Sunday's other treat (besides TrueBlood) on HBO is Hung, starring Thomas Jane and Jane Adams. I believe the whole thing rests on the appeal of Thomas Jane and the semi-eccentric Jane Adams, and they are up to it. Somewhat mining the same ground, but at a very different malaise level, as AMC's incredible Breaking Bad -- both about underpaid high school teachers and what they have to do to make ends meet -- Hung is not at all merely the dirty joke that its title would imply.
While Walt on Breaking Bad has always been under the economic gun -- he's a brainy guy who chose to teach high school chemistry, and loved it -- Ray from Hung is a former jock who coaches high school sports. Ray once "had it all" -- good looks, beauty queen wife, all the undeserved accolades thrown at sports-types in modern-day America -- but it's all crashed and burned (literally) around him.
As everything else that made him a man is broken down and taken away -- his wife, his house, his children -- the only thing he has left is his actual manhood. His penis is basically all that he has left of his masculine identity, at least that's how he sees it. Lucky for him it's a big one, and it becomes his money-making idea, just as Walt in BB turns to manufacturing drugs to dig out of his economic hole.
Hung lacks the heartbreaking sense of pathos that informs every second of Breaking Bad, but the best parts of Hung are the moments where Ray is camped out in a tent next to his burned-out house, alone and pretty much at hope's end. Where BB is a complex and dramatic descent into Walt's change of character, Hung (so far at least) is a sympathetic portrait of a guy who thought he had everything -- Walt never thought he had everything, and it's only gotten worse from there -- and his amusing solution to try to get back on his feet by putting women on their backs.
I was happy to see more skin in the last episodes as compared to the pilot which was quite chaste, and I also enjoyed Jane Adams as Tanya and her attempts to put a little more polish into Ray's foreplay and seduction skills. Though Ray is well-endowed, he seems not to be the best lover in a technical sense, which is kind of an interesting character flaw.
I recommend the show. Thomas Jane is appealing, Jane Adams is fresh and unusual as she plays an over-educated poetess who has to work in a deadly office environment to survive, and Anne Heche is always a concise presence onscreen. Even the character of her earnest dermatologist husband, played by Eddie Jemison, isn't the complete fool he might have been. He's written as a nice nerd who by virtue of his profession and its monetary rewards gets to marry the beauty queen, something that would only happen because of his salary, and I think he knows it. However, I am happy to see Ray's next-door neighbor consistently played as an ass; he's built a McMansion next to Ray's parents' spot and wants to buy the house and raze it. (Hang in there, Ray. Don't let that bastard have it!) I also have to applaud the casting of two genuinely unique young actors -- Charlie Saxton and Sianoa Smit-McPhee -- as Ray's twin children.
Here's the opening title sequence to give you a taste of the show -- and a glimpse of Thomas Jane's behind:
And although it may be unwatchable or maybe that's merely unbearable, considering the source, here's a clip of Thomas Jane and Jane Adams on a recent episode of The View:
Hung airs on HBO Sunday nights at 10pm, following TrueBlood. Visit HBO's Hung website for more show information and video.
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