speaking to Jesus.
    Hank: Hey, big guy! You and me. We've never done this before, but... desperate times call for desperate measures.
  • Papa Wolf: Hank takes this to varied degrees of overprotectiveness towards Becca. He immediately takes a disliking to every single one of her boyfriends, even if they aren't complete toolbags. And when Becca has her first period, he fights the husband of a woman who took the last box of tampons in the store.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: A major plot arc when the young woman Hank slept with in the first episode is revealed to be Mia, the sixteen-year-old daughter of Hank's ex-wife's new fiancé, who goes on to steal the manuscript for his new book and threaten to reveal that they had sex (which would get him charged with statutory rape) if he tells.
  • The Pornomancer: Hank again.
  • Precision F-Strike: Becca, among many, many other characters of the show.
  • Rated M for Manly: Much like Entourage, the show has been described as the manly version of Sex and the City.
  • Really Gets Around: Practically every character in the show. The only exception seems to be Karen. Not even Becca is immune to this trope as of season 5 onwards.
  • Really Sixteen Years Old: Mia, of course, doesn't reveal her true age until after she has seduced Hank.
  • Recurring Character: Trixie. Hank is especially fond of her, even though she has not returned since Season Five.
  • The Remake: Charlie and Hank get tangled in a remake of Cruising.
  • Runaway Bride: Bill's daughter points out that Karen still has feelings for Hank, but Karen goes through with the exchange of vows, only to run away with Hank at the after-wedding party.
  • Running Gag:
    Becca: Dad?
    Hank: Yes, m'dear?
    Becca: Why is there a naked lady in your bedroom?
  • Screwball Comedy: Many crazy situations spiral into it, specially in Season 3 around Dean Koons' uptight family.
  • Seduction-Proof Marriage: Hank Moody cites this at times to girls that come on to him/coworkers who set him up while he's trying to repair his relationship with his long-term domestic partner (his wife in everything but name).
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Charlie and Hank, respectively. Zigzagged as Hank is manly but not unemotional, and sometimes more empathetic than Charlie.
  • Sexy Secretary: Charlie Runkle's hot and submissive secretary in Season 1.
  • Share the Male Pain: Hank is quite reckless during the recommended cooldown period after he gets a vasectomy.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sleeping with the Boss's Wife: Hank Moody has sex with a drop-dead gorgeous ebony woman after meeting her on a plane ride before discovering that she's the main squeeze of gangster/rapper Samurai Apocalypse, who has hired/forced Hank to write the script for his new movie. This becomes a massive worry for Hank, who rightly fears that SA—who isn't averse to a High-Altitude Interrogation—will kill him, which he almost does when he finally finds out (Hank survives with a flesh wound).
  • Slipping a Mickey: Hank is a victim of this in the Season 5 finale.
  • Slow Clap: Hank in the fourth episode of season 2, after his daughter defends her interest in The Satanic Bible against criticism from Julian, a self-help author whose work she describes as "gobbledygook".
  • Speed Sex: Charlie is haunted most of the time by it, given his usual performance. He improves in Season 5, fleetingly. Marcy sums it up in a very witty nickname: "Prema-Charlie".
    Marcy: After a couple of decades with Prema-Charlie, anything longer than a Ramones song seems like tantric sex to me.
  • STD Immunity:
  • Stylistic Suck : Many writing examples, but notably Hank's creative writing student's lovelorn vampire story.
  • Taking the Heat: Richard spends a wild night with a hooker who shows up at his home the next day. A noble Hank sets-up a farce in a pure Screwball Comedy fashion where she is his girlfriend, so Karen won't be unhappy about the infidelity. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: An interesting case, since this has already occurred at the beginning of the series. Whenever the core four of Hank, Charlie, Karen and Marcy get together for some reason, they inevitably lament about how much they miss the good old days. And, inevitably, whenever Hank and Karen manage to reconcile, Charlie and Marcy are on the outs, and vice versa. More often than not, both couples are split, and at best, all four are on speaking terms. Even Becca, who would have been little more than a child when both couples were new to LA and happily together, believes things were better in those days. The result gives the series a decidedly bittersweet epilogue feel.
    • Also happens at the end of several of the seven seasons, in particular seasons two and six, when the temporary fellowship built around Hank's association with Lew Ashby and Atticus Fetch, respectively come to their inevitable end.
  • The Sponsor: In the latter part of season 5, Bates gets one, Gabriel, to help him quit his alcohol addiction. They end up having sex.
  • The Swear Jar: Hank Moody has this arrangement with his daughter — both ways. She gets most of the money. They grow out of it in the latter seasons.
  • Too Much Information: Abby's senior partner goes on (and on and on) about his, um, anal bruising. After Hank successfully pisses him off on a golf outing, he eventually decides to look at the pictures... and comments that it looks like the western half of the United States.
  • Totally 18: Discussed when Hank Moody discovers the attractive socialite that seduced him at a book store (while reading his book no less) is actually 16... and the daughter of his ex-girlfriend's current partner. The mistake is a major plot point for the rest of the series as the girl in question keeps the threat of blackmail pointed at Hank.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Charlie discovers mid-oral that an affectionate hooker was not a she. Charlie is the only one not amused.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Samurai Apocalypse's unsolicited actions againts Becca's boyfriend put Hank into a world of mess.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: All Hank really wanted from his dad was for him to appreciate his writing and to be a good parental figure. His father responds by saying he never read any of Hank's books and never changes his ways. Hank proceeds to blame it all on his father and tries to do everything differently from his father, including never cheating on Karen and being completely self-centered from his newfound fame. It backfires. Hank's father read every single one of his son's books. He never could face his son when Hank paints all of his fictional fathers in a bad light.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Becca and Mia. The latter more malevolently so.
  • Wham Line: "How would you feel if I had slept with Becca?" -Bill
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Damien. Anyone see him since he derailed the entire last season over his declaration of love? Also, in Season 1, Hank steals a dog for Becca, which remains in his house for one more episode. Where did it go?
  • Whole Plot Reference: The entire second season is a whole plot reference to The Great Gatsby, with Hank as Nick and Ashby as Gatsby. Hank even tells Ashby that Janie is his "Daisy Buchanan".
  • Who's Your Daddy?:
  • Writer's Block: Hank is pestered by it at the start of the show and from time to time, but once he is back on track he is so good and witty that he basically has a One-Hour Work Week job.
  • Yandere: Hank gets one in season 5. After leaving her in New York, she burns his apartment there. At the end of the season, she drugs him and herself.
    • Hilariously, Marcy encounters one in season 6. In trying to get over Stu cheating on her, she meets Ophelia, a feminist author who has a severe misandrist streak. She frequently uses her Taser on Marcy's former lovers, and eventually tases Marcy when the latter doesn't take her confession of love well. After Charlie tries to rescue Marcy and gets tased and Bound and Gagged for his trouble, the couple end up realizing that they still have feelings for each other and rekindle their relationship after knocking Ophelia out with her own Taser.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The lovely Lizzie seems to be a refreshing and sweet change for Charlie at first, but her promiscuity makes him even more miserable in no time.
  • You Just Told Me: The way Marcy tricks Charlie to reveal the relation between Stu and Lizzie.
  • You Make Me Sic: Hank's rant about internet-speak.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: Mia's agent tries to make this deal with Hank. Hank is to admit that he slept with Mia so a scandal of epic proportions can occur (and thus her agent could cash in on the subsequent publicity), and Hank can get his book back. Hank violently refuses, to avoid hurting his family. Mia's agent tells the press anyway.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: