REVIEW: ‘Hung’

REVIEW: ‘Hung’

Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Stars: Thomas Jane, Jane Adams and Anne Heche

The Big Idea: Jane is Ray Decker, a Detroit high school basketball coach and former star athlete whose wife (his high school sweetheart – the homecoming queen/cheerleader) has left him for a nerdy (but rich) former classmate. Ray’s job doesn’t pay him enough to afford insurance on his house and his children – teen twins – have to move out of said house when it catches fire and Ray can’t afford to repair it. The former BMOC’s last hope in this economy is a self-help seminar that makes him realize he’s got one asset: He was blessed in the family jewels department. He’s well-hung for success in the bedroom. He’s got the perfect tool for the job. Okay, bad puns aside, he’s going to become a male prostitute.

To Watch or Not to Watch: Hey, if Disney can make a hooker movie that becomes one of the most beloved chick flicks of all time (Pretty Woman, of course), why can’t HBO make a good half-hour comedy about a male hooker? Not that Hung is a laugh-out-loud kinda comedy. It’s more in the dramedy genre, for sure, as comical touches mark Ray’s desperate attempt to create the life that he once thought would come easily to him.

Jane is perfect as the still attractive, but downtrodden Ray, a role that could do for him what Breaking Bad has done for Bryan Cranston and what The Shield did for Michael Chiklis, namely giving under-the-radar actors signature roles that allow them to finally showcase how talented they are. Deep Blue Sea and The Punisher actor Jane’s Ray is handsome and endearing enough to make you believe he was once the star of his high school with a promising pro baseball career ahead of him, but not so attractive and charming that you don’t buy the mid-life crisis he’s landed in. Ray’s a bit of a dunce sometimes, and let’s just say his first forays into gigolo-ing don’t show him to be a smooth ladies man.

Heche, at least in the first four episodes provided for review, is little more than shrewish and annoying as Ray’s ex-wife Jessica, but Jane Adams (Niles’ wife Mel on Frasier) is another performer who could finally break out with her role in Hung. Adams is Tanya, a struggling poet who has sampled Ray’s goods and, as his pimp, comes up with the plan to market him as a “happiness consultant” to women.

Bottom line: I was hooked from the pilot, though if you’re really set on the show delivering humor, it is subtle. Stick with Hung for a couple of episodes though … it’s not only timely (especially, unfortunately, with its Detroit setting), it’s also a pretty weird concept that proves to be surprisingly sweet.

TV Screener Tidbit: The show was created by husband-and-wife team Dmitry Lipkin and Colette Burson. The premiere episode, shot on location in Detroit, was directed by Oscar-winning Sideways screenplay writer (and Hung executive producer) Alexander Payne. Payne also received an Oscar nomination for his script for the 1999 dramedy Election, featuring Matthew Broderick‘s hapless high school teacher character, who has a lot in common with Thomas Jane’s Ray Decker.

Hung premieres tonight, June 28, at 10PM ET on HBO

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