Hung, HBO’s new comedy debuting at 10 p.m. on June 28, follows a broke high school coach who becomes a male prostitute to leverage his God-given “gift.” The show isn’t as sordid as one might think. It’s also not as funny or innovative as the saucy title portends.
The comedy’s true gift is star Thomas Jane, who imbues the main character with the type of relatable flaws that set him apart from most small-screen protagonists. He plays Ray Drecker, a basketball coach suffering a mid-life crisis and economic meltdown all at once. Ray’s surly ex-wife (Anne Heche) married up and has little need to be nice to her former beau. Ray’s house just caught fire, forcing him to sleep in a tent in his backyard. His job seems secure, but it’s barely enough to pay off all his bills. Plus, he’s trying to get custody of his two kids but needs to rebuild his home before that can ever happen.
A quick visit to a motivational speaker (Seinfeld semi-regular Steve Hytner) inspires a possible solution, one that doesn’t require any market research. His “personal” endowment could be just the ticket to economic recovery. He gets an assist from a former one-night stand, a struggling poet named Tanya (the fine indie actress Jane Adams) who is trying to carve out a career on her own terms. Tanya offers to serve as Ray’s pimp, marketing his visitations as a happiness consultant. Ray doesn’t know if this new line of work is for him, but not for any ethical reasons. He’s just not a quick study when it comes to wooing strange women.
Hung strains to capture the zeitgeist, and setting the show in recession-rocked Detroit is a strong step in that direction. It’s also refreshing to see a story not centered in either New York or Los Angeles. No one is drinking appletinis here.
Ray’s voice-over kicks off Hung with a conservative streak — possibly the last one viewers are likely to see. Ray refuses to blame others for his plight. It’s how he was raised — you make do with whatever tools God gave you. But Ray isn’t very bright. He’s a mediocre coach, from what we can tell from his locker room speeches, and he’s clearly not Father of the Year material.