No one will be pointing and laughing at "Hung," HBO's new half-hour series about a well-endowed, middle-age, high school coach turned gigolo. That's problematic because "Hung" (10 p.m. Sunday) is supposed to be a comedy, but it's one of those shows that's amusing and may make viewers nod in recognition of a familiar character type or behavior. But "Hung" is not a laugh riot.
Thomas Jane ("The Punisher") stars as Ray Drecker, one of those guys whose glory days were in high school -- and it's been all downhill since.
His wife (Anne Heche) left him for a wealthy dermatologist and in Sunday's premiere, Ray's house catches fire and he's forced to live in a tent pitched in the back yard.
Ray enrolls in a start-your-own-business course where the lecturer encourages students to "identify your very own tool." Ray looks toward his crotch for encouragement and works with a former hookup, mousy Tanya (Jane Adams, "Frazier"), who suggests she be his pimp.
It's interesting that much of the show's humor comes from its female characters. Ray is a pathetic sad sack who finds himself in unfortunate life circumstances but there's dark humor in timid, needy Tanya, the liberal feminist who doesn't like "corporate chain restaurants" and defends her pimping skills while lecturing, "Ray, I cannot be a partner with someone who hates women."
The humor from Heche's character is less sparkling since it mostly stems from the notion that she's a materialistic meanie.
The actors cast as Ray's kids look nothing like him or his ex-wife but they also look more like real kids and less like the cast of "Gossip Girl," which is a welcome change.
The show's setting -- near Detroit, Mich., where "Hung" is filmed -- gives the series a unique look, but it also contributes to the overall sense of gloom and depression that hangs over "Hung." That's by design, no doubt, but all of these elements put together make the show's concept quite a tease. It's far more mundane than the notion of a male prostitute suggests. (For the record, no full frontal male nudity is shown in the first few episodes sent for review.)
It's possible that "Hung" will lighten up as time goes on. The weak ending to Sunday's pilot is trite and feels like a half-hearted effort to be uplifting. It doesn't work. But the end of the fourth episode is almost sweet -- Ray finds it in himself to have sex with a woman who doesn't turn him on -- at least in a "Hung" universe sort of way.
Contact TV editor Rob Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv.