HBO’s Hung Not Ready for Prime Time
If you have to ask what this comedy is about after hearing the title, it isn't for you.
June 28, 2009 - 12:09 am
His teen children are aggressively non-photogenic, another television rarity. His son paints his fingernails black and cries after confronting his sister’s ex-beau. Said sister is overweight and grumpy. It it really worth becoming a male prostitute to spend more time with this duo?
Ray is staring failure in the face, and it didn’t have to end up this way. Years ago he was his high school team’s star, and he flirted with a professional sports career before injuries forced him into coaching. It’s a fascinating element, reminiscent of John Updike’s iconic Harry Angstrom character in his Rabbit novels. What happens to the high school superstar once real life takes over?
But Hung isn’t up for the challenge, at least not yet. The show’s early episodes focus on the silly back and forth between Ray and Tanya. If a romance eventually blooms between the two, all the better. But for now their exchanges hardly set off sparks. The performances prove inconsistent, and the show cries out for the kind of standout supporting player to spark the comedic elements. For a moment it seems like Hytner’s character could be the show’s saving grace, but he’s rarely used throughout the first few episodes. Heche plucks the same dour note as Ray’s ex. The actress isn’t a warm on-screen presence to begin with, and her character seems like a compendium of bitter ex-wife clichés sprung to life.
Jane’s Ray is Hung’s biggest selling point. He’s average in nearly every way possible. He grouses when he’s forced to wear a suit for his appointments. He’s also a bit of a pig, like when he blanches at an assignment involving a portly woman. The show seems destined for Ray to appreciate women better the more he gets to know them in the Biblical sense.
Naturally, the consequences of Ray’s new profession are given little attention. Could his customers give him a sexually transmitted disease, or vice versa? Isn’t he risking his career by dabbling in prostitution?
Still, Hung isn’t a lost cause. Jane is a formidable anchor for an adult-themed program, and the material can still be spun into a number of complex storylines.
So far, any moral wrangling is MIA. How would a middle-aged, middle American embrace such an extreme second job without asking himself if what he’s doing is right? It’s a question left unanswered, and until Hung comes within shouting distance of it the show appears destined for mediocrity.