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Eagerly anticipating this week ... (40-17)

Eagerly anticipating this week ... (40-17)
Yorgos Lanthimos' The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

7/26/2017

Hung - season 1 (2009) - Ray Drecker overcomes bad circumstances in mostly promising dramedy



The simple poster for Colette Burson and Dmitry Lipkin's Hung S1 gets its basic premise across effectively

Hung season 1 is a ten episodes long dramedy series, with each episode averaging 28 minutes, from husband-wife creator team Dmitry Lipkin (The Riches (2007-08)) and Colette Burson (Permanent (2017), writer-director). 

The series focuses on high school basket ball teacher, divorcee and middle-aged father Ray Drecker from the Detroit area, his struggles and exploits as a gigolo.

Following here is a short recap of the developments through the episodes of the season:

1. Ray Drecker's life has taken a downwards turn: His wife has left him, he has suffered kidney stones. His uninsured house burns down due to sketchy electric wiring, and his teenage children move away to live with their mother and her new husband Ronnie, while Ray lives in a tent on his property.
2. Ray meets unsuccessful poet Tanya Skagle in a motivational class for becoming a millionaire that he attends. She wants to conquer the world with her 'poetry bread', and the idea of prostituting Ray comes up. Ray accepts Tanya's former colleague Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff (Bates Motel (2014), TV-series)) as his first customer, a domineering woman whose job is to shop for rich people, but she loses his wallet during the commanding encounter. A firing round is announced at Ray's workplace, but he is only cautioned to stop cursing. His twin children Damon and Darby express a wish to move back to their dad.
3. Ray's ex-wife Jessica buys a sick dog for her family. Ray has a beef with his affluent neighbor. His pimp Tanya struggles with first customer Lenore, who refuses to pay for the sex and has even given herself a 400 $ commission. In exchange she gives Tanya some numbers of possible future clients.
4. Ray's students donate their earnings from a charity car wash to their down-on-his-luck teacher, but he is still unable to purchase the pillar that is necessary for the renovation of his home. Ray's second client (Margo Martindale (Beautiful Creatures (2013))) at first makes him ill, because she isn't immediately attractive, but on their second try, they achieve success.
5. Ray's third client, complicated blond Jemma (Natalie Zea (Under the Dome (2013), TV-series)), wants something with love and fate involved, which Ray finds difficult to improvise into existence on the spot. Jessica and Ron have the sick dog put to sleep, and Tanya gets rejected by motivational teacher Floyd (Steve Hytner (Should've Been Romeo (2012))), who is himself a major failure.
6. Jemma is proving to be a rather strange client; she pays Ray to accompany her to her therapist, and he is intrigued. - To the point where he kisses her in public, when his basketball team reap a rare victory, and Jessica and kids Damon and Darby stand gazing at them.
7. Tanya is in low spirits and hooks up with a photo artist, who hangs around the following day for two visits to her mother, while she also attempts to write poetry again. Meanwhile Ray tries to make it as his own pimp. Jemma is not interested in a conventional relationship, and Ray's neighbor's hot wife has sex with him but her payment turns out to just be to keep her husband from writing any more citations of complaint with Ray's property and behavior to the city authorities.
8. More troubles, as Ray visits Jessica and Ron for dinner. He also contracts a new, well-paying customer (Lauren Weedman (Looking: The Movie (2016), TV movie)), and Tanya continues to struggle with life.
9. Ray and Tanya are unsure of how to get more clients. Lenore suggests raising the prizes, and takes Jessica shopping (without realizing she is Ray's ex-wife), while Tanya suggests lowering them. Ray's son Damon might be gay, and he talks to Darby about it in a really funny scene on a climbing wall.
10. Tanya is very discouraged and freaks out about flies in her home and her runaway artist boyfriend. Ray discovers that he is up for a budget-dictated layoff from work and gives in to Lenore's continued offer of assistance, prompting that Ray and Tanya's 'Happiness Consultants' gigolo business becomes a three-person venture. Ray fucks his neighbor again. Lenore unknowingly books Jessica as a client for Ray, who ultimately leaves the appointment, before he would have revealed his new job to his ex-wife.

Hung begins very successfully with a hilarious, well-written and well-directed pilot that reveals that it has more content than its title, which refers to Ray's natural-born gift of being well-endowed between his legs, indicates.
Thomas Jane (The Buzzer (2006)) and Jane Adams (Silver Bullets (2011)) are both eminent and perfectly cast as Ray and Tanya, and Anne Heche (Nip/Tuck (2005), TV-series) is also quite good as Jessica, although her character isn't as fleshed out as theirs and talks a bit strange at times.
The show loses some of its freshness about half way through the season and becomes, at times, somewhat humdrum. It isn't above throwing in some gratuitous but not too lengthy shots of eroticism during some of its sex scenes, and it picks up again towards its last episode, ending in a very good and vibrant place. Hung has a couple of good leading characters (Ray and Tanya) and creates many funny situations. The first season is a mostly promising start.

Best episode:

1: Pilot - written by Burson & Lipkin; directed by master filmmaker Alexander Payne (The Descendants (2011)), who also served as an executive producer on the show
Ray's life is in a bad way. He attends a self-help class and locates his personal "winning tool".

Related posts:
 
Alexander Payne: 2013 in films - according to Film Excess [UPDATED I]   
Nebraska (2013) or, Father and Son
Top 10: The best big hit movies reviewed by Film Excess to date  
2011 in films and TV-series - according to Film Excess [UPDATED II]
2011 in films and TV-series - according to Film Excess [UPDATED I] 
2011 in films - according to Film Excess
The Descendants (2011) - Payne and Clooney score with a Hawaiian story of heartbreak, loss and family 
About Schmidt (2002) or, Dear Ndugu ...  

Election (1999) - Payne's high school politics dramedy







Cost: Unknown
Box office: None - TV-series

= Uncertain (but should likely be counted as a cable TV hit)
[Hung S1 premiered 28 June and ended its first run 13 September, totaling an estimated 280 minutes. Shooting took place in Michigan, including in Detroit. The season was nominated for a Primetime Emmy award and two Golden Globes (for Jane and Adams). I haven't been able to find the season's average HBO ratings, only that they were higher than season 2 and 3's average. The series declined in viewership until it was canceled after season 3. Season 2 boasted 2.46 mil. viewers, so S1 was at least higher than that. Hung was definitely not a highly expensive series in HBO's context, so its first season should probably be counted as a cable TV hit. Hung S1 is the series' highest rated on Rotten Tomatoes: It is rotten at 56 % with a 5.79/10 critical average.]

What do you think of Hung S1?

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