"Hung" scores for HBO 

Glory days have passed Ray Drecker by. A star athlete in high school, he now sees himself as something like the human equivalent of Detroit, the city he lives in. He's 40, divorced and miserable. His earnings as a high school teacher/basketball coach are half of what he needs to live. His children are weird and the owner of the newly built McMansion next door constantly harangues him over unkempt property violations.

How, he wonders, did everything go so wrong?

Ray only has one thing going for him, and there's just no other way to say it: He has a big dick. And since his parents taught him that "you do the best you can with what God gave you," that's what he plans to do.

That's Hung in a proverbial nut sack. And it's the best show HBO has introduced since Big Love.

HBO has given us any number of fascinating characters over the years, from Carrie Bradshaw and Tony Soprano to Vincent Chase and Bill Henrickson. But it's never shown us an everyman facing ordinary problems. Well, maybe Louie C.K.'s Lucky Louie, but that was played for laughs.

Hung isn't funny, except in occasional darkly comic spurts. Mostly, it's fascinating to watch Ray (played by Thomas Jane) try to figure out how to right his life.

His pivotal moment comes when he enrolls in a motivational course designed to help people come up with a million-dollar idea. There, he renews acquaintances with Tanya Skagle (sad-eyed Jane Adams), a mousy poet and former substitute teacher he once had a fuck-and-run evening with.

Tanya's first moneymaking idea involves bakery items with inspirational poems tucked inside the wrapper. Her second is to be Ray's pimp.

"I always wanted to be a product when I grew up," Ray tells her sarcastically. But after some trepidation, he agrees.

Female prostitutes are relatively common on TV, but a male? That situation sets up a whole range of issues, like whether Ray can perform with a woman he finds unattractive. And when that does happen, Hung becomes sad, uncomfortable, sweet and much more. (Incidentally, there is no frontal nudity. The actual size of his penis is left to the imagination.)

But what makes this show special are the ordinary, relatable moments - not having enough money for necessities, keeping your children from getting hurt, getting one-upped by your ex. Jane successfully walks a narrow line as Ray, who's both sympathetic and a lout. His ego has taken a beating, but he blames that more on others than on anything he's done. So we end up feeling sorry for him. But not too sorry.

Adams is fun to watch, largely because Tanya is a submissive personality trying to bend people to her (weak) will. It's all she can do to say pimp, much less work as one.

The other woman in Ray's life, sort of, is his ex-wife, Jessica (Anne Heche), his former high school sweetheart who left him for a doctor (Eddie Jemison). Dr. Ronnie isn't nearly as handsome or hung, but he's far more stable. Though Jessica is flaky in her own way, she now leads the life Ray wants. Her mere presence taunts him.

The one thing she doesn't have over him is their kids, teenage twins who prefer dad to mom. But Damon and Darby (Charlie Saxton and Sianoa Smit-McPhee) are overweight, awkward and needy - yet another nightmare for Ray.

Ray figures money will fix everything that ails him. Whether that's true - and whether he can earn the extra income he needs via the world's oldest profession - will unfold over time. You'll watch this with a mixture of fascination and trepidation: fascination with how he gets by and trepidation because what's happened to him family-wise and financially could happen to anyone.

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