Monday, September 14, 2009

Hung, "'A Dick and a Dream' or 'Fight the Honey'": Pour some honey on me

Some quick thoughts on the "Hung" season finale coming up just as soon as the universe tells me something...
"There are moments in your life when you realize God is joking." -Ray
Ten episodes is not a lot, even for a cable show. Fans of "The Wire" know exactly how much more rushed a 10-episode season can feel versus 12 or 13. So I don't want to be too hard on the "Hung" finale, and the first season in general, knowing what Dmitry Lipkin, Colette Burson and company had to work with. But...

Part of the reason I gave this show a favorable review at the start, why I've stayed interested in it, and why I defended it when people asked me, incredulous, why I liked it, was that I felt it was going somewhere. Remember, I wrote my initial column having seen through the Margo Martindale episode, which suggested a progression both in Ray's escort career and in the show's style in general.

But I came out of the finale feeling very underwhelmed, as if I'd been expecting more than the show was capable of delivering. The story moved a fair bit at the very end - Ray now has to focus almost entirely on the escort job, Tanya and Lenore are reluctant co-pimps - and yet when the episode finished, my reaction was mainly, "That's all there is?"

To bring up "Breaking Bad" for the thousandth time, there's a show that had an even shorter first season (due to the writers strike) and yet it felt like the story advanced enough, and the characters grew enough, that the journey felt satisfying and I was eager to see more. Here, it feels like there's a good premise and two strong central performances from Thomas Jane and Jane Adams, but the season feels empty looking back on it. (I could say the same thing about Lipkin's previous show, "The Riches," though I like "Hung" quite a bit more.) The final scene suggested that Tanya is going to try to unleash her inner Lenore next year, and I look forward to seeing that, but even as a fan of slow-build shows like "The Wire" and "Breaking Bad," this season was too leisurely for me.

That said, the finale had that one great scene with Ray and Jess on the phone, on opposite sides of the door to her hotel room, both knowing that Jess was about to engage the services of a hooker, but only Ray knowing that it would be him - and despairing at the realization that their lives had come to this point. If Anne Heche wasn't as good at dialed-down emotional moments like this, her exaggerated daffiness the rest of the time wouldn't bug me as much. (Okay, it would still bug me, but it wouldn't seem like she was wasting her real talent.) And Thomas Jane, as you'd expect, nailed it.

I'm still looking forward to next season (which will air again in the summer, where viewing options will be fewer). But I'd be looking forward to it a lot more if the finish to this season had felt stronger, and if I had a clearer sense of where this was all going.

What did everybody else think?

17 comments:

Paul Outlaw said...

As much as I love Jane Adams' work, I think the character of Tanya is the biggest problem with Hung. I just can't see her, as gloriously pathetic as she is, rising to the occasion and being a match for Lenore. It would be too much of a stretch for me.

And I'm just not feeling the kids.

But I'll be back next season.

Anonymous said...

This show fails me just about the same way the Riches did. Both set up some likable characters, played by really skilled actors, in absurd situations. As the show plays out, it gets harder and harder to sustain the suspension of disbelief as the stories get more convoluted. The viewer really tries to pull for the characters (because we've been set up to like them) but ultimately it becomes impossible to watch.

I believe the kids and Heche are horribly miscast. I can't believe for a millisecond that those kids are related to Jane or Heche and it takes me out of the story.

It's a shame, because there's a lot that's likable about the show. I predict it will go down in flames just like the Riches.

Magnus Anton Lekay said...

I know that critics have to discover something wrong with a show and that wannabe-critics (read: most people who post on the Internet) think finding something wrong with a show makes their opinion more legitimate... but, I don't really watch the same show as Alan or some others do. I don't have any great problem with it. It is an interesting show about a prostitute who is also a school teacher, who has a pimp who has no clue what she is doing.

Simple.

I go from that to Mad Men... it makes Mad Men seem even more interesting. :)

dez said...

I found it interesting, if a bit underwhelming, for a season finale, though the scene with Heche's husband and his high school crush was pretty funny. Like there wasn't another way for him to view that mole... :-D

Ted said...

Alan,

I think you have a very keen eye and I enjoy your take on shows. (I think your reviews/overall take on RESCUE ME is dead on). That being said, I am rather surprised how much you like about this show(finale excluded). My basic problem is I don't buy any of it, the people, stories etc, AND i don't like or care about any of them. I guess I also don't see what you see in Thomas Jane and I can't believe Anne Heche's agent let her take this tankless part, udeserving of her talents. But I appreciate your write ups on it, nonetheless.

BTW, I see how much you love COMMUNITY, unless I am mistaken, I haven't seen you talk about MODERN FAMILY, which I think is brilliant and I would think is right up your alley. Thanks for reading this

Wes Covington said...

My program guide for my cable provider (AT&T U-Verse) provided a summary for this episode that had almost, but not quite, nothing to do with this. But it had the right names of the characters and actions that logically could have happened.
Do the networks supply that info to the cable providers? Or is there a third party involved?

Except none of that happened. So, I was confused.

The final scene with Jane Adams was the best part of the episode. This one really seem unfocused compared to the other 9.

Myles said...

I liked it a fair bit more than you, Alan (as my own review indicates), and I think it's because I was comparing it to the Nurse Jackie finale. While I'll agree that the season ultimately didn't show much progression, I think this was less due to some fundamental identity crisis and more due to a purposeful drive to spend time acclimatizing the viewer to this particular world. Whereas Nurse Jackie couldn't make up its own mind, Hung made up its mind early and just kind of stuck with it, to perhaps the detriment of the show's pacing but not (I feel) to its potential.

