Thursday, June 25, 2009

'Hung' review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review HBO's "Hung," the new comedy with Thomas Jane as... well, I want to avoid making the obvious jokes:
It's difficult to write about "Hung," HBO's new comedy about a well-endowed gym-teacher-turned-male-escort, without making an accidental double entendre or 12. After I watched the first episode, which runs about 42 minutes, and the second, which was only 26, I started asking questions about its length (it's a half-hour with a super-sized debut), and the first draft of this paragraph began with a synonym for "difficult."

Not helping matters is the way "Hung" itself embraces every joke you could make about its premise. Main character Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane), for instance, is inspired to join the world's oldest profession after attending a get-rich-quick seminar where the teacher advises each student to identify their "one winning tool."

If "Hung" were just a lot of obvious punch lines about the male anatomy -- and about the mortification of an aging jock having to sell his body and work for a female pimp -- well... well, then it would still be a funny, albeit completely juvenile comedy about the state of 21st century American masculinity.

But "Hung" has more to offer than just John Thomas jokes. Amidst all the sniggering humor about how Ray has been taught to "do your best with the gifts God gave you" is some smart comedy about the state of 21st century America in general, as well as a superb lead performance from Thomas Jane.
You can read the full "Hung" review here.

As the review suggests, I'm a fan, and this will be working into the regular blog rotation starting Sunday night (or Monday morning).


JT said...

I didn't read your review, Alan. this show, just like TRUE BLOOD just goes to show that HBO is finished. They pass on MAD MEN, they end THE WIRE. They are finihed, at least when drama goes, and comedy too. The whole premise of this is dumg and insulting to viewers and is a clear rip off of BREAKING BAD. NEXT!

Manton said...

Nice to see you're making an informed decision then! Haven't seen it, won't read the column, but you're sure that it's not only a rip off of Breaking Bad, not only a bad show, but that it's the final death knell for HBO.

You've certainly convinced me!

Hatfield said...

These commercials really make me wish I had HBO. Hopefully my True Blood buddies will get into this too.

Important question, though: in these tough economic times, did the producers have the foresight to dig up Ziggy's prosthetic from The Wire?

Anonymous said...

I'll be watching to see whether they suggest Mr. Hung is a good escort for anything other than having a large cock and a modicum of endurance.


LA said...

Really looking forward to this, glad you give it a rave.

Jasctt - HBO is enjoying some of it's best rating since The Sopranos with True Blood. It's hardly ruining them.

Craig Ranapia said...

Alan: Well, glad you like it but I think it would be interesting to do a flip-test and ask yourself whether your reaction would be different with the genders reversed. 'Hooters' anyone -- a heart-warming comedy about a middle-aged woman who comes to realisation that her only "assets" are really really big tits?

Mike F said...

I'm looking forward to seeing this thing, although I do prefer my shows to have more length. I guess the most important thing is how they use the minutes they have.

Hatfield said...

Ok, Craig Ranapia, maybe I'm begging for trouble here, and I really am honestly curious, as opposed to trying to start a fight, but it seems like you usually only have negative to neutral things to say about shows, and you bring up gender issues a lot. So my question is, if TV bugs you on that level or any other so much, why watch it?

Again, I hope that doesn't come off as antagonistic, and please correct me if I'm wrong

ScottyG said...

i'm excited for this show and could not be happier to have HBO right now

props to the BS Report for the heads up about this show

Craig Ranapia said...


I'll just say you need to recalibrate your scanners and leave it there. I've made no end of positive comments (nay, sometimes droolingly fanboy-ish) about BSG, Chuck, Burn Notice, Lost, HIMYM to name a few. And there are others where I hope I acknowledge what works, along with what doesn't -- 'Reaper' was terrible, but it was nice to see Ray Wise having so much fun and getting paid for it.

As for my supposed obsession with "gender issues", all I said was that I had my doubts that a comedy about a middle-aged woman becoming a prostitute after realising her large breasts were her best "asset" would get a particularly warm reception. (Unless you were pitching a script idea to 'Two And A Half Men', I guess.) And that's not such a bad thing, IMO, but you're free to disagree.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Craig, an argument could be made that "Weeds" is already that show (though I imagine it would be called "Legs" rather than "Hooters"). While Nancy started off selling drugs, for a while now she's mostly gotten by on using her body to make various men do what she wants.

And lots of critics like that show a lot. I don't happen to be one of them, but that has nothing to do with the gender politics and everything to do with the show's out-of-whack smug-to-funny ratio.

