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Television Collision: Hung Up on Hung

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageOne of my favorite Summer Shows of last year returned to the air two weeks ago and so I thought I would go back and re-post my original article about this great show's memorable finale. I am, of course, talking about yet another HBO show, namely Hung. I strongly suggest you tune in this time around if you have missed it last summer. It's fairly easy to catch up on and very entertaining to be hung up on.

As the rush of summer finale week still lingers in my head, I am anxiously awaiting the two-hour season premiere of House tonight and some other favs coming back later this week. So a rave or a rant about House will have to wait till next week, then what to write about instead…?
(I suppose some would expect an Emmy column this week, but to be frank, I didn't get into them this year. I suppose the right people won, and if they didn't, eh, no sweat off my back. I'll still like what I like.)

I know I had previously closed the chapter of Summer TV for this year, but let me just add an addendum, after all that’s what they’re for. Surprisingly enough the finale of a summer show that stuck with me the most was the one from the provocatively-titled HBO show Hung, which aired last week. (I told you HBO is awesome.)

Hung was off to a bumpy start, in my opinion, the opening pilot (an hour long, i.e. double the normal runtime) didn’t do the show to follow justice at all, but now I am glad I stuck with the awkward humor and surprisingly real characters. I am also glad the show has been renewed to come back next summer, but let me take things in order.

First off, the premise, for all who missed this little gem of a show: Ray Drecker (played by the adequately average-looking Thomas Jane) is a high school teacher and basketball coach, whose wife has left him for a dermatologist, whose house has burned down, whose son is figuring out he may be gay and whose daughter is dating an asshole. But Ray has one thing going for him, he is hung.

So after his wife takes the teenaged kids away, because they can’t live in a burnt out house, Ray pitches up his tent in the backyard, goes to renovating the house himself (see, it’s his parents’ old house, he loves it very much) and attends a seminar on how to become a millionaire utilizing your own unique talent. At this seminar he meets Tanya, an unsuccessful poet, whose brilliant marketing idea is “Lyric Bread”, and who eventually becomes Ray’s pimp.
Together they found “Happiness Consultants” and attempt to both make a living off Ray’s big genitalia.

The premise alone is giggle-worthy to me. The story has all kinds of twists and turns, but none of them are overly “written”, if you catch my drift. The school Ray works at has financial troubles, how realistic, and so he is in danger of losing his job. Tanya is stuck in a job she hates, how realistic, but she has to pay the bills somehow and eventually one of her ex-colleagues from this horrible job, Lenore, actually helps out in getting “Happiness Consultants” off the ground.

The strength of Hung lies in its relationships, as does the strength of any show that is worth a damn. The friendship/partnership/relationship between Ray and Tanya is the source for most of the humor as well as the warmth of the show. Tanya is quintessentially dorky and awkward, while Ray used to be a star athlete and is now down on his luck. They make such an unlikely and yet ultimately sensible “couple”, that it’s hard not to love the dynamic between them after an episode or two. Tanya is insecure to the very last bone and Ray can teach her something about “faking confidence”, because he does it all the time. In return Tanya teaches Ray about sensitivity and thinking with his head instead of his dick.

The fact that Tanya may or may not have romantic feelings for Ray only adds another layer. Sometimes we trick ourselves into believing we like someone simply because no one else has come along in quite a while.
In any case, Ray is still hung up (pun intended) on his ex-wife Jessica (played by Anne Heche).

Jessica is an annoying presence throughout most of the first season of Hung, but annoying in the way that you don’t want her to go away, you just want to figure out what’s gotten her so wound up. She is neurotic and spoiled and very clumsy when it comes to talking to her kids about their lives, but she is not without charm. You can tell she is as much down on her luck as Ray is, just in a different way. She used to be the popular cheerleader in high school, who dated the jock and was voted Prom Queen, but now her life isn’t nearly as glamorous or as simple as that anymore.


Yeah, my kids are weird, but I love ’em!

In what had to be the most touching moment of the season, Jessica and Ray share a phone call in which they talk largely about superficial platitudes, but have a subtext that speaks volumes.

The situation is more than awkward, because Jessica has befriended Tanya’s ex-colleague Lenore, who has in turn recommended “Happiness Consultants” to Jessica, because she is unhappy in her marriage to the dermatologist. So when Ray shows up at the hotel where he is supposed to meet his “new client”, he spots Jessica in the lobby and follows her upstairs.
Then he stands outside the room she is waiting in for her “consultant” – completely ignorant of the fact that it is Ray – and he calls her to tell her that he thinks he is a pretty good dad and she is a pretty good mom. He thanks her for picking up the phone at all, because it didn’t always used to be the case. And as both characters stare blankly ahead wondering how they ended up where they are, the thought just hits you, the viewer, of how sucky, wacky, sad, trivial and yet glorious life can be.

To create a moment of such simple and yet poignant and powerful truth takes a whole lot of talent and time, two things a lot of people don’t expect from TV. Hung is one of those shows that grows on you and then proves you right for expecting “something more” from TV all along. You may not notice it in the moment, but I feel the show has a lot to say about normal life, as bizarre as that sounds when you are talking about a guy who is pimping himself out somewhere in the Midwest of the USA.

Of course Hung has the appropriate amount of sex for the scenario it paints, but it isn’t as exploitative of it as one could likely assume. As in life, sex is an aspect of the show, but not its entire point.

I strongly recommend you catch up on the first season over the Christmas lull and then look forward to another summer being hung up on Hung.



Recommended Collisions with your Television

(combine at will, all times EST, only new programming listed)


Tuesday, July 7th
 8 p.m.  Pretty Little Liars (ABCFam)
 9 p.m.  
 10 p.m.  Law & Order: Criminal Intent (USA)
Wednesday, July 8th
 8 p.m.  So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
 9 p.m.  
 10 p.m.  Hot In Cleveland (TVLand)
   In Plain Sight (USA)
Thursday, July 9th  
 8 p.m.
 9 p.m.  So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
   Rookie Blue (ABC)
   Burn Notice (USA)
 10 p.m.  Royal Pains (USA)
   Boston Med (ABC)
Friday, July 10th
 8 p.m.  Friday Night Lights (NBC)
 9 p.m.  
 10 p.m.  Party Down (Starz)
   Miami Medical (CBS)
   Merlin (SyFy)
Saturday, July 11th
Sunday, July 13th
 9 p.m.  True Blood (HBO)
   Scoundrels (ABC)
   The Tudors (SHowtime)
 10 p.m.  Army Wives (Lifetime)
   The Gates (ABC)
   Hung (HBO)
   Leverage (TNT)
 10:30 p.m.  Entourage (HBO)
Monday, July 14th
 8 p.m.  Persons Unknown (NBC)
 9 p.m.  The Good Guys (Fox)
   Huge (ABCFam)
 10 p.m.