What I think made me forgive some of my issues with the finale and the season overall was how well they handled the inevitable Ray/Jessica scene - the subtlety and craft with which that was delivered really convinced me (especially compared to Nurse Jackie) that the writers are in control of this narrative (for better or for worse, depending on one's opinion of that direction).

dez said...

What I think made me forgive some of my issues with the finale and the season overall was how well they handled the inevitable Ray/Jessica scene - the subtlety and craft with which that was delivered really convinced me (especially compared to Nurse Jackie) that the writers are in control of this narrative (for better or for worse, depending on one's opinion of that direction).

That was a truly wonderful (and wonderfully acted) scene. It also made me hope Ray realizes Tanya is the better pimp. At least she knows his life and knows who NOT to recommend his services to :-D

Millie said...

Am I the only one who's starting to get creeped out about Damon's attachment to Darby? The jealousy over Hammer in the Drive-in episode and now last night's hug plea with the creepy smile(shudder) I don't believe for a minute that he's gay, or even Goth. He's troubled, but I hope that the writers don't go down that path. Too disturbing.

Brent said...

Am I the only one who's starting to get creeped out about Damon's attachment to Darby?

No. You're aren't. Thing is, they have hinted at this a little bit in past episodes where he seems a little bit too engaged in the drama over his sister's boyfriend. And its pretty clear that the androgynous kid was right. Damon was not into him and he was using him to make some kind of a point. The fact that he then lies about their altercation in order to get a sympathy hug, which he clearly enjoys a bit too much, from his sister definitely narrows the possibilities down to a couple of pretty creepy ones. I agree that this would be a very dark place to go, especially for a half hour dramedy but really, what else could it be then what you're thinking?

Anonymous said...

I definitely thought the finale was underwhelming. Nothing of any consequence really happened. And I agree with the other poster who said that there doesn't seem to be a realistic reason why Ray would stay with Tanya. Yes, he likes her as a friend, but she is SO bad at her job and he is SO is need of the money, that I can't for a second believe that he wouldn't dump her for Lenore.

The storyline with the son was just random and pointless too. I'm not sure where it's going, but the place it seems to be going isn't one I care to watch. And I agree those kids are totally miscast. Not only do they not look like Thomas Jane or Anne Heche, but as characters they don't even seem like they could possibly be the offspring of Ray or Jessica.

Loretta said...

I didn't even realize that this was the season finale, and was shocked to read that it was. I guess that means you're right about the "That's all there is?" sentiment--this did not feel like a season finale to me.

Also, glad I'm not alone on seeing the Damon/Darby creepiness. That could lead to an interesting second season.

Anyway, I'd tune in just for Adams as Tanya. I could watch her all day.

me said...

Is it fair to compare this to Breaking Bad in any way at all? But particularly with story progression? Breaking Bad was an hour-long show (ok, a network hour, so about 44 minutes?) with an actual story to tell.

I did not get the impression that Hung was in any hurry to change the world the characters inhabited, or to develop the characters' relationships.

At least not until the last episode, with the sweet moment between Ray and Anne Heche at the hotel, finding honey in the house, the lay-offs at the school, the new business model, and whatever it was that happened with the kids.

I realize it took the whole season for Ray to figure out what he wanted out of all of this, but I'm disappointed that nobody else's path was as clearly written (or at least understood by me).

Anonymous said...

Must agree....this def. did not feel like a finale at all. Would not have known if Alan had not stated it.

Anyone else bothered by the fact that Anne Heche's character so quickly decided to go with Lenore's idea of a "Happiness Consultant." I mean, really, no protesting or thinking it over, saying that her marriage was stronger than that?

Anonymous said...

I hate that you compare it to breaking bad because I don't think they're anything alike in tone. Breaing Bad is a dead on drama where as this is more or less a comedy. A better comparison is to The United States of Tara.

I do agree with you though. The season finale felt rushed as in events happened too soon and that throughout the series it felt afloat.

I don't mind thought, I like to mingle. I'm satisfied with it. I liked Tanya's "i'm the bad bitch" look at the end of the season. It made me excited. Ray's conversation with his ex-wife made me feel sad. His son's odd behavior to his sister, as if he wants to date her, made feel weird.

I like that it's not in a rush to get somewhere and I like that's it's light while serving some kind of message.

Anonymous said...

Whatever is up with those twins is very unpleasant and I don't want to see more of it. I also found it very odd that the Anne Heche character would jump on the male prostitute bandwagon so quickly.

The show has some interesting moments, but not really enough to justify continuing to watch it (for me). The finale illustrated exactly how I feel about the show--yeah? And?

mrsb said...

The whole twins/creepy incest feeling is grossing me out. At the same time, it's one of the things that might actually have me tune in next season - are they really going to go there??

Female Jane needs to stop being quite so pathetic. It's really just too much. All pathetic, all the time makes for really annoying character.

I really agree with the commenter who said that there's no way they believe the kids could have come from Male Jane and Heche. Not only is there no resemblance what-so-ever, their parents dress pretty decently. Even most "goth" kids who have money dress with money. These kids are sloppy. And does anyone believe that Heche's slightly anal character combined with a father who's a coach would have allowed her kids to get that heavy?