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Alexandria, Virginia, USA
September 18
I'm a liberal secular humanist who enjoys writing, reading, playing video games and watching sports. I am a former member of the Armed Services who now enjoys the sweet sweet freedom of civilian life. My blog will be centered mostly on politics, football and video games. I'm not a professional hater, but I am a highly ranked amateur. Also, yes, I am a girl.


Editor’s Pick
JUNE 29, 2009 4:26PM

Phallic Phailure: Why HBO's "Hung" Left Me Limp

Rate: 14 Flag
Phallic Phailure: Why HBO's "Hung" Left Me Limp

Okay, okay, I promise that the title of this post is the first and last dick joke I'll make today. That having been said, don't expect the same courtesy from the new HBO show "Hung", which takes every opportunity to make juvenile penis jokes (sample joke: the get-rich seminar that inspires Ray to become a man-whore is led by a guy who encourages the audience to find their "special tool" that will help them succeed).

Now, I'm not going to get into a big debate about prostitution, how it's portrayed in Hollywood, why joking about having a pimp isn't funny, etc etc. For me, I hear "comedy + man whore" and think, "Yeah, I will watch that." So, I tuned in to the pilot episode last night to check it out.

The general premise of the show is this: Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane, a.k.a. "poor man's Aaron Eckhart") is a down-on-his-luck guy who happens to have a massive schlong. So he decides, as one does, to put his giant penis to good use as a male prostitute. Aiding him in this is Tanya (Jane Adams, a.k.a. "Niles' wife who he dumped for Daphne on Frasier"), who offers up her services as a pimp.

The pilot episode spends most of its time setting up how Ray ends up as a male prostitute. We find out that Ray is in financial trouble, has a shrew of an ex-wife (played by Anne Heche, who is looking... not so hot these days), and has recently suffered through a house fire that has forced him to live in a tent in his backyard as he struggles to find the money to pay for the repairs to the house. We are also reminded several times that Ray has a big dick, since... duh, that's the title of the show.

Long story short: Ray runs into Tanya, a former one night stand, at a get-rich-quick seminar. They have another one-night stand, there's a big stupid fight where Tanya is annoying and Ray is a prick, yadda yadda yadda, but the end result is that Tanya inadvertently inspires Ray to give male prostitution a try. He fails miserably - in the one moment that really kicked ass, we see the client peer through the keyhole at Ray, decide he's not worthy, and then reject him via a note slipped under the door with a 50 dollar bill clipped to it. Tanya pops up again, Ray shares the story with her, and she offers to help him market himself better. We leave the pilot episode with Ray agreeing to take Tanya on as his pimp.

Things I liked:
  • Thomas Jane is an appealing lead.
  • While his kids looked nothing like him, I appreciate that they're a little chubby, and the son is a total goth kid. In other words, they look like real teenagers for once.
  • The adventures of a man-whore has a lot of comedic potential.
  • Setting the show in Detroit is a brilliant idea and perhaps future episodes will show more about how the financial crisis has really destroyed that city.
Things I didn't like:
  • Ray is kind of a dick. The show constantly references what hot shit he was in high school, like that's supposed to give him some sort of right to be awesome for the rest of his adult life. His main grievance with his ex-wife's new husband seems to be that the new husband used to be a dork in high school. I'll quote Mo Ryan from the Chicago Tribune here: "Back when he lettered in three sports and was a prospect for the major leagues, Ray 'tasted and came close to greatness,' as he puts it in a voice-over. So?"
  • We're supposed to feel bad for him, but really... what kind of guy can't make ends meet on a teacher's salary in freaking Detroit, especially since he lives in his parents' old house (which I can only assume is completely paid for)? Most of his financial troubles seem brought upon himself. For example, he can't repair the house, because he was too lazy to keep up with his insurance payments. He's depressed that he can't lend his son fifty dollars for concert tickets, but somehow manages to find enough money to take one of those get-rich seminars that they host in stuffy conference rooms at the airport Howard Johnson.
  • He seems upset about losing custody of his kids, and we're supposed to think that Anne Heche's character is just being a big bitch about the whole thing. However, since Ray pretty much expected the kids to literally live in tents with him on his lawn (after his own negligence caused the fire that nearly killed them - too many cords plugged in, and battery taken out of the fire alarm), I'm not sure why any sane person WOULDN'T take Anne Heche's side here.
  • This might be just me, but is there that big of a market for a guy whose only skill seems to be the possession of a big dick? I mean, no one really talked much about his aptitude in the bedroom. Apparently just being well-hung is supposed to be enough for most women? I would have thought something like "super skilled forked tongue" would make more sense, but maybe HBO just couldn't come up with a pithy title to communicate that...
Overall, the show has potential, but the pilot episode failed to dazzle me. While I'll be giving it a few more episodes - since I believe that a show sometimes needs a few episodes to really find its feet - I'm not sure that this one is a "must watch" for me.

