Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hung, "The Pickle Jar": Taking care of business

Quick thoughts on episode four of "Hung" coming up just as soon as I donate one and a half structural beams...
"This might be your first time, but this is what I do. I'm a professional." -Ray
"The Pickle Jar" was the last episode I saw in advance, and the one that really convinced me that "Hung" was trending in the right direction. As I've said before, the show seems to be following the "Breaking Bad" model of letting its protagonists take their sweet time at learning how to be criminals. If Ray had a successful encounter with the woman in the hotel in the pilot, it wouldn't have felt nearly as satisfying as it did after we've seen him and Tanya flail about for most of these first four episodes. Maybe, it seems, Ray really does have a future as a gigolo, and Tanya as a pimp.

The two Janes (as I think I want to start referring to our stars) were helped in this one by the presence of Margo Martindale as Ray's first real client. I wasn't crazy about "The Riches," the previous series from "Hung" co-creator Dmitry Lipkin, but I always thought Martindale was terrific as the pill-popping neighbor, and she added a lot of depth and pathos to her scenes here opposite both leads.

Speaking of pill-popping, at what point do you suppose "Hung" is going to address the role of Viagra in Ray's new career? One of the many tricks of the trade I learned from "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" -- which, in the end, was really only interesting for the tricks of the trick trade -- was that all male escorts have to keep a steady supply of ED pills handy, just in case the client doesn't stir a reaction on her own. I assumed that's where they were going with the Martindale story -- that Ray bolted because he feared he couldn't perform with an older, heavier woman -- but, no, he was really sick, and when he showed up the second time he had no problems in that area. Or are we supposed to assume that this is one of the other gifts that qualifies him to conquer the Detroit metro area male escort market?

Whether or not his physical gifts are greater than we know so far, what made the final sequence work was that we saw that Ray does, in fact, have more going for him than his anatomy. He knew what the client needed to hear, and he made her feel good about herself even before they got down to the act itself.

I remain on the fence about Ray's family, though. At least the kids are starting to get personalities and stories of their own here, as we see that Damon cares a little too much about his role in Darby's life. As for Jess, is there anyone here who doesn't think her encounter with the heinous Lenore will eventually lead to her trying to become one of Big Donnie's clients?

What did everyone else think?

27 comments:

Nilco said...

The scene with Jess, the two kids, and Lenore just about have me packing it in and giving up on this show. The two Janes have been solid, but Ray's family keeps bringing the show to a screeching halt.

Mel said...

I am slowly growing to like the two kids -- their awkwardness is so real. I am sure Jess's encounter with Lenore will lead to her discovering Ray's secret. I seriously gasped aloud when Lenore handed her the business card. It's just a matter of time before it's revealed, and I think I like the fact that the revelation won't be dragged out for seasons and seasons.

Anonymous said...

I need to watch last weeks episode first, but I just wanted to say you are missing out on True Blood Alan. Its the best show on tv right now

Blithedale said...

I'm at a complete loss re: what the heck Ray's kids are doing in this story. Perhaps they have a role to play later on, but right now their just a distraction. As for the ex, well unless there's some big twist we know exactly where that's heading.

Ditch the family, give us more Lenore.

Chris Littmann said...

One of those rare times I don't share your hope on a show, Alan. As my roommate and I discussed, the show doesn't come off as funny enough for a comedy or compelling enough for a drama. I feel like there was something compelling in Breaking Bad that this lacks -- and maybe it's the true ticking time bomb of the whole cancer thing, but yeah, this probably isn't for me.

Gayle said...

Isn't it inevitable that Jess meeting Lenore is going to lead to complications for Ray? And beyond that contrivance, doesn't it feel like Tanya is going to send Ray a client that would know him--e.g. from school (a parent, a person from his past)?

Maybe that's part of the tension that we're supposed to feel everytime he knocks on a hotel room door and I do feel like this is too simplistic of a story for what I am getting out of the tone of the show, but it is an unmistakable feeling that I get.

Robert Cervantes said...

I will have to say that we need to give the story time to let itself expand and come together. Sure the situations with the kids and the ex wife look like a diff show. However, I think the salon scene was just the very seed planted for the worlds to come together.

Alan said it best when Ray finally figured out what it means to be a happiness consultant. And all it took him was the embarassment of not having enough money at the hardware store. Really liking this show and I also like the fact that it's not on during the other big shows. In the summer, this show has room to grow.

Mark said...

Has this show earned a renewel yet? I wonder where it might go in season two storyline wise? Will law enforcement start catching on? Will Jane take on more man whores? BTW I hope Ray washed up between "dates." The thought of him not doing it makes me cringe.

Owen said...

I like the kids. I agree with Mel that they seem "real" in a way that few tv kids do. The drive-in scene really worked for me. And I like that he seems to have a very good relationship with them even though he was the jock type in high school. The cliche would be for him to be struggling with understanding and accepting his children, so I like it that he clearly loves them, and is at worst puzzled by them.

tom said...

Alan,

I don't think it was completely clear that Ray was sick. He convinces himself he is sick because he doesn't want to acknowledge that he's just not attracted to Molly. Remember, he only shows up at her place (the second time) at the last minute, once his plans to buy a roof beam fail. I thought the store owner's comment about "Why would anyone want half a beam?" was a nod towards the notion that Ray either commits to being a gigolo all the way or not at all. Kind of a DIY analogue of Tanya's speech to Ray in the bathroom. But I was fine with the show leaving this deliberately ambiguous, as I think Ray himself couldn't tell you if he was really sick.

