Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hung, "Pilot": Tool, shed

Spoilers for the premiere episode of "Hung" coming up just as soon as I refine my search engine terms...
"Here's an idea: you want to be a millionaire, why don't you go market your d--k?" -Tanya
"She definitely meant it as an insult, but somehow, I couldn't get the idea out of my head." -Ray, narrating
I talked a lot about the reasons why I like this show in my review on Thursday, so I just want to hit a few points here and see what you all thought of it.

The first is the charming, utterly self-deprecating performance by Thomas Jane as Ray. Not many actors could make a guy this pathetic -- even someone who recognizes and even embraces his own pathetic nature -- as likable as he does, nor could many make him seem as human even as he's being such an imbecile in so many ways. He and Jane Adams (and the double-Jane thing is going to get confusing in future blog entries, I fear) work very well together, and I loved his reaction to her excessive climaxing, and then having to listen to her post-coital poetry.

The second is that patience is going to be required here. Again, look at "Breaking Bad" as the model, and not just because both deal with high school teachers resorting to a life of crime to pay the bills. "Hung" is going to take its time getting Ray's career as a male prostitute(*) -- and Tanya's parallel career as a pimp -- off the ground. As "Breaking Bad" has shown (and as "The Wire" has, though I'm not yet prepared to set the bar remotely that high), series that show a little patience in depicting people learning how to do their jobs can reap big rewards as their characters get better at them. I've seen Ray make some progress in his man-whoring in later episodes, and it feels much more satisfying than if things had worked out just fine with the lady in the hotel who slipped the 50 under the door for his trouble.

(*) And if you're of a certain age, you can't hear that phrase without thinking of Dan Aykroyd as the decidedly less-glamorous Fred Garvin: Male Prostitute.)

The third, which I didn't have room to deal with much in the column, is that Ray's ex-wife and maybe his kids are on probation for me. Anne Heche is usually an acquired taste for me (while I didn't like "Men in Trees," it at least seemed to dial back her quirks a bit), and the role of Jessica seems to play to her more annoying qualities.

But for me, the show is about the reluctant partnership between Ray and Tanya, and the interplay between our two acting Janes, and I look forward to seeing more.

Keep in mind that the show isn't on next week because of the holiday weekend. (Which makes premiering it tonight odd, other than that the extra length would mean "Entourage" might need to be pushed back another week.)

What did everybody else think?

30 comments:

LA said...

I'm glad you cautioned patience because I was kind of bored until Tanya came into the story. Their chemistry is intriguing. Anne Heche grates on my very last nerve. I hope her contribution is minimal.

TimmyD said...

I liked the Gatsby reference with Ray looking across the water at the flashing green light.

Owen said...

I've loved Jane Adams ever since "Relativity". Maybe she's finally found an interesting role. Being the big screen go-to for "pathetic" must pay the bills, but she's got to be sick of it by now.

I'm really looking forward to Hung because of her chemistry with Thomas Jane.

I was not a fan of The Riches. I thought it had a wonderful premise and wonderful actors, but that the writers had a lack of imagination. I'm hoping I won't feel the same about Hung.

Myles said...

Heh, funny you mention Gatsby, TimmyD - I hadn't picked up on it, but it fits with what Alan observes in his original review about the way the show has something broader to say about the death of the fantasy of the American dream, and how the death of Ray's own fantasies (playing pro ball, a loving wife and family, etc.) is kind of a microcosm of that (although it's anything but micro - hey-oh) - okay, all Alan said was that it said something about 21st century America, but watching it had me building on it for my own review.

I dug it, in the end - no, it wasn't particularly funny, but it was doing enough subtle thematic work amidst its glaringly broad logline that I was quite engaged by it all.

Looking forward to seeing how many inadvertant double entendres I use when reviewing the show. I haven't felt this handcuffed in using the English language since...see, even the start of that sentence just seems like it's taking me down a dangerous path. This show'll be the death of me.

Henderson said...

I know it should be a minor point but I couldn't get past it -- Do you know how cold it is in Michigan during boys basketball season?

Sonia said...

My husband was not very interested in seeing this show, but at the end, he said, that was pretty funny, I'd keep watching.

I loved Thomas Jane in 61*, and almost didn't even recognize him here as the same guy. Great job!

I also hope Anne Heche is used very minimally -- she is so annoying.

Andy said...

I enjoyed the show. It wasn't that funny, but I can see this being more of an interesting half-drama/half-comedy type of show. Ray and Tanya are definitely characters I will enjoy watching.

Brent said...

