Male teacher turns prostitute in HBO comedy ‘Hung’

… or are you just happy to see me?
By Mark A. Perigard / Review
Thursday, June 25, 2009

HBO, the premium cable network responsible for such groundbreaking series as “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City,” pegs its future on a show built around a man trying to make his fortune off of what God put between his legs.

In the comedy “Hung,” Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane, “The Punisher”) is a Michigan high school history teacher and basketball coach stewing in a middle-aged funk. The ex-star athlete drills a team on an epic losing streak, lives in his parents’ home, is overextended on loans, has a nutjob for an ex-wife (Anne Heche, “Men in Trees”) and two schlubby teenagers he doesn’t know how to talk to.

“What happened to my life? I used to be a big deal. I used to be going somewhere,” he laments in a voice-over.

In the 45-minute premiere Sunday (subsequent episodes will measure 30 minutes), a fire guts his home. As his sullen kids go off to live with their mother and her rich new husband, he’s forced to pop a tent on the edge of his property.

Ray’s desperate for coin. At a money seminar, he reconnects with a poet named Tanya (Jane Adams, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), with whom he once slept. Their loud sexual encounter gives Ray the idea that he can make money off his biggest asset.

A man-whore is born.

Tanya eventually agrees to act as his pimp and package him as a “happiness consultant” to rich women. In the second episode, she gives him lessons on pleasing ladies beyond the obvious. “Women are not poultry. You can’t just grab,” she tells him.

As you might expect from an HBO series, “Hung” is peppered with f-bombs and a bit of nudity from both sexes. No doubt to the disappointment of a few and the relief of a great many more, there are no glimpses of the appendage that apparently would make Dirk Diggler hang his head low.

Jane is effective if boring as the tool trying to do the right thing even if he’s going about it all wrong. He’s confused by his son’s Goth makeup, but still longs to be a good dad to him. Heche channels all kinds of crazy as the ex-wife determined to barrel her way into her children’s lives. She’s funny, but she might as well have jogged over from another show.

With such shows as “Nurse Jackie” and “United States of Tara,” Showtime has stolen HBO’s crown for original, edgy programming. For a struggling network to build a series around this smacks of insecurity.

Get beyond the salacious premise, and you have a timid sitcom criminally short on jokes. “Hung” follows a Neanderthal trying to evolve into a modern man.

The trip isn’t worth the trouble. Nothing to see here, folks. Keep moving.

Series premiere Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO.

– mperigard@bostonherald.com

Original at Boston Herald

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