Monday, June 29, 2009

Review: Hung, "Pilot"

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 1:40 AM

6d2a/1246257134-hung.jpg Hung, the newest show from HBO original programming, premiered Sunday night.

Filmed and set in Detroit, Hung opens with shots of for-sale signs, American flags, and Tiger Stadium coming down. It's an abandoned-building travelogue. The voiceover by the protagonist Ray Drecker (played by Thomas Jane) explains: "Everything's falling apart, and it all starts right here in Detroit, the headwaters of a river of failure."

Ray is a basketball coach and history teacher at West Lakefield High School. Struggling to make ends meet as he raises twin teens, battles an ex (Anne Heche), and watches as his childhood home burns, Ray is feeling the pinch. He used to be on the way to something great: The former sports star and Atlanta Braves signee was "magical, a king, popular," his ex-wife, Jessica, tells him. An injury derailed his athletic career, and, one suspects, the intervening years have not been rosy before the show starts, right at the nadir.

But, against this backdrop of the dispossessed and the repossessed, Hung is a comedy. The jumping off point is right there in the show's name: Jessica — a former homecoming cheerleader beauty queen — has to admit that even if Ray used to be magical, he still is hung. (i.e., he's well-endowed in the swimsuit area, if you catch my drift.)

Ray stresses his belief in the American work ethic. "You do the best with whatever gifts God gave you." What God gave Ray was a large schvantz. So the "highly respected educator" going through a mid-life penis, I mean crisis, becomes a prostitute. The Puritans would not have approved.

But, in many ways, Hung is a comedic counterpoint to Clint Eastwood's recent film, the minor masterpiece Gran Torino. It's a recession-era comedy ripped from the classified ads of next week's newspapers.

Dmitry Lipkin (The Riches) and Colette Burson (Girls on Top, Coming Soon) created Hung. Oscar-winner Alexander Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt, Election, Citizen Ruth) directs the pilot and is an executive producer on the show. Payne has proven to have an eye for the lurid side of middle America. That makes these prestige penis jokes.

Great character actress Jane Adams costars as Tanya Skagle, Ray's pimp, aka marketing consultant. And the great soul song "Am I a Good Man" by Them Two closes out the pilot episode, speaking to what may be moral complications in episodes to come. I'll tune in to check them out.

Hung, "Pilot"

Cast:
Ray Drecker played by Thomas Jane (The Mist, The Punisher, The Sweetest Thing)
Tanya Skagle played by Jane Adams (Wonder Boys, Songcatcher)
Jessica Haxon played by Anne Heche (John Q, Six Days Seven Nights, Wag the Dog)
Damon Drecker played by Charlie Saxton (the forthcoming The Lovely Bones and Bandslam)
Darby Drecker played by Sianoa Smit-McPhee (As the Bell Rings, Neighbours)
Ronnie Haxon played by Eddie Jemison (Ocean’s 11-13, Waitress, The Punisher)

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