The economic crisis, male prostitution and comedy. The three go hand in hand, right? If you’re the creators of dark HBO sitcom Hung, they sure as hell do. Broke and recently divorced, high school baseball coach Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane) had to find a novel way to earn more money to support his teenage twins and build his home on a Detroit riverbank.
So, with the creative input of his new friend, scatterbrained poet Tanya (Jane Adams), Ray takes up work as a prostitute – or, to keep it on the lowdown from his colleagues and ex-wife, a ‘‘happiness consultant’’.
That’s the basic premise of Hung, which is now in its third and final series. Over the course of two years, the show has generally moved away from its early portrayal of recession-hit Detroit to become a true character comedy. By series three, Ray has still managed to keep his second job secret from his friends and family despite some close calls. Business is booming; so much so that Ray, Tanya and sometimes colleague, sometimes arch enemy Lenore (a scene-stealing Rebecca Creskoff) have hired an office space (‘‘Wellness Centre for Women’’ reads the sign above the psychedelic entrance) where they run ‘‘life classes’’ and have even employed a second hunk-for-hire, Jason (Stephen Amell).
With only three episodes left – the show was axed by HBO at the end of this season — things are heating up. Ray is still in love with his ex Jessica (Anne Heche), who is fresh out of her second marriage. But she’s inching closer to finding out just how Ray is making his money.
Next week, a vindictive Lenore takes matters into her own hands by inviting Jessica (they are friends; didn’t you know Detroit’s a small city?) along to a class at the wellness centre. Cue panic as Ray, waiting in another room before parading in front of the women, needs to find an escape route – putting his family life before business.
Hung is fast and often very funny, but there are flaws. Some peripheral characters – like Ray’s twins Damon and Darby – disappear for episodes at a time. And it’s hard to believe Tanya as an in-demand pimp when her main role is to provide bumbling, stumbling comic relief. The good outweighs the bad, though – and if nothing else, Hung is evidence small business isn’t dying – even if that business is a little below the belt.
Seven, Tuesday, 11.30pm