Bawdy TV jumps the shark with Seven’s latest: Hung
US cable network HBO has never been one to shy away from the profane; dramas like Rome and True Blood have featured almost-weekly screenings of sex and nudity throughout their respective seasons; but with Hung, HBO might well have jumped the shark.
Sex and nudity on TV is all well and good but do we really need a show that revolves around the size of a character’s member? The premise behind Showtime’s Californication is flimsy enough – a sex addict has sex with lots of women – but Hung takes lowbrow television to an all-time low.
What I wouldn’t give to have been a fly on the wall when Hung’s creators, Dmitry Lipkin and Colette Burson, met with HBO to pitch the show;
HBO exec: So, what’s the show about?
Creators: Well, it’s about this guy who’s down on his luck and struggling through the recession.
HBO exec: Ok, sounds good so far. So what does he do?
Creators: Well he tries being a basketball coach for a while but that doesn’t work out for him.
HBO exec: So what happens then?
Creators: Well, a friend convinces him to become a prostitute; you know, a gigolo?
HBO exec: Ok…
Creators: Yeah, and it’s great because he’s really well hung and so we’re calling the show Hung.
Of course you can spin this anyway you like. In an appearance on The View, Hung’s lead, Thomas Jane, told a couch-full of giggle-prone hosts that the show represents an attempt to reverse the normal roles seen in TV shows about prostitutes; that is, why not have a male prostitute and a female pimp? You could even argue that Hung is a “subtle study of modern adulthood in difficult economic times”, as the LA Times’ Mary McNamara does.
But schoolyard humour furnished with attempts at nuanced analysis is still schoolyard humour; Hung is still just a show about a guy with an abnormally large penis.
Of course there’s nothing really new about Hung; it’s been screening in the US since June last year and doing reasonably well for itself. It is, however, new to Australian viewers thanks to the infinite wisdom of the Seven Network’s programming directors.
For those of us that tuned in to Seven’s Sunday night screening of Forgetting Sarah Marshall it was almost impossible to avoid the promos for the Australian premier of Hung on June 21. One particularly unsubtle promo ran thus;
Woman: I hear you’ve got a big one…
Man: There’s one way to find out. (unzipping his pants…)
I enjoy a good dick joke as much as the next guy but an entire show built around such a joke? It’s almost as cringe-worthy as giving your main characters the surname “Rafter” just so that you can call your show Packed to the Rafters.
Haven’t Australian audiences had enough of being patronised by shows that are designed to appeal to their basest interests? Surely I’m not the only one that cringes when promos for Desperate Housewives and Cougar Town come on.
Of course the classic retort “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it” is particular apt here, and one that I’m prepared to heed. That said, it does seem that shows like Hung say a lot about commercial TV networks in Australia and how they see their audiences.
Firstly, it’s far cheaper for Seven to buy shows from overseas than finance “home-grown” Aussie shows which might (Thank God You’re Here) or might not (Packed to the Rafters) be better quality than their US imports.
Secondly, as Seven boss David Leckie explained publicly back in February, Seven really doesn’t care how good programs like Cougar Town are, as long as they are rating well and, therefore, providing a sizeable audience for advertisers to tap into. This sort of contempt for the viewing public should be reason enough to make viewers sceptical when commercial TV networks start flogging their cheap, imported, poor quality goods.
It goes without saying that I won’t be watching Hung when it premiers next week and, with any luck, I won’t be the only one. One can only hope that low ratings figures will prompt Seven to realise that Australians want better television than American dick jokes from a show that ran last year. Of course, I’m not holding my breath.
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