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Getting 'Hung'

So I have to admit, when I first saw the trailer for HBO's new series Hung, I really thought it could go either way. The story centers on a high school teacher named Ray Drecker, who decides to use his God-given gift (i.e., his large penis) to make some money on the side. He sets out to become a male escort, but with little idea how to enter this field, hilarity ensues. Or so suggests the trailer.

HBO has a long history of making great shows out of offbeat concepts--Flight of the Conchords, The Sopranos, Big Love. But they also gave us The Mind of the Married Man and Arliss.

There was one reason I really hoped Hung was good--well, two. One is the great Jane Adams, who elevates every project she's in and plays Ray's lover and would-be pimp. The other is Ray himself, playing by Thomas Jane.

Jane is who is one of those actors that people have been saying "is on the cusp of superstardom" for years now. Nobody seems to get why this guy isn't a huge, huge celebrity. He's good-looking, talented, and seems to posses all the qualities of a major star. And yet, A-list status eludes him.

Perhaps his proclivity for crappy Stephen King adaptations (Dreamcatcher, The Mist) hurts him. Or maybe he needs to do more comedies--his guest appearance on Arrested Development playing himself as a method actor who goes undercover as a bum in preparation for his role in the film Homeless Dad marks a high point in a series full of high points.

I think perhaps Jane suffers from the same disease that plagues peers like Josh Lucas: he's a gifted character actor who gets thrust into leading man roles because of his looks.

Which is why the part of Ray is such a good fit for Jane. He's the lead, but Ray is no hero. He loses his wife, his house, and his kids all in the first episode. He's repeatedly humiliated and humbled by his attempts at becoming a professional gigolo.

The good people at HBO sent over the first four episodes and I figured I'd check out the pilot for review. I ended up watching all four in a row. Here's hoping the rest of the world enjoys it as much as I did when it premieres on Sunday, June 28. And here's hoping Jane soon gets his pick of roles. If not... well, Stephen King is always churning out new novels.

--Jenelle Riley

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