Published September 14, 2009
Thomas Jane in Hung
“I’m just a gigolo and everywhere I go people know the part I’m playing.” Those are the opening lyrics to the widely-covered song “Just a Gigolo,” which recounts the tale of a lonely and desperate man-for-hire. The part Thomas Jane is playing in HBO’s Hung, the first season of which concluded last night, is that of a Detroit high school basketball coach, utterly down on his luck and forced to capitalize on his one dependable asset: his enormous penis. Jane’s Ray Drecker is assisted by his poet friend Tanya Skagle (Jane Adams), who serves a dual purpose: setting Ray up with his very own prostitution service and fulfilling the mandate that all comedy series must boast at least one character whose last name sounds like a skin condition. Tanya and Ray brand themselves as “Happiness Consultants” and hit the classified section with their ads, hoping to attract legions of sex-starved and adventurous women. After watching the Consultants’ progress all season I decided to get some insight from the real gigolos of Detroit (paging Andy Cohen!), and responded to several ads put up by men promising to fulfill my every fantasy and desire.
While Ray, who charges $600 a date and always arrives in a suit, has all his business handled by Tanya, the men I came across book for themselves. I found a masseuse, a guy who specializes in oral, and a fellow proposing bondage work and exhibitionist public sex. One man bills himself as the Naked Handyman and offers a wide range of home repair services, all performed in the buff. He quoted me $25 an hour for the repair work, with “outside services” dependant upon the privacy of our situation. He’s been told he has a nice butt.
Ray Drecker also has a nice butt, and we get the privilege of seeing it weekly as he leaps nude off the edge of his dock during the opening credits. In fact, there are a lot of nice things about Ray: he’ll attend therapy sessions with his janes (can we call them that? Perhaps the casting directors were onto something in choosing two leads whose names incorporate the title), he’ll sit with them while they cry, and he’ll tell them all the nice little lies they want to hear. But the one thing he doesn’t seem to do a lot of is straight-up gigolo sexing.
The series began with an abundance of rationalization–Ray needed to justify his decision to turn tricks, while all the women felt guilty about the prospect of paying for sex–and it never really settled into its premise. Even the season finale gives us a woman who can’t decide if she has what it takes to visit a hooker. It’s possible there’s some truth to the idea that women are uncomfortable exchanging cash for pleasure. All the men I spoke to felt the need to reassure me that I would be safe and taken care of were we to set up a date. And one guy constantly expressed concern that I was actually a man, having been tricked by the more hooker-frequenting gender on several occasions.
Midway through “Just a Gigolo,” the wayward lothario calls out the words “Some sweet mama, come and take a chance with me.” And that’s exactly what happens in the season finale of Hung. At the end of the episode, Ray teams up with Lenore, a sexy, albeit unbearably haughty, gal who promises to bring along a clientele of sophisticated and horny women. So, perhaps the second season will offer less rationalization and more actual prostitution. And hey, if we’re lucky, maybe Ray’s penis will grow an extra inch.