Episode 1 grade: C+

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television, hung, hbo

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I wasn't going to watch, because I just knew someone would and give it a review :) Thanks, another thing I don't need to waste precious time on.

I don't get HBO; this reminds me why.
I agree with almost all your points here -- but I still liked it! I'm willing to give it another episode or two. I also trust HH's tastes, and she's watched the first 4 episodes, so remain hopeful. The premise has a lot of potential.

I don't think we're supposed to entirely like Ray -- yet -- but we are supposed to sympathize with him while enjoying his humiliation. Who doesn't like to see the homecoming king get his comeuppance?
I didn't hate it, Kerry - and like you, there's enough of a good premise here that I am willing to give it a few more chances (alas, as a lowly blogger, I do not get the benefit of getting the 4 episode screeners that HH and company get). Part of the problem might have been the fact that it's a pilot, and is burdened with "setting the stage." I'm hoping that subsequent episodes will feature less self-pitying and more man-whore action.

I get your point about seeing the homecoming king get his comeuppance... but I'm not sure that "Oh noes! I have a giant penis and now women will pay me money to ride it!!!" qualifies as "comeuppance," especially if the clients are anything like Tanya - Ray won't even have to fake interest to get them off.
I was less than impressed as well. I might give it one more episode to improve my opinion of him, but my hopes are not high.
When does it come out on Netflix? ; )
Thank you for this review.

Seems strange and annoying that professional sex work is assumed to be easier to do and manage than all of the other things at which this character has already failed. I wonder if that is the point, or if HBO is just going for the cheap trick of having a looser guy have looser adventures.
#1 That was Anne Heche? She is definitely not at her best unless frumpy used to be hot as wife of used to be the hawt guy was what she intended. If so she is one brilliant actress.

#2 The poor man's Aaron Eckhart? Not possible.

Aaron Eckhart is a god among humans. See Thank You For Smoking and watch him in every scene acting his butt off making one care for his character who manages to simultaneously be a sleazy lobbyist, excellent father, and lonely guy screwed by a younger woman. Not an easy task to pull off. I fell so in love with that actor in that movie.
I was flaccid as well.
I was regretting getting ride of HBO recently and mainly because I miss Bill Maher and wanted to see Hung. Your post has helped me feel much better about my decision! Thanks for writing this.
it's a stupid premise and will wear out quickly--like the poor guys dick.
well, it does speak volumes that his giant dick couldn't keep you from noticing all this stuff. my main complaint with stephen king is that his stories are interesting enough to keep me from abhoring his characters. if anyone from hbo is reading, please do pick up the idea of the "super skilled forked tongue"

you could even call it, "everybody wang tongue tonight".
I found it a little slow and agree with you on most of your points, except the first. The constant references to his prior achievements seem to be essential to illustrate his fall from top cock [sic] to underachiever. He also doesn't seem to be an ass to me, so much as a normal male. If you think back on your military days; I'm sure you'd remember ten like him versus the guy that was 'in touch with his feelings.'

Personally, I am going to watch several more episodes to see how it progresses.
>>"poor man's Aaron Eckhart"

Hmm...that would make me poor indeed, since I haven't the faintest idea who Aaron Eckhart might be.

