HBO's Hung Is An Examination Of Personal Failure

This week's Hung reminded me that I've been wanting to write about the show. HBO's new offering follows the story of Ray - a down-on-his-luck, former athlete-turned-coach on a losing streak in life. But he still has a giant dick.

What, was that too crass? It shouldn't be - protagonist Ray's penis is the focal point of Hung's story, his only redeeming quality after his life takes a dramatic turn for the worst. After his wife leaves him for a wealthy dermatologist, his house burns down in a fire (while his insurance was lapsed, no less), he sleeps in a tent, he's out of money, and the basketball team he coaches is hasn't won a game yet this season. And yet, defiant in the face of adversity, Ray presses on, ultimately resorting to making money with the one aspect of himself that is universally praised: his penis. And, considering the reaction of the women he comes across, it must be something to see:

Ray's companion on his long slog of misery is Tanya, a woman he initially met through a school arts program and re-meets at an entrepreneurship seminar. Tanya starts off as a stereotypically lonely woman, but gets more and more eccentric with each passing episode. She and Ray are two sides of the same coin - but with Tanya, she wears the anguish of her failed dreams right where everyone can see them. Longing to leave her mind-numbing day job, and recently a victim of school budget cuts, she dreams desperately of a way out of corporate America and into an artistic life. She becomes Ray's pimp, but only finds more problems trying to pursue her long dormant dream of being a poet. In this scene, Tanya (who is about 40 years old) goes to face down her mother for stifling her creativity at the tender age of fourteen:

Hung, at times, is depressing viewing, as everyone's life just sucks.

Ray's children are busy finding themselves in the midst of their parent's divorce. Stuck with a mother who seems to regard them as a check on a to-do list, daughter Darby loses herself in a relationship with some tool named Hammer, and son Damon attempts to lose himself in a vaguely goth like music culture.

Ray's ex wife, Jessica realizes the dermatologist she married wasn't the magical ticket to wealth she hoped for after he loses nearly $800,000 in the stock market. And the others in Ray and Tanya's orbit are just as grim as they are.

This may be the show's ongoing snatch of irony - that people so personally miserable would bill themselves as happiness consultants.

Still, despite the thankless grind that is Ray's life, I still find myself tuning in. In an interview with the Women and Hollywood blog, series co-creator Colette Burson, she remarks:

As writers, and for me as one of the female creators I felt that Ray was sexy being imperfect. There is something in women that really responds to a man who is imperfect and struggling. The female mind turns off when they are imperfect and not giving a shit about it. But something deep happens in the female psyche when they are trying to keep their head above water whatever their problem is. We really root for them. And so Ray is not perfect. He's beautiful but flawed.

I don't find Ray all that beautiful, nor does my standard issue "female psyche" inherently get soft hearted over a struggling dude. However, I must admit that in these trying times, with this shitty economy, when everyone feels like Sisyphus , it's comforting to see a guy who has been reduced down to his genitalia look the world in the eye each Sunday and start muttering under his breath.

Hung [HBO]
Interview with Colette Burson, co-creator of Hung [Women and Hollywood]
Sisyphus [Wikipedia]