Was ‘Californication’ Based On a True Story?

Several TV shows today are based on shockingly true stories that fans wouldn’t believe were inspired by real people doing those real things. In most cases, even the shows that aren’t technically based on a true story have some sort of ‘true story’ influence on their plot lines. Looking back at 2007’s debut of Californication and its succeeding seasons, it will shock you just how close this womanizing, struggling writer concept is to being based on a true story. 

(L-R) Natalie Zea and David Duchovny walking down a street
(L-R) Natalie Zea and David Duchovny | Ignat/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Why was Californication canceled?

Californication was a comedy-drama that caught a lot of attention from viewers for its take on a struggling writer who is an alcoholic and sex-addicted womanizer. After his split from his wife Karen, who he still yearns for throughout the series, Hank Moody goes on several alcohol-infused binges with crazy woman, living through shocking sex stories. He also has a young daughter with Karen, Becca, that he can’t seem to be responsible enough to take care of, considering his unconventional lifestyle and inability to resist temptation.

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Tom Kapinos’ hit Showtime series went on for seven seasons, making its debut on August 13, 2007, and retiring the comedy-drama on June 29, 2014. It seems Showtime didn’t want to ‘mess up a good thing’ and drag the highly-rated Californication in mud by airing it until it isn’t any good anymore. 

David Duchovny had a lot of similarities with his character

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A significant comparison that can be made is that Hank Moody is a writer, and so is Duchovny. Not only did the actor graduate from Yale University with a Master’s Degree in English, but he has since written four books – Holy Cow, Bucky F*cking Dent, Miss Subways: A Novel, and most recently Truly Like Lightning: A Novel

However, the biggest similarity is that Duchovny played a man obsessed with sex and had to go to rehab for his sex addiction following his wife’s 2008 ultimatum to get help or be single. “David Duchovny — who plays a complete womanizer on the show — sought treatment in rehab for a sex addiction back in 2007 after his wife, Tea Leoni, discovered his indiscretions and threatened to divorce him,” Fame 10 reported. Nonetheless, “the couple split for good in 2011,” anyway. 

Is ‘Californiacation’ a true story?

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Several theories are floating around about the story behind Californication, including that Lew Ashby is based on The Great Gatsby, Atticus Fetch is based on a character of a similar name in To Kill a Mockingbird, and that the actors introduced twisted versions of themselves on the show. However, it’s widely believed Hank is based on Charles Bukowski, and the series is loosely based on Bukowski’s novel Women.

“Aspects of the Hank Moody story do indeed mesh with the lore of Bukowski’s life, especially the love-hate/relationship the late writer seemed to have with the publishing world and the movie business,” Complex reports. “The irony here, of course, is that while Hank Moody was furious over a commercially successful film like A Crazy Little Thing Called Love cheapening his serious work of art, that’s essentially what Californication has been doing to the memory of Charles Bukowski for the last seven years.”

With that being said, it hasn’t been officially confirmed that the show is a true story based on the life and writings of Charles Bukowski. Although there doesn’t seem to be any doubt among viewers and critics, considering there have been a number of references (Becca calling her father a poor man’s Bukowski, for instance) and too many similarities to be a coincidence.