Hung: Season Three

Hung: Season Three

1.5 out of 51.5 out of 51.5 out of 51.5 out of 5 1.5

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Hung is suffering from Weeds Syndrome: Its one-note premise has worn itself out, and the show must now either evolve or shrivel up. In the show’s third season, necessity is no longer the fuel that all but forced Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane) into a life of middle-class prostitution. He’s finally paid off the repairs on his half-burned home (he’s even bought a Roomba!) and the “business” he started with his partner/pimp, Tanya (Jane Adams), is booming. Ray’s former co-pimp, Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff), is now managing Ray’s younger, hotter competition, Jason (Stephen Amell), but Ray’s so well off that he’s under no real pressure to compete for clients.

Watching Hung is what I imagine zero-G sex would be like: amusing at first, then clumsy, and at last unfulfilling. Charlie (Lennie James) makes a valuable mentor for Tanya, both teaching her how to be a pimp and subtly making her his ho. (It helps that the writers have cleverly tethered him to her by putting him under house arrest.) But Ray’s children, Darby (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) and Damon (Charlie Saxton), who, having outgrown their rebellious stages from last season, now seem to exist solely for comic relief, while Ray’s ex-wife, Jessica (Anne Heche), is a sniveling sycophant who, cut off by her soon-to-be-ex-second-husband (Eddie Jemison), now needs a job. Instead of using the character to represent the millions of Americans who have suddenly found themselves out of work, she’s clownishly given a job by Dr. Matt Kopylov (Matt Walsh), the husband of her second ex’s mistress (overly complicated, I know).

Incidentally, those are the characters who are “developed,” if you can even call them that. Jason is nothing more than a convenient rival with no personality of his own, and though his fiancée appears brokenhearted by his newfound infidelities, she’s happy to trade him for a flat-screen TV (with Blu-ray) by the next episode. Considering the brevity of Hung‘s 10-episode season, such quick pacing is understandable; it’s just sloppily executed. Without that great mother of invention (necessity) driving the narrative, creators Colette Burson and Dmitry Lipkin are stuck trying to make lemonade without lemons. As Ray says in the season premiere: “If you don’t have any lemons, well…there’s always something.”

That something, unsurprisingly and as unsubtle as you might expect from a series that calls itself Hung, is sex. Ray’s business is the meat and potatoes of the show, and it’s fascinating to watch him deal with clients like Lydia (Ana Ortiz), who’s got a cops-and-robbers fetish, and Logan (Kaitlin Doubleday), a former student with whom he’s more exposed than ever. And that’s exactly where Hung succeeds; the sooner the show stops pretending to be something more than it is, the sooner it can get back to guiltlessly pleasuring its audience.

HBO, Sundays @ 10 p.m.
Thomas Jane, Jane Adams, Anne Heche, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Charlie Saxton, Rebecca Creskoff, Gregg Henry, Lennie James, Stephen Amell