A handsome single father of two, frustrated by financial problems decides to become a man whore to give his kids the life they deserve. You have to admit-it has a built in audience. Aside from that it sounds like something Miramax was shoving down the Academy's throat in the mid-90's as a sappy tear-fest. Alas, the HBO show 'Hung' (2009 - ) is none of those things. Its a sharp sex-comedy starring Tom Jane and the illusive but brilliant Jane Adams as Ray the prostitute and Tanya his pimp respectively.
First of all let me say this is perhaps the best comedy on television since 'Arrested Development'. It is not your typical black comedy, as it doesn't have the cringe factor stapled to it. It's almost Shakespearian if we think of his comedy of manners and how he writes relationships between men and women and their respective views on sex in such plays as 'Twelfth Night' and 'Midsummer Nights Dream'. One could also compare the sexual humor in this show to that of a reincarnation of the 'Lubtisch Touch', updated for contemporary audiences.
HBO is known as being a network that doesn't censor itself on the subject, and in fact tends to push the standards for 'acceptable television' as seen with shows like 'True Blood'. Cable networks have continuously shock us with the content that they allow past their executive boards into syndicated air time. Programming has come a long way since open mouth kissing being the biggest thing to hit the cast of 'Beverly Hills - 90210'. And we couldn't be more thankful. It shows how television is moving further ahead from cinema in matters of provocative content and shock value.
This is not in any way to state that 'Hung' is a show that shocks for the sake of shocking. The comedy is crass, snarky, but beautifully subtle. You can't have a show called 'Hung', about a male prostitute and not include scenes of gratuitous sex (unless you're Warhol, but that's another story). In a comedy context, the filming of intercourse can be rather difficult. Especially when you have to strategically place the actors' full frontals away from the frame. Ray (Tom Jane) is a man who is very attractive, but insanely lonely. The only thing he really has in his arsenal as a lover is his ridiculously large penis. Jane Adams begins to enlighten him on the universal truth that is 'it's not the size of the boat but the motion of the ocean'. Which is not true in all cases, but is the centerpiece moral lesson of the show, and as Ray strives to become a better lover, he unwittingly becomes a better man. In the competitive world of man-whoring, a big penis can only take one so far. He becomes in tune with what women need, want, and fantasize about. His growth in technique helps him to grow emotionally. Like that ever happens in real life. But we all wish it would.
He learns to make love with equal vigor, whether it be a foxy 20 something, or a lonely, homely house frau in her late 40's. He begins to understand that in sex, it's more about the other than about you, and the more you give the more you get, in simplified terms. He grows into pretty much the perfect man and that's why we still tune in (and by we, I mean women). Not only is he insanely attractive and well built, and there is not an episode yet where we don't see his bare ass, he's a guy who is learning the ways of the world from a feminine perspective. It's kind of what we wish every man could do, and also look like. The sex scenes are erotic and hilarious. Completely avoiding awkwardness is very difficult to do when you're working with graphic material, and Tom Jane's voice over really helps.
Aside from so many clever one liners I can't even begin to quote from them, what's brilliant about the show is that it takes the point of view of a male protagonist and couples it with a firm female perspective, so it's really a sex win-win.
I'm not going to lie, this show makes me want to consider prostitution as a plan B. If I can find a pimp as wise and supportive as Jane Adams, then I'd definitely go for it. Highly recommended show. Check it out for your own good.