Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski is a film studies professor, but Tanya's orgasmic living class sounds even more fun to teach.
Tanya: "It's not all about your dick, Ray."
After a disappointing second season, the HBO gigolo comedy Hung returns with a somewhat better third. This improvement, dubiously, seems to come from throwing a whole lot of plots at the wall and getting a few to stick. While a lot of the same problems remain—most egregiously, that the show isn't as funny as it should be—there's enough going on to keep things interesting and the not-to-be-missed Jane Adams is as good as ever.
Facts of the Case
Hung has a pretty simple plot and viewers who aren't caught up could start here in the third season. Because they can't make ends meet in recession-era Detroit, high school teacher and former athlete Ray (Thomas Jane, The Punisher) and feminist poet Tanya (Jane Adams, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) team up as a gigolo and his pimp. Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff, Mad Men), a mean girl all grown up, tried to take over their business, failed, and is now royally pissed off. Ray has two teenagers, Darby (Sianoa Smit-McPhee, As the Bell Rings) and Damon (Charlie Saxton, Twelve), and an ex-wife, Jessica (Anne Heche, 1998's Psycho), who is divorcing her second husband.
Spoiler Alert! I'll be discussing plot points through the end of the third season.
• "Take the Cake" or "Are You Packing?"—Lenore kicks her
payback plan into gear by recruiting Jason (Stephen Amell, Private Practice), a hot, young gigolo,
and sending him to steal Ray's clients. Ray disapproves of Tanya's approach to
dealing with the Jason problem.
• "Mister Drecker" or "Ease Up on the Whup-Ass"—Ray
accidentally reveals his profession to a former student with a crush on him.
Jessica reenters the work force with a job at a hospital.
• "F*** Me, Mister Drecker" or "Let's Not Go to Jail"—Ray
recaptures his youth with his former student / current client, but is taking a
beating—literally—from Lydia, a client who likes to play rough.
Tanya gets closer with her pimp friend Charlie (Lennie James, The Walking Dead), who's living
with her on house arrest.
• "We're Golden" or "Crooks and Big Beaver"—Ray pisses his
cop client, Lydia, off and ends up in the back of her squad car under arrest.
Tanya plays the unlikely role of his rescuer.
• "What's Going on Downstairs" or "Don't Eat Prince
Eric!"—Ray gets upset when he learns that his new client is a trans woman,
but agrees to escort her to her high-school reunion. Tanya worries that Jason
and his fiancée Sandy (Analeigh Tipton, Crazy, Stupid Love.) might
put the business in danger.
• "I, Sandee" or "This Sex. Which Is. Not One."—Lenore
launches a new attack by bringing Jessica to the Wellness Center as a client,
where she reveals something to Tanya that unsettles Ray.
• "A Monkey Named Simian" or "Frances Is Not a Fan"—Tanya
is reeling from Charlie's disappearance and wants Ray to take her to the wedding
of a former client, Frances. Ray wants to take Jessica, as he is hoping for
something to reignite with her.
• "The Whole Beefalo"—When Charlie's bondsman comes calling
to take Tanya's stuff at the Wellness Center, our dynamic duo must track Charlie
down and recover $40,000 from him. Meanwhile, Jason tries to win back Lenore's
From what I recall, the previews for Hung: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray) pitched it as a knockdown, drag-out rivalry between the old hand, Ray, and the new gigolo on the block, Jason. That alone sounded more exciting to me than most of what was going on in Season Two, but little did I know how many substantial plot threads Season Three would string together: Ray vs. Jason, Lenore's continued schemes for vengeance, Sandee as a rival for Lenore, Tanya getting more invested in Charlie, Jessica finding out Ray's secret, Ray facing the threat of arrest, and, most importantly, the revitalization of Happiness Consultants through Tanya's Wellness Center for Women.
While Jason and Sandee are pretty silly characters with zero depth, they stir the show's pot nicely and bring the issue of Ray's age to the forefront. The Wellness Center revitalizes Hung itself, not just Ray and Tanya's business, with a fun new set and new scenarios to play around with (like Tanya teaching a class in which she plays recordings of her own orgasms). Though I was sad to see Ray's kids, Damon and Darby, squeezed out by all these storylines, I was happy to see a bit less of his ex-wife Jessica. Anne Heche doesn't do anything wrong in the role, really, but she's a less interesting character who has sucked up too much screen time in previous seasons.