I'm not sure where things are going with the kids, although I wondered if Damon's reaction to Darby's behavior had something to do with Damon's feelings about his mother's relationship with Ronnie. Maybe we'll see more movement on the Jessica/Ronnie front soon to clear that up.

vic said...

I could have done without the nail parlor scene, but I did like the one at the drive-in. It got me when Damon broke down after the fight with Hammer. Loved how Ray went into complete "coach mode" when breaking it up.

The confrontation between Ray and the teacher was cool, if only to see him sprint away, scared shitless, after it.

I might be dumb (actually, more than likely), but last week, Ray did know that the "sexy" note was in the cookie that the neighbor ate, right? In my mind it was a passive aggressive thing, but after his reaction on the roof, I don't know.

Mark: My housemate and I were thinking the same thing. I mean, the least he could have done was wash his junk in the sink.

vic said...

Off-topic: Ben Silverman gone. Yay!

dez said...

I haven't seen the ep yet, but I was watching Ray's and Tanya's ads for Happiness Consultants on demand, and HBO has apparently set up a website and phone number for the show: www.happinessconsultants.com and 1-888-588-HUNG. The website is no great shakes, but does have Tanya's ad on it. The phone message, though, is hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Not to thread hijack, but I have to disagree with anon above. And this coming from a True Blood apologist. Not enough resolution of some of the plot lines to keep me interested. Tara is beyond annoying as a character. Almost, but not quite, Divea levels of annoyance from Royal Pains. The premise of the show would suggest conflict. Conflict would be interesting. Especially conflict between humans and vampires and between vampires and other beings. They suggest other beings and then do nothing about it. Instead we get Sam rolling around on a pool table. I could care less. Very disappointing.

Anonymous said...

I think the kids are a little weird and awkward, but isn't that part of the point? These aren't picture perfect sitcom kids (despite their having two conventionally good looking parents). This notwithstanding, Ray seems to really love them and take them where they are. His scene with them - both his tenderness with his son, who maybe is just a little too sensitive for the world, as well has his watching his daughter with the crappy ex that dumped her because of her weight - was as necessary for preparing Ray for his time with Molly as his humiliating scene at the hardware store was.

JanieJones said...

I definitely liked the scenes with the kids. I agree with Mel's assessment about their awkwardness - it's does make it seem much more real.
It does seem inevitable that Jess will come across Ray's secret. The moment Lenore walked into the salon and was screeching on the phone, I knew Jess would protest and out comes Lenore's card.

Tanya's selling of Happiness Consultants is a bit hilarious. It's not like she has a stock of men to send out to women. I wonder if she will go onto involving more men in the business? Probably not since it center's around Ray and his abilities and desperation for money.

Ray did seem to finally get what he's meant to do if he wants to make more money ala gigolo style.

I am definitely interested in seeing where all of this goes in the coming weeks.

Tyroc said...

I'm enjoying it and curious to see where it goes, but in no way do I believe he's raised those kids up until recently nor that he was married for 20 years to the character portrayed by Anne Heche.

tom said...

vic@10:20,

I misread this too, I think. I now think Ray just gave Coontz the remaining cookies from Tanya, apparently not thinking through the possibility that there were other cookies with messages in them. Or he might have thought that all the cookies had "I'm sorry" notes (and variations) and that he was alright with giving Coontz those cookies.

I would have preferred Ray to be shrewd here rather than thoughtless, but oh well.

Anonymous said...

Lenore cracks me up, I hope they make her a regular. I love the chemistry she has with Ray and Tanya aka T-brain. LOL

Suzie said...

the kids creep me out. the girl looks like a boy.

Is it just me?

LA said...

I'm pro-kids. Their presence and Ray's relationship with them adds a layer to his pathos not unlike that in Don Draper. Their individual arc may not be significant in the grand scheme of things, but it's interesting to see Ray compartmentalize his life as he hooks up with a trick less than 24 hours after taking dealing with the drama of parenting two teenagers at the drive-in.

DB said...

i continue to enjoy the two leads, but i agree, the family part of the show is still a work in progress.
i do, however, very much enjoyed Lenore and Jessica's exchange. Rebecca Creskoff is a scene stealer, she's like the Joan Holloway of Hung. and I too love Margo Martindale's performance, but she's great in just about everything she's done. i'll give this season a try, loving it more with each episode, certainly a lot more to like than Secret Life of a Call Girl.

Rinaldo said...

"Ray bolted because he feared he couldn't perform with an older, heavier woman -- but, no, he was really sick"

This wasn't what I got from this sequence. Yes, he was sick -- but it was also a convenient way out of a situation he didn't want to be in at first.

It was the first time he had to face the fact that this job wasn't just going to be a dream opportunity to shag a series of hot young babes -- there were going to be different kinds of women, and it might very well be that someone like Molly could be the one for whom he could do the most. And he found that he DID know how to make her feel better, and it made him feel good too.

dez said...

I liked seeing Margo Martindale in a good show, especially after seeing her pop up in the dreadful "Orphan." Glad she's getting a lot of roles, but especially when the material is up to her talents.

I enjoyed the path Ray had to take to finally understand Molly's needs and how he could fulfill them. I also like the kids and their relationship with their father. As others have mentioned, it adds layers to Ray's character and it keeps him from being a cartoon, IMHO.

BTW, does every HBO thread here have to include an intrusion from the True Blood fans? Alan doesn't blog about it and a lot of us don't watch it, either. There are other places for y'all to discuss it. I'm in this thread to read about Hung, not every other HBO show on the air. Thanks :-)

Anonymous said...

You're a chick aren't you Dez?

dez said...

Last time I looked, yes.

Anonymous said...

Who did the closing credit music for Episode 4 (The Pickle Jar)?