with Hamish McKenzie
They say television dramas are just life with all the boring parts edited out. By that logic, Californication must be life with all the celibacy edited out.
The hormonal-but-brainy show returns for a fifth season tomorrow (FX, 11.30pm). As ever, it comes with the kind of gratuitous and rapacious sex that offends Christian fundamentalists and excites teenage boys in equal measure. More importantly, how-ever, it comes with David Duchovny (a real-life sex addict, apparently), whose effortless cool demeanour is the only thing that comes close to outshining the show's many dangling body parts.
Season five returns Californication fans to familiar territory: writer Hank (Duchovny; The X-Files) is still hung up on his ex-wife, even while taking a shine to her blokey new man, and he continues to have an awkward, overprotective relationship with his teenage daughter, who has a smart-ass new boyfriend who perhaps reminds Hank a little too much of himself. Even though he now lives in New York (a habitational situation that is sure to be short-lived), Hank is still best buds with his agent, Charlie. And, of course, he's still as randy as a rabbit.
In one of the opening scenes of this season's first episode, Hank manages to talk his way into some mile-high coitus with Meagan Good. It later turns out that Good's character is the girlfriend of an egocentric rapper called Samurai Apocalypse (played by rapper RZA), who hires Hank to write the screenplay for his first movie. RZA plays the role with just the right touch of hammyness, making Samurai at once embarrassing and lovable. His presence in the show might also tip Californication further in the direction of comedy and away from the familial melodrama that lurked beneath the first four seasons' sexophilia. That would be a good thing.
We're about to see the first episode of Man Up! (Fox, tomorrow at 8pm), which is essentially Modern Family for the beer-drinking white dude. The show follows three middle-aged male friends who juggle their professional lives with their love of multiplayer online role-playing games. The pilot episode focuses on protagonist Craig (played by Christopher Moynihan, the show's creator) as he struggles to find the perfect 'man gift' for his son's 13th birthday while trying to convince his wife that he's all 'man' even though he likes hazelnut creamer. I think you can see where this is all going.
While the premise for Man Up! seems anachronistic, the show really focuses on the three men's masculinity insecurities, which is actually fair game considering how easy this generation has had it. These are suburban guys who have never had to fight in a war, never had to drive a truck, never had to wrestle a bear and who have boring or failed marriages. This describes much of America today.
There should be plenty of comedy to be mined from the subject. Somehow, though, Man Up! falls flat, lunging for obvious one-liners instead of the Seth Rogen-ish situational yucks that would have earned the show more popularity and longevity. In the United States, it was cancelled after eight episodes.
And finally, if you've ever seen the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore - that's the huge one downtown with what looks like a massive boat perched on its rooftop (above) - you'll probably have at least a passing interest in Marina Bay Sands 24/7 (Bio, Thursdays at 9.30pm). The reality show follows the hotel's employees as they scurry to keep clothes clean, guests fed and Kobe Bryant happy in the US$5.7 billion edifice.
For those of us not able to afford a room, this show presents a pretty good opportunity to stalk the uberhotel's corridors. Provided, of course, you're not already sick to death of these airport/restaurant/hospital/hotel reality dramas.