Phallic Phailure: Why HBO's "Hung" Left Me Limp
Monday, June 29, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Okay, okay, I promise that the title of this post is the first and last dick joke I'll make today. That having been said, don't expect the same courtesy from the new HBO show "Hung", which takes every opportunity to make juvenile penis jokes (sample joke: the get-rich seminar that inspires Ray to become a man-whore is led by a guy who encourages the audience to find their "special tool" that will help them succeed).

Now, I'm not going to get into a big debate about prostitution, how it's portrayed in Hollywood, why joking about having a pimp isn't funny, etc etc. For me, I hear "comedy + man whore" and think, "Yeah, I will watch that." So, I tuned in to the pilot episode last night to check it out.

The general premise of the show is this: Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane, a.k.a. "poor man's Aaron Eckhart") is a down-on-his-luck guy who happens to have a massive schlong. So he decides, as one does, to put his giant penis to good use as a male prostitute. Aiding him in this is Tanya (Jane Adams, a.k.a. "Niles' wife who he dumped for Daphne on Frasier"), who offers up her services as a pimp.

The pilot episode spends most of its time setting up how Ray ends up as a male prostitute. We find out that Ray is in financial trouble, has a shrew of an ex-wife (played by Anne Heche, who is looking... not so hot these days), and has recently suffered through a house fire that has forced him to live in a tent in his backyard as he struggles to find the money to pay for the repairs to the house. We are also reminded several times that Ray has a big dick, since... duh, that's the title of the show.

Long story short: Ray runs into Tanya, a former one night stand, at a get-rich-quick seminar. They have another one-night stand, there's a big stupid fight where Tanya is annoying and Ray is a prick, yadda yadda yadda, but the end result is that Tanya inadvertently inspires Ray to give male prostitution a try. He fails miserably - in the one moment that really kicked ass, we see the client peer through the keyhole at Ray, decide he's not worthy, and then reject him via a note slipped under the door with a 50 dollar bill clipped to it. Tanya pops up again, Ray shares the story with her, and she offers to help him market himself better. We leave the pilot episode with Ray agreeing to take Tanya on as his pimp.

Things I liked:
  • Thomas Jane is an appealing lead.
  • While his kids looked nothing like him, I appreciate that they're a little chubby, and the son is a total goth kid. In other words, they look like real teenagers for once.
  • The adventures of a man-whore has a lot of comedic potential.
  • Setting the show in Detroit is a brilliant idea and perhaps future episodes will show more about how the financial crisis has really destroyed that city.
Things I didn't like:
  • Ray is kind of a dick. The show constantly references what hot shit he was in high school, like that's supposed to give him some sort of right to be awesome for the rest of his adult life. His main grievance with his ex-wife's new husband seems to be that the new husband used to be a dork in high school. I'll quote Mo Ryan from the Chicago Tribune here: "Back when he lettered in three sports and was a prospect for the major leagues, Ray 'tasted and came close to greatness,' as he puts it in a voice-over. So?"
  • We're supposed to feel bad for him, but really... what kind of guy can't make ends meet on a teacher's salary in freaking Detroit, especially since he lives in his parents' old house (which I can only assume is completely paid for)? Most of his financial troubles seem brought upon himself. For example, he can't repair the house, because he was too lazy to keep up with his insurance payments. He's depressed that he can't lend his son fifty dollars for concert tickets, but somehow manages to find enough money to take one of those get-rich seminars that they host in stuffy conference rooms at the airport Howard Johnson.
  • He seems upset about losing custody of his kids, and we're supposed to think that Anne Heche's character is just being a big bitch about the whole thing. However, since Ray pretty much expected to kids to literally live in tents with him on his lawn (after his own negligence caused the fire that nearly killed them - too many cords plugged in, and battery taken out of the fire alarm), I'm not sure why any sane person WOULDN'T take Anne Heche's side here.
  • This might be just me, but is there that big of a market for a guy whose only skill seems to be the possession of a big dick? I mean, no one really talked much about his aptitude in the bedroom. Apparently just being well-hung is supposed to be enough for most women? I would have thought something like "super skilled forked tongue" would make more sense, but maybe HBO just couldn't come up with a pithy title to communicate that...
Overall, the show has potential, but the pilot episode failed to dazzle me. While I'll be giving it a few more episodes - since I believe that a show sometimes needs a few episodes to really find its feet - I'm not sure that this one is a "must watch" for me.

Episode 1 grade: C+
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