“Hung” is a series that, not unlike a particular physical attribute of its lead character, caught my eye immediately. The reason it did so, however, was less because of the apparent anaconda residing in the trousers of Ray Drecker, played by Thomas Jane, and more because of the people behind the scenes.
Now in its third season on HBO, “Hung” was created by Dmitry Lipkin and Colette Burson. I was well familiar with Lipkin’s name from his previous small-screen creation, “The Riches,” which lasted for an all-too-short two seasons on FX. As such, I would’ve followed him anywhere his next project might have taken him…and when I discovered that it revolved around a well-endowed high school baseball coach who turns to prostitution as a way of making ends meet, I’d have to say that I wasn’t entirely surprised that it took him to a premium cable network.
Alas, as is often the case in the life of a TV critic, there never seem to be enough hours in the day to keep up with every series you’d like to watch, and although I was decidedly curious to see how a concept such as this might play as a series, I wasn’t really able to give it a good look until Season 1 made its DVD debut. Unsurprisingly, those first ten episodes proved highly entertaining, making it easy as pie to dole out a four-star review while musing on the conceptual (if not necessarily tonal) similarities between “Hung” and “Breaking Bad,” both focusing on what a father is willing to do to make ends meet for his family. Sadly, though, I wasn’t nearly as charmed by the goings-on in Season 2, and by the end of those ten episodes, I’d reached a point where I was left wondering whether or not it was going to worth the time and effort to follow the series into its third season.
Despite this uncertainty, I found myself in the position to taking on the weekly “Hung” blog for the Onion AV Club, and since I was, if nothing else, at least up to date on the series by the time the new season was on the cusp of premiering, I figured, “Oh, what the heck, let’s give it one more season…” Mind you, the fact that I was getting paid for my trouble didn’t hurt, but there was another check in the “pro” column as well: the news that my favorite Season 2 guest star – Lennie James, who’d played a pimp named Charlie – was going to be returning for a not-insubstantial stint in Season 3.
As it turned out, that wasn’t the only reason to stick around. One of my biggest issues in the previous season had been the fact that Ray’s kids, God bless ‘em, were A) incredibly weird, and B) prone to dragging the show down virtually every time they were made the predominant thrust of a scene. Clearly, I was not the only one to feel this way, as they’ve only popped up on a handful of occasions this go-round, rarely doing anything particularly outrageous…and, you know, it’s not as if I have any problem with outrageousness, per se, but when it feels like it’s outrageousness simply for outrageousness’ sake, that really starts to grate on the nerves pretty damned quickly. So watching Damon and Darby (Charlie Saxton and Sianoa Smit-McPhee) transition from the spotlight onto the sidelines has, at least from my perspective, been a very good thing, indeed.
So why, aside from the demotion of two main characters and the return of a guest star, has Season 3 proven to be so much more successful? Part of it is because the ongoing competition between Ray’s two pimps, Tanya (Jane Adams) and Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff), has been so hysterical, especially with the addition of a new stud – Jason, played by Steve Amell – into the mix. The most unexpected twist, however, has been the prominence of Jason’s fiancée, Sandee (Analeigh Tipton), who seemed so sweet and innocent in her first appearance but has turned out to be at least as cutthroat as Lenore. We’ve also gotten to see Ray venture into more interesting customer relationships, including a former student and, uh, Kyla. I hesitant to say any more about Kyla except that there’s more to her than meets the eye. Heck, even Ray’s ex-wife, Jessica (Anne Heche), has had a fun storyline this season, thanks to an unexpected but ultimately hilarious close encounter with Dr. Matt (Matt Walsh).
Basically, what I’m saying is that if you’re like me and found yourself so underwhelmed with Season 2 of “Hung” that you couldn’t be bothered to give it another season pass on your DVR, you made a mistake. Well, probably, anyway. I mean, maybe you liked the kids. If so, you’d really be pissed about now. Also, anyone who was coming back week after week because they wanted to bask in the presence of the great Gregg Henry must surely be throwing things at their TV by now, as the poor bastard has literally only shown his face once this season…and on the one occasion when he did turn up, they didn’t even give him any lines! Except for that stuff, though, Season 3 of “Hung” has fully redeemed the series for me. I realize there’s still a few episodes left ’til the season finale, but as it stands right now, they’d have to screw things up royally in a really rapid fashion to keep me from coming back for Season 4.
Tags: Analeigh Tipton, Anne Heche, Breaking Bad, Charlie Saxton, Colette Burson, Dmitry Lipkin, FX, Gregg Henry, HBO, Hung, Jane Adams, Lennie James, Matt Walsh, Rebecca Creskoff, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Steve Amell, The Light from the TV Shows, The Riches, Thomas Jane, Will Harris