Pimpin’ ain’t easy: Thoughts on ‘Hung’ season 3

While the show that HBO aired right before it last night is understandably getting more attention today, “Hung” did air its third season finale, and having written about the premiere a few months ago, I wanted to swoop back in (if only to satisfy the 12 of you who commented last time) with a few thoughts on the season as a whole, coming up just as soon as my “Dark Side of the Moon” sparks a bidding war…

As I said at the time, the season premiere pleased me because Ray and Tanya finally started getting their act together. Though it’s amusing to watch Jane Adams flail away for a while, the show had reached the point of extremely diminishing, mortifying returns by early in season 2 (if not earlier). At the same time, if they become too good at their jobs, then there’s no tension and no humor, and I thought “Hung” season 3 ultimately hit a satisfying balance between them thriving and them putting out fires of their own creation. There were long stretches (particularly the episodes dealing with Ray’s cop client) where I would have had no problem whatsoever referring to the show as a comedy.

Which isn’t to say that all of the comedy was successful. Pretty much every scene at Jess’ new office was shrill and unpleasant, for instance. But putting Ray and Tanya on a more solid foundation, and a more even footing with Lenore, made all of their interactions play better, and bringing in Jake to raise the obvious questions about Ray’s age (and unwillingness to take male clients) seemed a natural step and gave Thomas Jane some good material. In general, creating this large universe of interconnected pimps and ho’s(*) – including Charlie temporarily moving in with Tanya – paid solid dividends.

(*) And, yes, I know that there’s no possessive, and that therefore the apostrophe is unnecessary, but “hos” looked wrong, and the seminal late ’90s documentary “Pimps Up, Ho’s Down” also used the apostrophe, so there we are. 

At the same time, I have to admit that even a much-improved “Hung” never felt like essential viewing to me. I mainly powered through a few episodes at a time via HBO Go when I was in between more pressing things, and mainly because I wanted to see the season all the way through, given that I was intrigued where it started. Though that still puts it a leg up over the other three half-hour shows HBO has aired this fall, where I fell behind and wasn’t entirely compelled to keep going. (Other critics I respect keep raving about “Enlightened,” so I’ll attempt to give that another shot before it airs its finale next week.)

I don’t know what exactly the bar for renewal is at HBO these days. “Treme,” for instance, continues mainly because HBO likes being in business with David Simon. By virtue of airing after “Boardwalk” on Sundays, “Hung” has a leg up on both of the Monday shows in terms of numbers, but HBO may ultimately want to keep their show with Zach Galifianakis (and, if his “CSI” contract allows it, Ted Danson) on, and/or that they see more potential in what Mike White’s doing with “Enlightened” than what the “Hung” producers have had three years to do. Or they may just bring everything back. Based on the improvements to the comedic side of things (“Hung” has always been more reliable at dramatic moments, like Ray dancing with his transgendered client at her high school reunion), I certainly wouldn’t mind if “Hung” returned for another season.

What did everybody (all 12 of you, anyway) else think of this season? If the show returns, how many episodes should be devoted to Tanya having to care for and sell off the cows they took from Charlie as payment?