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Hung is an HBO produced comedy drama. It is currently being shown on the More4 channel on Thursday nights at 10pm. Each episode has a running time of 40 minutes with adverts, so shorter than most US imports. It is executively produced by 'Sideways' director Alexander Payne, who also directed the pilot.
It stars Thomas Jane as a hard done by high school basketball coach called Ray. He is broke and his ex-wife is now remarried to a rich doctor, although the one good thing to come out of this is that his teenage twin son and daughter, with whom he has a great relationship, have opted to live with him in the divorce. However, even this falls apart when his ramshackle but homely abode is burnt down thanks to an electrical fault. Ray is forced to live in a tent in his own back garden, despite the best efforts of his snooty wealthy neighbour to get him thrown off his own property.
Bereft he attends a "get rich quick" seminar which has the intention of helping people to become wealthy by being entrepreneurs. Here Ray stumbles across former one-night stand and poet Tanya who is trying to get her idea for lyric bread (baked goods with lines of poetry written on paper inside them.) off the ground. The two of them share tea and sympathy and end up back in bed together again. Whilst trying to establish what Ray's 'Unique Selling Point' is , Tanya hits on it - the fact that he has (how to put this politely) a physical advantage over a lot of men in that he is well....hung. From this she begins to persuade him to become a gigolo, with her acting as his pimp.
Tanya begins to use her new-found business skills to network and market Ray, setting him up with a number of lonely, unhappy and occasionally desperate women through Lenore - a gorgeous, glamorous, well connected but ultimately insulting and scheming ex-colleague of Tanya's. Business starts slowly and Ray finds himself facing challenges in how to keep tabs how to keep his highly respected but low paid day job separate from the high earning but incredibly risky and morally dubious role he moonlights in.
I have been really pleasantly surprised by this series. I knew the premise before I started watching this and expected it to be something of a bawdy sex comedy with black humour, especially given the edgy track record of other HBO series that I have enjoyed. In fact it has a great deal of heart and often does not always go for the easy or most clichéd option. In particular it is quite refreshing to see the strong bond between Ray and his children who are obviously in awe of him and not swayed by the wealth of their new stepfather the way that his mother has been. It also does not go for overly bawdy humour, being rather matter of fact about the whole moral dilemma at the centre of the piece. That is not to say that it is for the prudish. There are fewer sex scenes than you might expect but they still quite explicit.
It does have a feel of 'independent' cinema about it in many ways - ultimately it is a character piece and does not shy away from showing both the good and bad sides of each character - making them some of the most three-dimensional that I have seen on TV for a while. Ray is particularly interesting in his prudishness towards his children's relationships despite how he funds being able to take care of them. Perhaps the only weak link is Anne Heche who plays Ray's ex-wife who is portrayed initially as a shallow stereotype, however as the series progresses she begins to deepen. Highly respected independent film actress Jane Adams is worth a particular mention for her performance as Tanya, strong and bohemian in many ways but lacking the business nous and a bit of a walkover.
It is funny in an amusing kind of way rather than out-and-out guffawing, but there are some surprisingly touching moments. It is often unpredictable as well, which just leaves you more intrigued for the next episode.
In conclusion it is a smart, well constructed show of the type that there just is not enough of. Okay its risqué, but it sea.ls with these moments in a mature, intelligent way. It is never going to be anybody's favourite TV programme or invoke the kind of passion that followers of other HBO shows such as The Wire have but it's an admirable attempt and I hope that it gets pulled up for a second series