Hatfield said...

Fair enough. I don't watch any of those shows other than Burn Notice, so there's no way I would have seen the positive comments. Your comments are always well-written and thought-out; I definitely wasn't trying to compare you to the crazies who come on here and announce how terrible something is and accuse us all of being Alan's sycophants. And I didn't mean to imply an obsession with gender issues (or maybe I was thinking more along the lines of gender-related double standards), it just feels like I've seen you bring up something to that effect at times in the past, but without being able to cite specific instances I probably should have kept mum. Sorry if I offended.

7s Tim said...

I don't believe HBO was the reason that the Wire ended. It was set up by the writers and producers to end after five, and HBO was gracious enough to give them their final season despite weak ratings based mostly on critical acclaim (which was a jack move on HBO's part at the time, since they had recently cancelled Deadwood).

Anonymous said...

...should have stuck with "arduous"

Eldritch said...

I enjoyed the pilot. The main character is enjoyably self-deprecating. The comedy was mild, but seems to have potential. My only concern is that "Reaper" had potential too, and I waited for two seasons to see that go unfulfilled. But such is television.

Eldritch said...

Craig Ranapia said...
Alan: Well, glad you like it but I think it would be interesting to do a flip-test and ask yourself whether your reaction would be different with the genders reversed. 'Hooters' anyone -- a heart-warming comedy about a middle-aged woman who comes to realisation that her only "assets" are really really big tits

I can't speak for Alan or anyone else, but probably not. I realize that I'm getting deep into politically incorrect territory here, but I think I'm coming to terms with a gender double standard in certain regards. There are real differences between men and women, so perhaps there should be separate standards for each on issues when that makes sense.

I often spot things in movies & TV and ask myself, would that still be funny if the roles were reversed? A common trope I've spotted in TV&movies has it that when a man wants sex, it's a bad, exploitive thing. But when a woman wants sex, it's charming, cute, and romantic. Thus when a cinematic woman uses deceit, trickery, or subterfuge to get a guy in bed, it's cute. But if a guy does the same thing to lure a gal into bed, that's bad.

For purposes of this post, I sure wish I could come up with a few snappy examples, but at the moment only one comes to mind. Maybe not a great example, but perhaps "Nurse Jackie." Jackie is having relations with the pharmacist, and the audience is not terribly offended by that. Well, maybe a little. She is married. But clearly it's her choice to have sex with him, either because she loves him or because she's using him to get drugs. If the latter, that begins to get a bit ugly, but how much worse would it feel if the pharmacist were in control, supplying her with drugs to coerce sex from her.

"Saving Grace" uses this trope too, I think. Grace is a wildly promiscuous woman, also fornicating with a married man, and yet she's the hero(ine) of the piece. I don't think the audience feels anger toward the men who are her one-night-stands. How would one of Grace's male co-stars be received (say the Texas football fan) if he were as promiscuous and having an affair with a married woman. Would we feel as neutrally dismissive of his one-night-sex partners? Or would we feel they were unfairly exploited. I don't think he'd be as accepted as Grace is, behaving the same way.

This certainly isn't gender-equal treatment. Yet, it's not being protested in any quarters I've noticed. I think it's because men and woman are not the same, that we experience love, sex, romance differently. And this trope has some kind of roots in that difference.)

(Or perhaps my view of the world from my padded cell here in the asylum isn't as clear as I thought ;-)

In any event, a woman working as a prostitute tends to come across as exploited and sad. A man working as a prostitute seems funny. In the former, there's a presumption that the woman is being coerced, by her pimp, drug addiction, desperate circumstances, etc. so she has no choice. While in the later, the woman, as the customer, has choice. (The $50 bill lady exercised her choice twice, yes, then no.) That may be the operative point: when the woman has the power of choice, then everybody's happy.

David said...

Watching this I felt exactly the same as Craig - this wouldn't work if the roles were reversed - and once that idea was in my mind I couldn't get passed it to enjoy any of the jokes.

A woman who has lost her house and children turning to prostitution out of desperation? That would not be a comedy. And following that through, if this were a genuine role-reversal of a desperate man turning to prostitution out of desperation, this would also not be funny.

And if our hero was a woman, would we still be made to feel sorry for her lonely male clients? Yes, she's a 'happiness consultant', isn't that cute? - do you want to fuck her now? Cringe.

The comedy of this show hinges entirely on the presumption that we buy into society's preconcieved gender roles and stereotyping.

I find it patronising to both men and women, and probably a bit misogynistic too.