As is usually the case, I did not like Anne Heche, but I thought the kids were fine. That is to say, they struck me as pretty typical teenagers in the sense that they were far more focused on their own needs than with whatever happens to be going on with their parents. I thought they still managed to be pretty likable despite that.

I did think it was an interesting choice to make them twins and both significantly heavier set than their parents. They certainly aren't the obvious choice to play the children of a former beauty queen and a former athlete.

word verification choice: "fatess"

jasctt said...

still not wasting my precious time on this dreck but I do love me some Jane Adams and it's tempting to tune in for her and, BTW, Fred Garvin is a STUD!!!

Anonymous said...

@jasctt: If your time is so precious what are you doing posting in the comments section of a show you don't want to waste time watching?

groovekiller said...



Alan said:

"Which makes premiering it tonight odd, other than that the extra length would mean "Entourage" might need to be pushed back another week."



So intended double entendre or unintended?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Unavoidable, really.

Toby O'B said...

The kids are adopted, right? I just couldn't buy them as being the kids of either Jane or Heche.

Ray used the Finder-Spyder search engine, so as a fan of TV crossovers alone, that kept me hooked. (Wikipedia has a list of shows linked by it.) But Thomas Jane and Jane Adams look like they'll make it worthwhile to check back in again.

JanieJones said...

I felt the pilot was entertaining because of Thomas Jane and Jane Adams. I,too, hope Adams has found a role to sink her teeth and make a mark. I've always felt both had talent but it was never showcased with few exceptions. The kids were self-absorbed enough to be believable. However, I will agree with some that say their appearance does not fit with a former jock and beauty queen.
Heche is annoying. I hope she is not utilized to the tenth degree. Kristen Bauer was originally scripted to play that role and I would have liked to have seen what she could have done instead of Heche.
Isn't the American dream falling down around all of us? I enjoyed the Gatsby reference that a fellow poster pointed out, good catch!

dez said...

Some kids will frequently be the "opposites" of their parents, so I don't have a problem with the twins not being jock and beauty queen MiniMes. Heche looked like a drowned cat at that party, so I wasn't seeing the beauty queen in her anyway :-)

I'm surprised Ray didn't like having relations with a woman who constantly praised the size of his manhoond and had multiple orgasms because of it. I would think most men would get off (ha) on the ego trip? For a jock, he's not very conceited :-)

Oh, and I liked it enough to tune in again. Thomas Jane has a lot of goodwill from me based on "The Mist" and the five seconds I got to talk to him at a DVD signing for said film (and also for the way he handled the paparazzi at that signing, which was just after he'd been popped for DUI).

Anonymous said...

I always come here to read Alan's review and the comments after a show has premiered. I am always a bit shocked by the tone, which to me seems to be, "I'm doing everything I can to find an angle to like what is clearly mediocre at best. After all, what else is there to do tonight but watch television?" Is life's goal to fill out the time until we die, in half hour to an hour increments of distraction? Here, to my way of thinking, would be a sign of good mental and spiritual health: You look for an angle to shut the TV off, rather than to leave it on. For example, your life is not enriched by spending a half hour finding out if Vince is able to help Turtle get those designer sneakers he wants. I think Alan himself sets this tone. And it makes sense for him. He's a critic, paid to watch television. He might as well try to make the best of it. Still, there are loftier approaches to critical analysis than being an advocate for the mindless consumption of worthless television at the expense of everything else in your life. As a matter of fact, there may be no approach a critic could take that is lower. And as Alan's writing on The Sopranos proved, he's quite capable of better. But, I guess he's found an angle to justify being another critic who serves the television industry (which is kind of the opposite of being a critic, when you think about it). That angle he's found may very well be as simple as, "I likes feeding my family." What I'm wondering is, what's everybody else's excuse? Is it really, "I treasure my time spent watching 'Untied States of Tara', "Entourage' and "Parks and Recreation" so much, everything else in the world will just have to wait"?

Jojo said...

Being from Detroit, I pretty much fell in love with this show the moment they showed Lafayette Coney Island in the opening credit sequence. I also loved Ray describing Detroit as "the headwaters of a river of failure". So sad, but so true.

Nicole said...

I grew up in Windsor and so seeing Tiger Stadium torn down was poignant for me and helped set the tone of the show. I liked the pilot and Thomas Jane certainly has the charisma to carry this show. I found Heche irritating as well, but her character is probably part of the reason. I don't care if we don't see much of her in the future.

I was reminded of Weeds while watching, or at least the first few seasons, where it's basically a gender reversal of a divorced parent who has to go to extreme means to eek out a living.

