You know it won’t be a boring remember-the-catering-that-day commentary when someone asks, “Do you really want to see the penis?”
Creator Colette Burson then explains that “the perfect penis is very subjective” to her co-creator and fellow executive producer Dmitry Lipkin, who also happens to be her husband. It’s this mixing of the mundane and domestic with naughty humour that makes Hung a fitting HBO bedfellow.
HBO might host this show, but the chronicle of a down-on-his-luck basketball coach turning to prostitution could easily fill a slot on rival network Showtime. That channel cornered the market in ribald 30- minuters and Hung would make a fitting triple-bill with Californication and Weeds.
Burson and Lipkin have cannily used a sex-themed Trojan horse to sneak a character-piece in front of HBO audiences. It makes perfect sense that Sideways director Alexander Payne helmed the pilot (the best episode), even if the series as a whole doesn’t quite carry off Payne’s usual pained realism.
Hung also takes a sordid swipe at the American Dream – if you can’t pursue happiness you can at least get paid for getting laid. “We just wanted to write about a normal guy,” explains Burson in ‘About Hung’.
“He’s got nothing going for him – except a big dick. The fun comes from taking two ordinary people who decide to become a pimp and a ho.” The pair are Ray – Thomas Jane, giving a career-high performance by making a misogynistic jock vulnerable and sympathetic – and Happiness’s Jane Adams, as washed-up poet Tanya.
Add Anne Heche (best she’s been in years) as Ray’s histrionic ex-wife – “In high school you were young and exciting and talented... and HUNG. Now you’re just hung!” – and the template is set.
The problem is, while always amiable, touching and funny, Hung never crescendos, petering out with developments that are too obvious to be truly satisfying.
It’s not that you’ll regret staying with it, more that there’s no sharp pang of denial once it finishes (unlike Showtime’s dynamic duo or HBO’s big-boy hour-longs).
The extras are the same – solid, worth watching but never exceeding expectations. Commentaries are the highlight, making you wish the show were a smidgen better in response.
There are a few mentions of the second season (which is currently airing across the pond), so here’s hoping Ray’s prodigious schlong has more staying power second time out. Maybe we’ll even get to see it...
Thomas Jane is near note-perfect as the suburban man-ho whose series never gets past half-mast.