Friday, September 3, 2010

Nearly Overlooked -- Terrific Female Performances on HBO's "Hung"

Though the show is often far from being merely the titillating sexual thrill that its title promises, HBO's Hung features a trio of don't-miss ladies -- make no mistake, they're the ones with the balls in this show. Hung's mostly unsung lead actresses toil in relative obscurity, but not for any lack of talent or excellence. Hung hasn't quite risen to the level of cultural touchpoint and probably won't, but that doesn't mean this 'male pimp and the women who love him' premise isn't worth watching.

Star Thomas Jane is fine as the well-endowed high school coach Ray, and this season he's getting some good competition from co-star Gregg Henry as fellow coach Mike Hunt (say it fast) who's unknowingly embroiled in an almost poignant man-for-hire relationship that Ray has blown off. Of even more interest are Jane Adams as Ray's pimp Tanya, Anne Heche as Ray's ex-wife (who has discovered old feelings bubbling up again), and Rebecca Creskoff as Lenore, Ray's other pimp. Creskoff casts a voluptuous visual aura similar to Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, and in fact she guested on two early MM episodes as the older sister of Rachel Katz, Don's department store heiress squeeze.

Jane Adams is a ragged thread as Tanya, nearly unraveling then getting it back together. She's always superb as she's found herself nearly overshadowed by Ray's business and personal relationship with the more aggressive Lenore. Anne Heche as Jessica is playing out a great storyline now. Her character is not exactly unhappily but surely mundanely married to a kind but average-looking big-bucks dermatologist (played so well by Eddie Jemmison) who of course knows deep down he bought himself a gorgeous wife. Jessica can't seem to get Ray off her mind, and in the last episode she ended up going moonlight swimming with him at the lake by their old house.

Hung has been praised for its neurotic verve, mostly thanks to Jane Adams incredible Tanya, and for its morose and cynical take on modern sexual relations. I'm all for that. Is it funny? All the half-hour so-called "comedies" on HBO or on Showtime are hardly that, or at least not always nearly that. It's their complexity that makes them so addicting and, especially..when they fail as comedy they're even better.

The Season Two finale of Hung will air on Sunday, September 12th at 11pm, on HBO.

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