The XXX-files 

“Oh, gaaawwd,” I thought, watching my favorite FBI agent engage in a sloppy three-way with some blonde and Charlotte’s turtle-headed husband from Sex and the City, “Mulder’s a freak.”

Worse, I thought, “he’s totally killing his chances of marrying not-Scully.”

Perception is a strange thing. Despite his narration of Showtime’s softcore Red Shoe Diaries series, his recurring roll as a transvestite in Twin Peaks, and his recent time in rehab for sex addiction, I’ve never been able to disconnect David Duchovny from his thoroughly asexual character Fox Mulder, whom he played on the X-Files for 10 seasons, two movies, and at least one video game.

Not even the entire first season of Californication — in which he plays Hank Moody, a novelist with a sexual compulsive streak, and which I watched in a compressed two-day TiVo frenzy — could shake Duchovny’s Mulderness.

As time passed, though, and I had conversations with friends about what this new series was trying to do (or not trying hard enough to do), I came to really appreciate the differences between Mulder’s stoicism and Moody’s brooding. More importantly, I came to see Moody as a more culturally important character than Mulder

Duchovny isn’t a great actor, but he’s picked good roles for his range. He was wonderful as the squint-eyed and singlemindedly passionate Mulder; he’s probably better in Californication, playing the broodingly brash, horny, prickish, and deeply insecure man-child Moody.

It’s reading more into the show than creator Tom Kapinos and his writers have given us so far, but the self-assertive chauvinist warrior-poet is one of Western literature’s most enduring and ridiculous self-mythologies — novelists writing themselves into the lead roles of their own sexual mythos. The character of Moody does exactly that, and thus has a real opportunity to take the piss out of the persistent cliché, to show that the measure of men is not what they write or who they bed, but how they behave and who they love. Whether they, at some point, stop actively being childish, basically, and become a reflective adult.

If Duchovny, Kapinos, and company manage that, I might forget who Fox Mulder even is. The second season finds Moody stumbling toward redemption, but this is looking like a five-season series, so prepare for another 40-odd episodes of meaningless sex and self-loathing. Unless the Red Hot Chili Peppers win their lawsuit. •

SEE ALSO

Crusoe Cultural imperialism in 2k8! I’m interested to see how much NBC keeps of Defoe’s character, which James Joyce called “the true prototype of the British colonist … the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty … the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity.” Sounds like a blast. (NBC, Fridays, 7 p.m.)

Eleventh Hour Rufus Sewell is great, but I’m worried this show about a “biophysicist” who investigates scientific abominations for the FBI is below his depth. (CBS, Thursday, 9 p.m.)

Rookies So what police department thought it would be a good idea to let a TV production crew follow around a gang of its wet-behind-the-ears academy graduates? The Tampa Police, apparently. (A&E, Tuesdays, 9 p.m.)


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