The Economy Nosedives and One Man Turns to Prostitution

What Women Really Think
June 26 2009 1:40 PM

The Economy Nosedives and One Man Turns to Prostitution

"Everything's falling apart." So begins the first episode of HBO's Hung , a new dramatic comedy that premieres this Sunday, June 28, at 10 p.m. The opening shots highlight downtown Detroit's urban blight, and the economic downturn serves as backdrop for the tale of a man who takes desperate measures to survive financial hardship. Because it's HBO, this particular red-blooded American man doesn't score a part-time position at Starbucks. He becomes a male prostitute.

Thomas Jane stars as Ray Drecker, a once-great athlete who's fallen from his lofty pedestal. His homecoming queen ex-wife (Anne Heche) has left him for a wealthy dermatologist who's kind enough to give her Botox injections in the kitchen while she complains about her failures as a mother, his house has burned to the ground, and his fellow teachers at the high school where he teaches history and coaches basketball are getting laid off left and right. His kids don't even want to live with him anymore. "What happened to my life?" Drecker laments.


Looking for a way out of the mess, Drecker attends a get-rich-quick seminar, "Unleash Your Inner Entrepreneur," in which he is advised to discover his "one winning tool" that will turn him into a multimillioniare. Drecker doesn't have any clever ideas, but he does have one thing going for him: He's very well hung.

While Jane's Drecker is a bit of a lummox, and the show's thin premise is little more than a protracted dick joke, the pilot's director, Alexander Payne ( Election , Sideways ), guides our hero through a myriad of rotating relationships with women played by brilliant female character actresses. To get work, Drecker teams up with sometimes-lover-and-fellow-seminar-attendee Tanya Skagle (Jane Adams), a flailing poet who's brilliant idea is Lyric Bread: bits of poetry stuffed into baked goods. (The inside of her left wrist reveals a tiny tattoo: "proust.") Regardless of her lefty leanings, Skagle decides her gift with words is destined to market Drecker's new sex work career. "I'm hoping to make money and bring something positive into the world at the same time," she explains dreamily to a well-connected woman the pair use to solicit wealthy female clients for Drecker's budding business.

Being a male prostitute isn't easy, apparently. You won't be hearing any of Hung 's more memorable one-liners on network TV anytime soon. "Good cock is hard to find," one woman observes. "Why can't they just fuck me for me?" Drecker grouses. And then there's: "I hear you've got a big one."

Ultimately, Hung can't quite make up its mind whether it's a penis joke masquerading as a TV show, or a sometimes insightful look at the strange relations between men and women laid bare when things get intimate. The series' best moments come during the all-too-rare sex scenes wherein both parties let down their guard, and Hung shows us what we haven't yet seen: how terrifically complicated it is for men and women to understand one another.

Mostly, the show's creators, Dmitry Lipkin and Colette Burson ( The Riches ) ignore the moral issues of sex work that Showtime's Secret Diary of a Call Girl had to wrestle with. When the pimp is a woman, and the whore is a man, why bother considering the finer social issues? There's another dick joke to be made!

"I think for a lot of women happiness and great sex are kind of the same thing," Tanya, who refers to her male charge as a "happiness consultant," insightfully observes. Unfortunately, that's the last we hear of that. It's not until the fourth episode that Drecker finally gets it on with a client, and we're left staring at his bare bottom while a woman oggles his hungness. Where's the revelation in that?



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.