There are also a couple of standout episodes and storylines. "We're Golden" is built upon the fun structure of having Ray arrested in the back of a police car for almost the entire episode and has the kind of urgent, serious stakes that the show mostly lacks this season (especially with Ray and Tanya making a lot of money, for once). This episode builds up the back story of Lydia the cop and does a great job of shifting her back and forth from being a villain on the verge of busting Ray's and Tanya's whole operation to being a just sad, sympathetic lady who hired a gigolo. The client, Kyla, who turns out to be a trans woman produces a refreshing storyline, too, considering how little representation trans folks get in TV shows or films that take them seriously. It's especially cool that Hung cast an actual (and quite hot) trans woman to play the role, too.
The real highlight of the season, as usual, is Jane Adams and her performance as Tanya. I hope they're paying her the lion's share of the cast salaries, because she alone is generating the lion's share of its laughs (and most of its pathos, too, for that matter). Her physical comedy—be it falling down on ice skates or flailing around while handcuffed to a light post in the middle of the night—is top-notch, and she nails all of the moments of rambling the writers give her (as when she tries to convince Lydia to release Ray from custody). Every once in a while, Adams pulls out a dramatic scene that is a little bit heartbreaking. This season, it's her realization that Charlie has been using her and is going to leave her in the lurch with his bail bondsman. This happens as she stands in the middle of her street, in the rain, wearing a robe and clutching a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit against her chest, which she had brought out as a parting gift for Charlie's kids, whom she had been taking care of. The whole setup and Adams' pitch-perfect performance remind us that even though Tanya is a pimp, she remains such an innocent and fragile person.
On a technical level, Hung: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray) is definitely up to snuff. The less-depressing-than-usual environments of the series come through very nicely in the 1.78:1/1080p HD presentation, with crisp lines and bright colors. There's nothing incredibly complex going on with sound of the show, but the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track brings the dialogue through clearly and pumps in the occasional background song at a good volume.
Extras are plentiful and varied, starting with four commentary tracks (episodes noted above) from the co-creator couple, Colette Burson and Dmitry Lipkin, and some of their writers. They dish out some interesting tidbits here—about casting the trans character, why they had Ray and Tanya make more money this year, and where they got Jason and Sandee's pet turtle—though, as usual, I wish that some of the cast would join in on the commentaries. A featurette, "Inside the Series" (15 minutes), offers more thoughts from Burson and Lipkin in the form of interviews mixed with clips from the season. In a separate extra, Burson takes us on a 3-minute tour of the Wellness Center set, where we get to see some of the inspirational, sex-themed mantras Tanya has pinned to the wall and hear an excerpt from the Center's pamphlets. "Pimpin' Ain't Easy" (4 minutes) is an unusual offering: a scene of Charlie the pimp relaxing on a park bench and delivering a monologue to the camera about how the Internet has crippled his business. It's fun, with lines like, "You would be amazed what mo-fos are getting away with filing under 'casual encounters.' Cause that's some pretty specific, freaky-deaky shit to be that damn casual." A Deleted Scenes extra clocks in at 15 minutes, but that includes introductions to each scene from the creators. There's a good one of Tanya hallucinating when she's cuffed to the light post, arriving at the declaration, "Kiss my fucking ass, telepathic horse." The alternate ending to the season should have been packaged with these deleted scenes—especially since it has a radical plot development that the creators could have explained—but isn't. Lastly, there's a music video where Damon and Darby sing a sweet little song about Detroit and it's economy, accompanied by clips from the series.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The whole premise of Hung has always strained credibility to its breaking point and continues to do so this season. We're asked to believe that there are plenty of women willing to pay hundreds of dollars (on a regular basis, since they are mostly weekly clients) to have sex with a forty-something guy of above-average-but-not-insane attractiveness. Also, there are plenty of women like this living in Detroit, one of the poorest cities in the United States. Oh, and most of these women happen to be hot enough that we enjoy watching them have sex on screen. As a lesbian, I don't exactly have my finger on the pulse of the hetero getting-it-on environment, but I've been lead to believe that there isn't a particular shortage of attractive men who would be willing to have non-relationship sex with hot women for free…
I doubt I'll remember any of Hung: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)'s many plots a few years down the road, but their critical mass returns this series at least to the level of "a fun way to pass time," if not really "memorable, quality television."
Not guilty, but comedically, this show is hung like…maybe a beagle? Or a larger-than-average fox?
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