“Just the Tip”
June 27th, 2010
Like Cougar Town in the fall, Hung was a show in which some viewers and critics became hung up on its title and its initial premise to the point where they were unable to see the ways in which the show was something more than a dude with a large penis. Those of us who kept watching, and writing about, the show were considered outliers, those who were perhaps reading more into the series than was actually there. And as Hung returns for its second season, it does so in a way which makes us wonder if us outliers were wrong all along.
It’s not that “Just the Tip” is particularly bad, but rather than it feels particularly pointless: the plots in the episode feel either like continuations of first season stories or cliche-riddled story arcs which feel divorced from the social circumstances which created them. While there is meaning in the fact that the central image of Ray’s struggle, his fire-damaged house, remains fire-damaged, it also means that the show feels exactly like it did last summer, which is a problem on a show which seems like its stakes should be escalating rather than normalizing, and which makes me question just what this show wants to be.
“A Dick and a Dream or Fight the Honey”
September 13th, 2009
While we can argue back and forth on whether Hung’s ensemble were used to the degree that Nurse Jackie’s, or whether Thomas Jane could possibly stand up to Edie Falco in a direct comparison, I don’t think there’s any question that Hung had a far clearer sense of its own identity in its freshman season.
From beginning the end, the show was an investigation of these economic times we live in, portraying a potentially farcical concept (high school teacher turns prostitute) in a starkly realistic context. When we learn in the finale that 70% of the teachers at Ray’s school are getting laid off, only so that they can then re-apply and be denied the benefits they currently have, it feels like another drop in the bucket, and that’s the point: it’s not going to stop anytime soon, and whatever you can do to stay afloat is understandable if not particularly ethical.
As such, we find a finale where every single character is forced to make adjustments to who they believe they are in an effort to maintain this screwed up status quo, this realistic scenario wherein a poet becomes a pimp. Tying together quite marvelously nearly every single character, the finale depicts those moments where your attempts to alter your identity run head first into a brick wall, and how each character works to climb over top of it into a new stage in their life.
For some it’s almost too easy, and for others it’s going to prove a comic, dramatic, and engaging challenge.
“This is America or Fifty Bucks”
August 30th, 2009
More than any episode before it, “This is America or Fifty Bucks” lives and dies by the show’s timeliness in the midst of an economic crisis. With Jessica struggling to adapt to Ron’s newfound money problems, and Ray struggling to make money in order to rebuild his house, the show has always been dealing with the reality of the current economic situation.
But there has always been a problem central to Ray’s struggle: in dealing with such a high end prostitution ring, he’s trapped at a point where their clientele is shrinking. Lenore’s clients are rich women with no real sense of the value of money, but once you move beyond them we’re beginning to see the business of Happiness Consulting falling apart in the midst of these circumstances. In this week’s episode, we find both Ray and Jessica at a crossroads, and they find the exact same temptress waiting for them at the roadsign, beckoning towards a sense of luxury and self-worth while Tonya struggles to maintain a sense of normalcy in the midst of an almost absurd (when you step back) business relationship as best she can.
But America is changing, and normalcy is changing, and the status quo of the series is starting to fall out from underneath our characters as they start to fall in on one another – the result is a really intriguing leadup to the end of the show’s first season.