HBO’s new series, “Hung,” is a pitch-perfect cure for the tedious summer re-run blues.
The series introduces us to Ray Drecker, who is played by Thomas Jane (“Dreamcatcher,” “The Punisher”). Drecker is a down on his luck high school teacher, who is having serious cash flow problems, which is made worse by an electrical fire that burns his house down.
The only way to solve his money issues is to earn cash using his best tool, which is referred to in the title of the sitcom.
Jane is impressive in this change of pace role for him. It’s always surprising when a new layer to an actor is discovered by them taking a chance on something offbeat and whimsically funny. The only hint of Jane’s ability to do comedy previously seen was his guest appearance in the final season of “Arrested Development.”
Jane Adams (“Little Children”) is an amazing discovery for the series and portrays Tanya Skagle. Adams has actually been in the business for a long time with appearances that date back to the mid- 1980s, but “Hung” finally offers this actress a meaty and significant role.
Skagle is a down and out poet with bad ideas such as inserting poems inside baked goods. Her only good idea comes out of an act of aggression during which she insists Drecker should market the only thing he can do right.
Later on she realizes that may be a nice chance for her to earn some extra bucks – by managing him.
Yes, that makes her his pimp.
This is pulled off sensibly, but provocatively and helps give the show the flair it needs to keep audiences hooked. One may even make the argument that the interaction between these characters is what makes up the majority of humor in the pilot and has the potential to grow with the show.
Because of this, HBO has is a unique chance at something audiences have not seen, which is a funny and insightful look at the world of male escorts from the personal view of the equally charming and pitiful Drecker.
What initially sounds sleazy comes off surprisingly well, as it also focuses on his personal life. He is fundamentally a good man that cares deeply for his two children and needs the money to prove that he can be a good father to himself.
The biggest flaw is in the casting of the two teenagers. They don’t provide much sympathy or interest when on-screen, especially during a scene where the son, inducing boredom as Charlie Saxton (“The Happening”), visits his father in what seems like a friendly visit but actually just came to ask for 50 bucks.
What may interest some viewers about the two teens is that they don’t look like sitcom children at all with their unkempt attire, ultimately placing this show 180 degrees away from classic television sitcoms like, “The Cosby Show”.
A promising pilot is not enough to determine if a series will be a winner and to prove that, one needs to look no further then NBC’s “My Name is Earl.”
However, “Hung” has enough potential to put it in the upright position that may keep viewers coming back for more.
We’ll just have to see if it can deliver on that promise.
Everyone knows Thomas Jane is a charismatic actor, but it seems that he’s holding something back in the pilot of “Hung.” Maybe it’s not him though, maybe it’s the script. There’s some promising on-screen chemistry apparent as well, but it lacks the combustion needed to be a real hit.
“True Blood” this is not.
However, that doesn’t mean “Hung” doesn’t have what it takes to be an enjoyable show, it just currently lacks several of the key elements a show needs in order to survive. For instance, “Hung” is a comedy, but produced more giggles in its pilot than sure-fire laughter. It’s also smart and witty and far less over the top than you would think a show about a man’s ding dong would be, making it hard to justify what kind of niche audience this show could have in the future if it doesn’t find a real identity soon.
Are these bad things?
No. It just means that “Hung” may need a few episodes to pick up some steam.
-Patrick Hickey Jr.