Greg Dixon 's Opinion

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

TV Eye: Rude and crude TV the most fun you'll ever have

David Duchovny's Hank is so cool he could only exist in fiction. Photo / Supplied
David Duchovny's Hank is so cool he could only exist in fiction. Photo / Supplied

Oh God, have I turned into a prude? Have I finally arrived at the dreaded door marked "stuffed-shirt old bore who cannot be doing with rude words and ruder acts on the telly"? Hell (oops) I hope not. Actually I'm pretty sure I haven't. But I couldn't help but wonder, during the first episode of the new season of Californication (TV3, Mondays, 9.30pm), about how in the hell (oops) this show gets played on New Zealand television. Or on Anywhere television.

This made-for-cable show is rude. Very, very rude. In the space of the first half hour I lost count of the number of impolite, uncouth and downright vulgar sentences that were uttered by Hank and his baldy, loser sidekick Runkle. Frankly the Herald doesn't have enough asterisks available for me to quote all the four letter words used in Californication - in just one (or rather two, played back-to-back) episode. There were even two uses of my second favourite word starting with "c". And then there was the bare bum (oops) and boobs (oops).

Surely it's only a matter of time before the real prudes - the crabby, wanting-to-be-offended, letter-writing prudes who complain to the networks and the Broadcasting Standards Authority - start a bad-tempered, priggish campaign to get this show off the air. I hope not. But the bores are, of course, already busy. Why, only last month I was reading in this newspaper that TVNZ and MediaWorks were in the High Court appealing against BSA decisions hostile to TV2's Hung and "slightly saucy content" on TV3's drab but benign teen soap Home & Away. Evidently the major networks reckon the BSA, which has new members, has embarked on a more conservative and possibly activist approach to anything that can't be said or seen at school, in church or in missionary bedrooms, particularly if it screens inside the so-called watershed before 9.30pm.

The trouble is, I think, these bores don't have the right definition of offensive. Now I find quite a lot of television offensive. I find MasterChef offensive. I find Big Fat Family Challenge offensive. For Jebus (oops) sake I find the really rather harmless American Idol offensive. I find them all loathsome because there's not one single original thought between the three of them. They are unutterably dull without even the mitigation of being worthy.

Californication, despite being gleefully, wilfully rude, is at least fun like you've never had it. The dialogue, littered as it is with expletives, is written in some sort of rapid-fire Californian patois, with one perfectly formed hipster one-liner followed by another.

And Hank is, thanks to a bravura performance from David Duchovny, an utterly charismatic anti-hero who despite his appalling behaviour is so cool he could only exist in fiction.

"Is he retarded?" Hank's lawyer asked Runkle this week.

"He's actually," responds Runkle, "quite a good guy once you get to know him. He's very pleasant, very agreeable."

"Good to know," continues the lawyer. "Because on paper he looks like a total piece of shit."

Indeed he does. Thank goodness, then, we can again watch him on TV. And the good news is this: the next episode of Californication is on Monday. For all you prudes, that's Easter Monday.


- NZ Herald

Greg Dixon

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

It has been said the only qualities essential for real success in journalism are a rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability. Despite having none of these things, Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon has spent more than 20 years working as a journalist for the New Zealand Herald and North & South and Metro magazines. Although it has been rumoured that he embarked on his journalism career as the result of a lost bet, the truth is that although he was obsessed by the boy reporter Tintin as a child, he originally intended to be an accountant. Instead, after a long but at times spectacularly bad stint at university involving two different institutions, a year as a studio radio programme director and a still uncompleted degree, he fell into journalism, a decision his mother has only recently come to terms with. A graduate of the Auckland Institute of Technology (now AUT) journalism school, he was hired by the Herald on graduation in 1992 and spent the next eight years demonstrating little talent for daily news, some for television reviewing and a passable aptitude for long-form feature writing. Before returning to the Herald in 2008 to take up his present role, he spent three years as a freelance, three as a senior feature writer at Metro and one as a staff writer at North & South. As deputy editor of Canvas, his main responsibility is applauding the decisions of the editor, Michele Crawshaw. However he prefers to spend his time interviewing interesting people -- a career highlight was a confusing 15-minute phone interview with a stoned Anna Nicole Smith -- and pretending to understand what they're going on about. He has won awards for his writing and editing, but would have preferred a pay rise.

Read more by Greg Dixon

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