Hung: HBO’s fanciful take on male prostitution

I’ve been watching HBO’s Hung for the last few weeks since it premiered here in the UK. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the series, let me lay it down for you. Thomas Jane plays lead character Ray Drekker. Ray is at the end of a serious run of bad luck – he’s a poorly paid high school football coach, his wife has left him, his house is uninhabitable because it caught fire, and his teenage kids – who were living with him – have had to move in with their mother. Oh, and did I mention he can’t afford to repair the house and lives at the bottom of his garden in a tiny tent?

Yeah, things aren’t looking too good for ol’ Ray. Desperate to find additional ways of making the cash he needs, he signs up for an entrepreneurship class where the participants are urged by the tutor to find their most lucrative tool. Being a guy, Ray interprets ‘tool’ in the only way he can – relating it to his sizable man-parts. He meets – and sleeps with – another participant in the course, Tanya Skagle.

Somewhere along the line, Ray and Tanya partner up as ‘happiness consultants’, a lovely euphemism for male prostitution, with Tanya as Ray’s pimp.

Now, somewhere along the line I think most males have had this fantasy. What do we like to do most? Have sex. And what if you could have lots of sex and get paid for it at the same time? Sounds unbelievable. Sounds awesome!

But Ray’s moonlighting as a ‘happiness consultant’ is borne more out of desperation than a desire to get laid. And it’s fun to watch Tanya hustling to sell Ray’s ‘skills’ by pretending that she has a team of lothario’s and she’s picking the best one to suit each client! Better still, in The Pickle Jar episode, Ray comes up against his first paid-for client – an older, heavier woman who he’s not remotely attracted to. These are the downsides of being a happiness consultant.

Still, we find ourselves rooting for Ray, that somehow his moonlighting will turn lucrative and he’ll get that roof fixed. Maybe even straighten up the other aspects of his life. The guy’s got such an uphill struggle – a self-absorbed ex-wife, two of the gloomiest teenagers ever, and an asshole neighbour who takes every pleasure in kicking Ray when he’s down.

Hung is better than our homegrown equivalent – [[Secret Diary of A Call Girl (TV Series)|Secret Diary of A Call Girl]]. Where that show has some broad, overtly comedic sexual encounters, Hung does a better job of painting some finer detail on those encounters. It’s probably not 100% realistic, but it does have more of a gritty believability than Belle in Secret Diary having a messy food fight with a client.

Another thing – I’m finding the relationship between Ray and Tanya compelling viewing. There doesn’t seem to be a sexual chemistry between them, but you can’t help but wonder if he throws her the odd bone under the guise of staff training!

Anyone else seen Hung – I’d love to hear your verdict.

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