I Want My Gay TV

Remembering Hung, the butt-forward HBO series that showed fans everything

Since HBO became Max, it’s no secret that the app has become quite a bit harder to navigate. Which is a shame, because there are so many great shows on there, many of which you’d never know about if you didn’t do a little investigative work.

One of the lesser-discussed series in the HBO library is a little gem from the late oughts that deserves a renaissance in the present day. Sure, it’s not the most sensitive or modern-minded show you could possibly watch, but it is wildly hilarious, and if man meat is your thing, honey, you won’t be disappointed.

I’m of course talking about Hung, the Thomas Jane vehicle that boasted a powerhouse cast including Jane Adams, Anne Heche, and Rebecca Creskoff playing a cis female character who is essentially just a gay man. In this show, we got an inside look at the life of a man who—suffering from a recent divorce and a lack of employment opportunities brought on by the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis—decides to profit off his one talent (a very large appendage) by becoming a sex worker.

But not just any sex worker—someone who caters exclusively to upper-class women looking to make their fantasies real, if only for a night.

But it’s a rocky start to the oldest known profession, as former high school coach Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane) soon realizes. Making sweet love to wealthy women isn’t all champagne and roses, and while Ray is constantly told that the real money will come when he starts taking on male clients, he never quite gets there. (A shame, to be sure.)

But Ray, despite being the ostensible star of the show, is almost always the least interesting thing going on onscreen. He’s a himbo with a heart of gold, sure, but he’s also judgmental, too cocky or his own good, and constantly getting in his own way. But do we get to see quite a lot of his tush? Yes we do.

Like most great HBO series of this time (roughly 2008-2012) it’s all about the supporting cast. We get Jane Adams as Tanya, a fumbling, neurotic woman trying to learn how to be a pimp to Ray, her one and only client. We see Anne Heche at her goofiest and most vulnerable, and we spend a lot of time with great Lennie James, Tanya’s mentor in the ways of sex work management.

Hung is a comedy that reaches rollicking levels of hilarity at moments, but it’s also a surprisingly deep show. These characters are people who are questioning the false promise of the American Dream long before it was fashionable. It takes the darkest cultural fears and insecurities we share around sex and vulnerability and plays them for laughs, often covering subject matter than even modern shows can’t seem to get right.

In Hung staring Thomas Jane, they shaved his six pack into his stomach hair.
byu/WalterBlackness inTVDetails

For instance: you wouldn’t expect a show about a man whose one talent is his big d*ck to assign a serious dramatic monologue to a woman who identifies as asexual. Yet one scene in Hung gives voice to the feelings that asexual folks have longed to see represented forever, and which barely get screentime in most movies and shows. At one point, Ray has a client who’s looking to have sex on her terms before getting married to her fiancé. But it doesn’t quite work: at a certain point, this client, a self-possessed Black woman in her 30s, tells Ray that she’s changed her mind. He’s taking it personally, as he often does. He’s miffed that he can’t solve this woman’s deeply-rooted sexual hang-ups. But she doesn’t try to make him feel better. Instead, she explains that this is for her, and if what she wants out of it is to not have sex, that’s actually totally fine.

We never get to see that character again, but we remain thinking about her. So many of the characters in Hung who we only meet for a moment stick around in our minds, encouraging us to wonder about their lives outside what the show lets us see. And that, my friends, is good writing: it’s not always about the people who are front and center, sometimes it’s just about creating a world that feels like a place where real people actually live.

So if you want to give Hung a shot, you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s “just a p*nis show.”

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