By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles
The comic role marks a departure from playing FBI agent Fox Mulder
David Duchovny, best known for his role in the supernatural series The X-Files, returns to TV as a jaded novelist in Californication.
The dark comedy features nudity and graphic sex scenes. Critics have described it as "shocking" and "the filthiest new show on television".
Its provocative tone is set from the very first scene. It features a church, a nun and sex.
Duchovny's promiscuous character, Hank, stumbles through life in a drunken, disillusioned state, brought on by writers' block.
A tortured soul, he has just seen his critically acclaimed book made into a film. But the movie has trivialised his story, transforming it into a romantic comedy.
"The character that I play is a serious novelist, supposedly, who's had his novel turned into a lightweight, crappy movie - and it's part of his heartache," says Duchovny.
"That's a tangent of the show - the trivialisation that can happen in the entertainment business."
The concept of an angst-ridden writer battling his own demons is hardly new. But there has probably never been a time when one of the show's themes - poking fun at dumb Hollywood - has been more relevant.
"You know what you need to know about Californication and showbusiness just by knowing that Hollywood is in California, and you know a little about the kind of movies that Hollywood turns out. I don't think you need to know anything else.
"It's really just a human comedy. It's about a guy looking for redemption and completely screwing up."
But the premise has not gone down well with some US critics.
"Californication tries to poke fun at the hypocrisy and delusions of Hollywood, but it doesn't have enough wit or sense of place to be very convincing," writes Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times.
"Mostly the series comes off as male payback for Sex and the City, a series that often belittled men and treated them as sex objects," adds the critic.
The show's upfront attitude to sex has attracted attention in the US
"Our show is a lot more dark, even though it's a comedy, it's heavier than Sex and the City," counters Duchovny.
"The sex is not without consequence, which I think mostly it was in that show."
The role marks a departure from Duchnovy's performance as sullen FBI agent Fox Mulder in The X-Files.
"It's liberating for me to try to play comedy," he says.
"I was just really attracted to the character. He was funny in a way that I thought I could be funny.
"A lot of humour comes out of adults acting like children, but Hank is acting like a recognisable adult/child, rather than a complete and utter imbecile."
The show also focuses on Hank's broken family, recalling happier times with his ex-girlfriend, Karen, played by British actress Natascha McElhone, and their 12-year old daughter Becca (Madeleine Martin).
But the drama has attracted attention in the US largely because of the character's many sexual trysts.
"One of the things that I like about our show is that its approach to sex is kind of something that happens in a day," he says.
British actress McElhone co-stars as the writer's former girlfriend
"It seems, in movies and television, sex is this amazing occurrence that is either horrible or transformative. In our show, it is just something that this guy I play falls into sometimes twice a day, sometimes once a week.
"It's just another part of human intercourse."
As for the nudity, Duchcovny says he felt a need to tone up before the cameras started rolling - against the wishes of the show's creator, Tom Kapinos.
"I said, 'I want to get in shape for this if I'm going to show my ass, it's my ass'. And he said, 'no, this guy's a kind of dissolute writer, he doesn't go to the gym, just let it go'."
Duchovny says "gratuitous nudity" plays a role in the drama, and that it is simply there "to sell" the show to the audience.
"It's just human nature - it's what they've always wanted and what they always will want. Sex and death are the big mysteries that won't get solved, and we're always going to come back to them."
Californication airs in the UK on Thursdays at 2200 BST on Five