Quirky, ten­der odyssey

The sex­ual revo­lu­tion reaches US tele­vi­sion in this funny, touch­ing ac­count of a very well-equipped gigolo

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY -

Y ES, HUNG, the ti­tle of a new HBO se­ries com­ing to TV screens on Novem­ber 17 on M-Net at 9.30pm, does re­fer to that sort of “hung”. So it’s not about an art critic traips­ing around the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery, or a his­tory of trap­door cap­i­tal pu­n­ish­ment (be­cause that, of course, would be “Hanged”).

Hung is, let’s make no bones about it, a com­edy drama about a man with a big pe­nis.

Ac­tu­ally, it’s a lot more than that. Star­ring Thomas Jane as Ray, a di­vorced and marginalised Detroit school bas­ket­ball coach who de­cides to make use of his largest re­main­ing as­set (his house hav­ing just burned down) and be­come a gigolo, Hung is a quirky and sur­pris­ingly ten­der odyssey through both the male midlife cri­sis and the fe­male sex­ual psy­che.

But to re­turn briefly to that ti­tle, there is some­thing won­der­fully brazen about Hung. It could well have been the name of one of Andy Warhol’s Fac­tory films, with Joe Dalle­san­dro as a well-en­dowed hustler. And the Warhol con­nec­tion is per­haps no co­in­ci­dence be­cause while the artist’s glo­ri­fied home movies were at the van­guard of Amer­i­can cin­ema’s sex­ual revo­lu­tion in the 1960s, so Hung is at the cut­ting edge of Amer­i­can TV’s more be­lated sex­ual revo­lu­tion.

The once heav­ily cen­sored US air­waves are now full of ac­tors talk­ing about sex and sim­u­lat­ing sex, and ca­ble TV in gen­eral, and HBO in par­tic­u­lar, are to be thanked (or blamed) for this.

With up­mar­ket lib­eral sub­scribers to please in­stead of con­tro­ver­sy­sen­si­tive ad­ver­tis­ers, ca­ble has con­tin­ued push­ing bound­aries ever since it in­tro­duced nu­dity and swear­ing to a hith­erto spot­less Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion in the early 1990s with Dream On. Since then shows like Sex and the City and, more re­cently, Show­time’s Cal­i­for

nica­tion have broad­ened Amer­i­can TV’s sex­ual li­cence while manag­ing to pick up awards at the same time.

“Ex­plicit tele­vi­sion and qual­ity tele­vi­sion have be­come con­flated in the pub­lic con­scious­ness, largely be­cause of HBO’s suc­cess,” wrote Newsweek mag­a­zine re­cently.

“Graphic sex is not a ne­ces­sity of good sto­ry­telling… It’s a carrot ca­ble net­works use to at­tract creative tal­ent, peo­ple (with) vi­sions and don’t want them com­pro­mised.”

Two such tal­ents are Dmitry Lip­kin and Co­lette Bur­son, the brains be­hind Hung, and I asked them whether the show’s rather star­tling sce­nario made for a hard (un­for­tu­nate puns be­ing al­most un­avoid­able) sell when they started pitch­ing it to TV ex­ec­u­tives.

“We never pitched it to the net­works… al­ways ca­ble… it was ac­tu­ally an en­tic­ing idea,” says Lip­kin. “I was ac­tu­ally shocked,” adds Bur­son. “I mean, we would say the words ‘large pe­nis’ and it was like: ‘Where do we sign the cheque?’

“In a way, the pe­nis thing is a bit of a Tro­jan horse,” says Lip­kin. “One of the things we were in­ter­ested in was the male psy­che ver­sus the fe­male psy­che. Ray’s a voy­ager in the world of women… and we came to re­alise more and more that there was some­thing elec­tric about a man and a woman alone in a room to­gether with sex on the ta­ble, as a com­mer­cial ex­change, a ter­ri­fy­ing trans­ac­tion full of drama.”

Th­ese scenes are among the fun­ni­est and most touch­ing I’ve seen in a while, but there is sur­pris­ingly lit­tle nu­dity in Hung – and as for Ray’s al­legedly enor­mous mem­ber, Lip­kin and Bur­son reckon some things may be best left to the imagination.

“We some­times re­ferred to it as the mag­i­cal pe­nis – in the sense that ‘When are we go­ing to see this pe­nis?’ or ‘What’s it go­ing to look like?’ and we came to think of it as be­ing the per­fect pe­nis for any woman who saw it.”

Will we ever see Ray’s “mag­i­cal pe­nis”? “We have to be very care­ful about how one does see it be­cause we want to treat that in an imag­i­na­tive way,” replies Lip­kin. – The In­de­pen­dent

MALE AND FE­MALE PSY­CHE: From left, Leighton Meester, Blake Lively and Tay­lor Mom­sen from Gos­sip Girl and, right, Thomas Jane who plays the well-hung Ray in Hung.

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