Also? A show about a man-whore that only rates a C+ from a reviewer whom I trust and respect? What is this country coming to? This only confirms my decision to switch to Showtime, where, along with the sublime Nurse Jackie, one can, as God intended, watch a show about a a suburban mom selling pot and bearing a Tijuana drug-lord's baby.
@bstrangely - "everybody wang tongue tonight"... I love it! We'll split the credit if HBO steals our idea :)

@milanst - actually, when I think back to my military days, most of those guys had their shit together. More importantly, none of the guys I knew were clinging to their high school years as a reason for me to respect them. Mostly, I distrust anyone who says "My best years were in high school"... but that's just me.

@Floyd Elliot - the saying goes "Never judge a book by its cover". Well, when it comes to TV, I believe "Never judge a show by its pilot." The first episode was a C+ for me, but I'm going to keep watching to see if subsequent episodes improve. The idea is solid - we just need more man-whore action, less "wah wah, I was a QB in high school, why don't I have everything I want 20 years later?!".

I'll let you know if the show improves. In the meantime, yeah... enjoy Nurse Jackie, which is my new favorite show this summer. :)
I mean, no one really talked much about his aptitude in the bedroom. Apparently just being well-hung is supposed to be enough for most women?

Actually, I HOPE this is the issue that is developed. Otherwise, I cannot imagine where the writers will take this. I think his first customer response -- "I changed my mind" would be a common one.

More than likely sleeping with a strange man and paying him for it sounds much better in fantasy than in reality. I think that is where the pimp idea comes in handy -- Tonya IS going to have to sell him to others. Then, his rep would spread by word of mouth IF he is less of a self-absorbed prick than he seems to be...I don't know...will have to watch now to see what (if anything) happens here.
I watched it and I couldn't agree with you more, right down to the "poor man's Aaron Eckhart" and the Anne Hecht observation. Rated for absolute accuracy in my view.
Never has a review captured my thoughts and feelings about a show so well -- observation by observation, point by point. Like you, I will keep an open mind, and give it another chance. But ... too bad: I (justifiably) have very high expectations of HBO, so I'm always disappointed when they disappoint.
Maybe this is why the show is called "Hung:" because the main protaganist IS a big dick and doesn't just merely have one.
Call me a lesbian (no really, it's ok, I am a lesbian, but even if I weren't), the premise that a guy being hung would make me interested in paying for his services just doesn't hold any if the guy had a triple jointed tongue this might have some traction. And I would guess that many of my straight girl friends would agree...
You nailed it. Man, Aaron Eckhart would have been SO much better for this series. But, a lot of time in Pilots of HBO shows, time goes into introducing characters. I'm hoping that's the case. I did feel for the guy and his sincere revelation that his "tool" was the only real tool he had to work with and offer in life.

Not sure about Ann Heche yet. I'm going to give it time but not having Alan Ball as Exec. Producer hurts it. It has a good premise but does it have promise?

Rated and appreciated
I agree with many of your comments and those made thus far... HBO programming has always been on the cutting edge, so I will give it another couple of episodes.

- rated for your creative title!

Maybe it was the branch, mos, decade, or your gender [for me it was early '90s in an armored unit in the 1st infantry div.] but for me it was much different. Also, I was more referring to his general machismo than his constant references to when he was successful.
On the plus side, NBC is *finally* airing the remaining episodes of "Kings."
@milanst - fair enough. But my problem wasn't with Ray's machismo. My problem was that he just wouldn't stop whining about how great he was in high school, and definitely implied that he was mystified as to why he wasn't still awesome like that. As a military guy, I'd expect you to understand my opinion that no one gives a crap who you were or how you performed at a previous job/unit - they just care about the job you're doing now. And clearly, Ray is NOT doing a good job managing his life.
I think the hook is to get viewers to watch to see how many ways Ray can fail. I think it is written by the high-school team teammate who watched the "stud/star" athlete get the glory, get the girls (apparently because he was well "hung"), and marry the hot cheerleader. Now it is payback time. The "stud/star" is finding out that it takes more than just a big schong to succeed in the real world. Well it is fiction!
mad typist,

I understand why you are annoyed at his whining; I just find that his fall from success to failure is integral to the story. If he was a success then there would be no need to prostitute himself. Also, it was the first episode and they may not mention it much from here on out.