HBO's Hung -- An early look
Over the span of Hung's first few episodes, Ray Drecker utters a lot of depressing one-liners. Things like "everything's falling apart" and "I used to be a big deal" are common phrases for him. However, as the title of the show suggests, Ray Drecker (played by The Punisher's Thomas Jane) has at least one thing to be very happy about.
The new HBO dramedy is set in Detroit against the backdrop of a financially ruined automotive industry skyline, and as the world crumbles around him, Ray is forced to re-evaluate his life while everything he cares about slowly slips away. It's unsettling and sad, but in some ways, fortuitous ... at least for HBO anyway. Considering the current economic crisis many Americans are experiencing, a lot of people are going to relate to this show. Just probably not to the big penis part.
The fact of the matter is, despite Ray's massive genitalia, he's an everyman - a high school baseball star who rode his skills and good looks all the way to a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves only to watch his dream vanish when he ruptured some ligaments. He's the guy you root for.
It doesn't stop there, though. Ray's life reads like a country ballad played on overdrive. His teaching job doesn't pay enough, his wife left him for a richer man, he can barely relate to his two kids, he has an adjustable rate mortgage, and his house burned down. The man deserves a break, and it finally arrives when he bumps into an old one night stand at a get-rich-quick seminar. Played by Jane Adams, Tanya has "tasted the goods" and makes Ray a simple pitch - let me pimp you out.
Chemistry wise, Jane and Adams are phenomenal together. The way they play off each other feels real. There are countless scenes where Tanya does all she can to improve Ray's confidence and impart on him, for lack of better phrasing, some proper gigolo manners.
Together, they make you laugh, but more importantly, they genuinely make you feel bad for Ray. So much so, that by the end of the fourth episode I screened, I was practically applauding as Ray finally realized how good a gigolo he could be. If rooting for a male prostitute seems like an awkward proposition, all I can say is stick around for the first few episodes and once you get over the hump, you'll be hooked. (Sorry, I had to make at least a couple sex puns here.)
On the flip side, the show isn't without flaws. Ray's family, especially his ex-wife Jessica (played by Anne Heche), don't really seem to fit in at all and more often than not, scenes featuring them come off as far too sitcommy. Ray's kids are teenagers still trying to find themselves (think "goth") and his ex-wife is about as annoying and clingy as they come. It's clear that they were fashioned with the plan to be the foil to the rest of Ray's life, but the dissimilarities perhaps went too far and it ends up alienating the viewer, as well.
Co-created by Dmitry Lipkin, the man behind The Riches, Hung features a lot of the same "family first even though everything else is F'ed up" humor as the late FX drama. You care about Ray and you want him to succeed even though you sort of abhor how he's earning an extra buck. Much in the same way you balked at Wayne Malloy's attempts at normalcy. However, at the end of the day, isn't that what we all want? To be normal and just to live a normal life? Tanya hit the nail on the head, when at one point during the second episode, she questions Ray what he's willing and not willing to do in bed. Ray says that he's a normal guy who'll do normal things. To which Tanya asks, "What's normal?"
Hung premieres this Sunday, 6/28, at 10:00PM ET on HBO.