Monday, February 15, 2010

Well-Behaved Men Rarely Make Compelling Lead Characters

Is it me or is Californication one of the best and ballsiest shows on TV? I’ve never been a huge fan of David Duchovny (sorry X-Files nerds) but as writer Hank Moody he is one of the most compelling male characters on television right now. A popular writer who is addicted to women and sex, among other things, Moody holds a torch for the woman he loves but never married, would do anything for his young daughter and types on a typewriter. The fact that he is an invigorating character is pretty amazing considering the facts. On paper, Duchovny’s Moody is as cliché as they come:

-Unconventional personality
-Undeniably smart
-Talented in his field
-Good looking
-Has too many vices
-Rejects social norms
-Not married

Does that also sound like a description of Hugh Laurie’s character on House? As Greg House, Laurie’s character has an equally obnoxious but intoxicating personality, is a genius doctor (diagnostician to be exact), is sarcastic to an almost pathological degree, has an addiction to pain killers and is obsessed with puzzles and messing with people.

Another example is Denis Leary's character Tommy Gavin in Rescue Me. As a smartass alcoholic New York firefighter, he deals with post-911 issues and can't seem to make it work with his wife/ex-wife Janet.

All three characters say whatever they want whenever they want. They have no edit function and therefore have no objection to saying anything that goes through their minds. In short, they are all a pain in the ass.

All three characters are also very into music; in fact it’s a theme that is intricately woven through storylines and dialogue in many of the episodes. In Californication, Moody wrote a book about a record producer, his daughter is the lead singer and guitarist of a garage band, he constantly makes references to musicians and there is even an episode based around the death of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain. In House, our leading man’s apartment is decorated with instruments, most of which he can play, including piano, harmonica and the guitar. Throughout Rescue Me, Gavin is constantly making music references and a few of his crew members have a band called Apache Stone.

Regardless of the similarities, all three characters are hard to look away from and make for excellent leading men in well-written shows.

Some of my favorite lines from Californication:

“You can be pretty hard on people.”

“I love women. I have all their albums.”

“You’re tragically flawed but you’ve got a good heart.”

“You have to love him for who he is, not his potential.”

“You’re gonna be stronger in the places that are broken.”

“I can feel your restlessness.”

Well written dialogue for a show about a writer. Maybe not so cliché after all.


  1. Hmmm, saying whatever they want whenever they want and incorporating music into their everyday lives.....

    Sounds oddly familiar....

  2. What are you trying to say Carly??? :)