I don't know if the series will be filmed in the Detroit area or if it's only set up shots, but I don't mind programs that show the area is more than just abandoned crackhouses.

Hatfield said...

One might also wonder if there are better ways to fill up the time before death than to go to a TV blog and insult the author and his readers. Just sayin...

A friend recorded this for me, I hope it proves worthwhile

Brent said...

Here, to my way of thinking, would be a sign of good mental and spiritual health: You look for an angle to shut the TV off, rather than to leave it on.

Well since one doesn't need to look for a reason to stop doing something that they are not enjoying, I honestly have no idea why this approach would be considered a sign of good mental health at all. On the contrary, it would seem to indicate that someone is suffering from an unhealthy compulsion to do things they do not like and must therefore force themselves to do otherwise.

In any case, Hung may or may not turn out to be a good show. I enjoyed the first episode but others will have to decide for themselves whether it rises above or falls below one's standard of mediocrity. One of the things that interests me however is that it is the first show that I have seen in a long time that actually attempts to grapple with middle class financial anxiety in a semi-serious way. Weeds might count but it is really more absurdist and farcical and Nancy Botwin's biggest problems are not really about money but greed.

I can actually empathize with the desperation and humiliation that Thomas Jane's character feels has forced him into a corner. I hope they really explore those corners going forward because I think its an important American story and one that is elided from most of our cultural narratives where it seems that everyone, aside from inner city criminals, always has plenty of financial freedom to do almost anything they want.

So Cal said...

Going to stick with it.

Only problem i had, and seems a lot of us did, was Heche. I really don't find her likeable in anything she is in and this character is pretty damn annoying so far. Hopefully they give her more to do and she grows in the role, or they toss the character to the side.

JoeE said...

Also, surely I can't be the first one notice that Tom Jane's character actually does want his kids back (and is temporarily homeless, to boot!).

Brent said...

Also, surely I can't be the first one notice that Tom Jane's character actually does want his kids back

What do you mean? Why is that so remarkable?

JoeE said...

It's an Arrested Development joke (assuming you're not being facetious). Only fans will get it.

Brent said...

It's an Arrested Development joke

Ah I see. A bit of Bluth family humor. A bit too subtle for me I'm afraid.

Craig Ranapia said...

Here, to my way of thinking, would be a sign of good mental and spiritual health: You look for an angle to shut the TV off, rather than to leave it on.

Anon: While I'm a believer is Sturgeon's Law (“Ninety percent of everything is crud"), how about we do Alan the courtesy of assuming that when he give a show a mixed but generally positive review he's writing in good faith?

While there are plenty of people out there who are happy to put their by-lines on reheated press releases, I personally find the kind of knee-jerk curmudgeon who feels the need to constantly assert their aesthetic superiority by lordly condescension towards the subject of their "criticism" (and their readers) equally boring and worthless. While I often disagree with Alan's judgements, thank God he doesn't work at either extreme.

matty said...

Slightly off topic, but what's HBO's record w/r/t product placement? I noticed a plug for the Wii in both "Hung" and "True Blood" last night. Not that there's any problem with that, but has it happened before? Does it happen frequently and I'm just too dumb to notice? Or is it just a coincidence?

JoeE said...

Matty: The first season of Big Love was LOADED with product placement (particularly Wayne's birthday party episode), so much so that David Spade made fun of it on his short-lived Comedy Central show. Not sure about subsequent seasons, but I don't remember seeing quite as much.

Mike F said...

I thought this did what a pilot should do, set the stage for what's to come. This guy has some personal and financial goals to achieve, he's adrift and he's found some purpose, and he's about to go for a ride...I'm rooting for it...but I'm certainly not sold on it yet

I'm certainly hoping that all the characters in all phases of his life has depth and written well.

As a side note, it was great to see the guy who played Kenny Banion (sp?) from Seinfeld fame leading the seminar...and in what I'm hoping is a bigger role than what was in the pilot, his assistant basketball coach was played by the lunatic Doug worked for from the Riches

Oaktown Girl said...

Fortunately, Anne Heche does not get under my skin, so I'm lucky in that regard with this show. It's more like I have an absence of reaction to her.

After watching this pilot, I do remember consciously thinking to myself, "Well, that sure took its time developing". Not that I was impatient, just an observation. But it was cool because the scenes with Adams and Jane that paid off really paid off well, and I hope future episodes reap rewards.

Oh, and thanks for the head's up about no new episode next week. They're really testing our patience, indeed.