Hung up on the Season Finale of “Hung”

HBO’s show about one man’s mid-life crisis is getting better with age

By Jere Hester
|  Friday, Sep 10, 2010  |  Updated 3:00 AM CDT
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Thomas Jane and Jane Adams, who play prostitute and pimp, respectively, on HBO's "Hung."

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The title of Sunday's second season finale of "Hung" is "The Luckiest Kid in Detroit," which might be a stab at irony – and not only because of the Motor City's well-documented woes.

Luck seems to be in short supply for all concerned on the HBO show, particularly for the strapping, forty-something main character Ray Drecker, whose defining physical attribute gives the program its sardonic title.

The good news for Ray is that the most recent episode ended with him apparently winning back his disillusioned, social-climbing ex-wife from her increasingly bitter dermatologist husband.

The bad news is that the already financially slammed Ray just lost his job as a teacher and coach at the high school where he once was a teenage sports hero. The even worse news is that his secret life as a male prostitute is on the verge of being exposed, thanks largely to his bickering novice pimps.

While Ray (Thomas Jane) is struggling through of one TV's most compelling and comic mid-life crises, the series is only getting better with age.

What began as primarily a strong, dark, satiric look at the changing measure of manhood amid a diminished American Dream has grown in quality and scope – perhaps because Season Two has been as much about the women as the men.
 
There's Tanya, the failed-poet-turned-pimp whose decline has extended to tricking a middle-aged woman into paying for the services of Ray's unwitting, sweet buddy, who genuinely loves the wealthy widow. Tanya also has assumed a secret life of her own, taking on an old-school pimp as her mentor and lover.

Charlie (played with a smart subtly by Lennie James) has advised his pupil to whack her rival co-pimp Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff), a slick friend-for-hire for rich ladies who appears likely to reveal Ray's moonlighting gig to his ex-wife, Jessica (Anne Heche), out of spite.

Meanwhile, Ray's teenage daughter, Darby (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) is left to battle body-image issues alone with nary a good role model to be found as she tries to navigate her way to womanhood.

The fine writing and the performances – particularly by Jane Adams as the increasingly unhinged Tanya – offers characters worth watching, if not always worth caring about, as they're pushed to alternately comic and sad acts of desperation amid tough times.

While Season One played up the premise of the unlikely prostitute, Season Two has focused more on the consequences and unintended victims of bad decisions – much of which presumably will be laid bare on Sunday night.

There may not be a lot of luck going around in Ray Drecker's corner of Detroit. But we'll be watching the finale, feeling fortunate in the knowledge that the show will be back for at least one more season, giving us more to get hung up on.
 

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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