TV Parents Behaving Badly.

What is it about grossly ill-behaved men who are portrayed on primetime TV as being crazy about their children, while the women in their lives -- who perpetuate their own brand of maternal madness -- put up with them because they're so gosh darned irresistible? A handful of bad parental specimens haunt some edgy cable programs these days and put a new, 2008 twist on Father Knows Best, where Mother now stands behind Father and supports him, even though she may throw him out of the house from time to time.

 

Take, for example, Showtime's Californication, starring David Duchovny (who in real life was recently treated for sex addiction) as novelist Hank Moody. For the past two seasons - the second season just concluded - Hank bedded countless women, did drugs, drove drunk and high, and was arrested for assaulting a police officer. The whole time, he pined away for his soul mate, Karen (Natascha McElhone), who he never married but with whom he had a girl, Becca (Madeleine Martin), who's now a Goth teen. He and Karen, an architect with a sexy bohemian style, lived together for many years before breaking up. At the end of the freshman season, Karen left another man at the altar in order to flee with Hank. In the recent season, Hank's bad behavior came back to haunt the on-again/off-again relationship when he learned, mere hours after proposing marriage to Karen, that he'd impregnated the woman who'd become Karen's business partner.

 

While the two characters flail around trying to figure out how to make their romantic relationship work, their daughter Becca bears witness to their partying, drinking to excess, taking drugs (both legal and illegal), incarceration and sleeping with a parade of lovers and one night stands.

 

When Hank had a health scare this season -- he thought he had testicular cancer though it turned out to be syphilis -- he slept at Karen and Becca's apartment for several days, confusing Becca, who, after finding them half-naked in bed together, tearfully asked them whether they were getting back together. Again. "I'm sick and tired of parenting you both!" the raven haired aspiring punk rocker told Hank.

 

Hank seems to be aware that his behavior sets a poor example, but doesn't ever seem willing to do anything about it. "I'm a father," he said to a friend. "I am not a great father. A great father is someone who gives it all up for his family and leaves all his self-destructive bull---- at the door." But Karen, who keeps breaking up with Hank and then invites him back into her bed, doesn't seem overly concerned about the impact their behavior is having on Becca, though she did cop to being "reckless" with her daughter's heart.

 

In spite of Hank's actions, his character consistently professes his love and devotion to Karen and Becca ("Home is where you and Becca are") and plays the role of the protective dad looking out for his daughter's virtue. And his daughter, as much as she may protest, adores him for it. He's the rakish character with the heart of gold despite the hedonistic things that he does, the show seems to say. He desperately loves his daughter and her mother -- even when he's screwing his kid's boyfriend's mother - so he's worth sticking with, right?