Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hung – The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review

Hung follows the travails of Ray Drecker, a well-endowed former high school sports legend turned middle-aged high school basketball coach.  In this season, Ray, and his unlikely pimp Tanya, have taken on slick “life coach” Lenore Bernard as co-pimp, devastating Tanya in the process. With Lenore pushing a debonair version of hooker Ray on her upscale clients, Tanya wants to prove she has the “right stuff” when it comes to being a successful – and far more ethical – pimp than Lenore.  Meanwhile, Ray finds his feelings for his ex-wife Jessica rekindled.  The series stars Thomas Jane (The Punisher,*61 from HBO) as Ray Drecker and Jane Adams (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as Tanya Skagle, both of whom received Golden Globe® nominations for their roles; Anne Heche (Men in Trees) as Ray’s ex-wife, Jessica Haxon; Eddie Jemison (Ocean’s Thirteen) as Jessica’s successful husband Ronnie; Sianoa Smit-McPhee (As the Bell Rings) as Ray’s daughter Darby; and Charlie Saxton (The Lovely Bones) as Ray’s son Damon.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane) is a father, a high school coach, and a man-whore.  After getting divorced and having his lake house burn down, Ray was talked into becoming a man-whore by his old flame Tanya (Jane Adams) who became his milquetoast pimp.  Together they created a business called “Happiness Consultants” and Ray and Tanya spent the first season trying to build up the business.  In an attempt to help expand their client list, Tanya introduced Ray to a life coach named Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff) who had access to wealthy clients.  It was a decision that Tanya later regretted since Lenore tried to take over the business and phase Tanya out.  Ray’s ex-wife Jessica (Anne Heche) has remarried and is now married to an insecure dermatologist named Ronnie (Eddie Jemison).
At the start of this season, life has gotten more complicated for Ray in just about every way possible.  He still loves his ex-wife Jessica and wants to win her back, but that effort is complicated further when he learns that they are talking about having a baby.  The battle for Ray’s allegiance between Tanya and Lenore has gotten even more out of hand with the two resorting to stealing clothes and even pets from each other.  Lenore is trying to consolidate her control over Ray while Tanya simply is trying to stay in the loop since Lenore is meeting potential clients without her.  When Tanya interrupts one of Lenore’s meetings with a wealthy widower named Frances (Roxanne Hart) and scares her off with her pitch, the war between the two gets even worse.
Ray’s twin children Damon (Charlie Saxton) and Darby (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) are pair of emo kids that are just as messed up as their parents if not more as Darby has joined a militant fat group that celebrates their weight, while Damon is a sexually confused wannabe poet who ends up drugged from pot filled scones.  Both are unhappy that they they aren’t as attractive as their parents and that they are losers and it’s hard to disagree with them.  Both of them are unsympathetic characters since all they do is whine about their lot in life but never do anything about it.  Say what you will about Ray’s profession as a man-whore but at least he’s improving his life and the lives of others since he sinks most of the money he earns into his baseball team, buying them uniforms and equipment and transportation for their away games.  His assistant coach Mike (Gregg Henry) has gotten a little suspicious of where Ray is getting all this money from but he is loyal to Ray and doesn’t say anything to anyone.  It isn’t long before Ray’s professional and personal lives collide with the expected humorous results.
I enjoyed this show and liked that it’s unlike anything else on TV right now.  I can’t imagine this show on network TV however, with it’s nudity and subject matter.  Fortunately, it’s on HBO so it hasn’t been diluted at all and it remains an interesting adult program that offers a mix of drama and humor.  Thomas Jane’s layered performance is the main reason to watch the show.  He’s always been good in everything he’s done and this show is no different even when the show fails him.  This season started out fairly strong but by the end it turned into a melodramatic mess.  Which is too bad since the show has a lot going for it.  The supporting cast does a good job especially the two pimps – the aggressive Lenore and the timid Tanya.  Tanya’s journey to become a hardcore pimp by learning the ropes from a real streetwise pimp (Lennie James) is both funny and sad.  It will be interesting to see what happens during the third season since so much as has been set up by this season, but I hope it loses the melodrama.

Video (4 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer is very good but isn’t without some flaws.  Detail is excellent, especially during close ups where you can see every wrinkle, pore, and bead of sweat on the characters.  Colors are also very good with each color being well represented whether it’s the green foliage at the lake house or Tanya’s bright blue sweater, it all looks really good.  Black levels are also mostly good with only a few instances of noise popping up.  Flesh tones are also natural and consistent for the most part although a few scenes looked a little warmer than normal.  HBO always does a nice job on their transfers and this one is no different.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

Hung’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also excellent with a lively sound-scape that utilizes all of the channels well.  The front channels produce dialogue that is clean and intelligible and the rest of the channels are also used well especially during scenes like the baseball game that come alive all around you.  The rear speakers are mostly used to for ambiance and music and the mix allows for an active surround mix that sounds great.

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars) 

This is the weakest category of the set since there isn’t a whole lot offered.  The good news is that they are all in high definition.
Deleted scenes – There’s sixteen minutes total of deleted scenes and some of them are worthwhile while others are inconsequential.
HBO “Inside the Series” Featurette – It starts off with a quick recap of the season we just watched and then launches into a brief look at the season itself with the creators of the show.  Surprisingly enough, there isn’t any input from any of the actors at all which really hurts this already too short extra.
Audio Commentaries – There are five commentaries spread across the two disc that include “Just the Tip” with creators/executive producers Colette Burson and Dmitry Lipkin; “Sing it Again, Ray or Home Plate” with Colette Burson, Dmitry Lipkin and writer Brett C. Leonard; “The Middle East is Complicated” with Colette Burson, Dmitry Lipkin, Brett C. Leonard and co-writer Kyle Peck; “Third Base or That Rash” with Colette Burson, Dmitry Lipkin, and writer Julia Brownell; and “Fat Off My Love or I’m the Allergen” with Colette Burson, Dmitry Lipkin, and writer Angela Robinson.

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

I liked the show despite its problems mainly due to the actors involved in it.  Towards the end of the season it became too melodramatic for my tastes but once that past, it looks like it set up the next season pretty well.  HBO did a nice job with the video and audio on this disc but the special features are pretty weak.   I also don’t understand why the actors aren’t involved in the extras either since it would’ve been nice to hear their input.   Overall this is an interesting series to watch so if you’d like to see a show that skews more adult than most and you don’t mind the subject matter or the nudity then you will probably like the show.
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