Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hung [television review]

* Currently airing first season on HBO & HBO Canada
TV show titles don't get much more provocative than Hung, currently nearing the end of its first season run on HBO (it has been picked up already for a second season). The half hour dramedy stars Thomas Jane as Ray Drecker, a down on his luck high school basketball coach who's glory years are well behind him. Ray used to be a star athlete in his high school days, married the prettiest girl in school and had a bright future before an injury dashed hopes of a professional sports career. Fast forward to the present day and Ray is just struggling to tread water in his daily life. His wife (played by Anne Heche) left him and took the kids, his house was almost burnt down (forcing him to inhabit a tent in the backyard), he has money problems and he doesn't enjoy his job. The job, naturally, is at his old high school, a cruel daily reminder of glory days long since passed. Frustrated with his situation Ray, via a series of events, hooks up with Tanya, a former one night stand (played by Jane Adams) and they decide to go into business together, with Tanya acting as Ray's pimp as they plan to exploit and market Ray's greatest attribute - the size of his manhood.
The show is obviously high concept, but on a week to week basis the story lines play out as believable and transcend the gimmickry of the idea. Jane does a great job in his portrayal of a middle-aged man doing his damndest to stave off defeat. As an actor, Jane has seemed poised at various times to cash in his good looks, acting talent and general likeability into an A-list career, but he's never been able to pull it off. A high profile starring role in The Punisher went nowhere and in recent years he's been relegated to forgettable fare, like a 2007 remake of The Mist. Nothing else in his career has matched up to his great performance as Mickey Mantle in 2001's 61*, oddly enough being another HBO production.
The supporting cast is strong, with Adams creating great chemistry with Jane as the lonely, awkward artist who sees pimping Ray out as a possibly lucrative means to supplement her dream of one day attaining success with a line of baked goods with poems hidden inside, what she calls her "lyric bread". Heche is reliably cold and bitchy as the ex and Rebecca Creskoff is a standout with her recurring Lenore character, always good for some foul language and heaps of attitude.
Hung has definite similarities to another pay cable drama, AMC's Breaking Bad, not to mention Showtime's excellent Weeds. If you're a fan of either of these then Hung is worth a viewing.
Rating: 7.5/10

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