Anne Heche

10 PM EST, HBO…..

When season 2 of HBO’s acclaimed comedy series Hung resumed last night, it picked up at the direct conclusion of last year’s finale, when Ray (Thomas Jane) had backed out of a date with a paying client who he had glimpses in the lobby of a Detroit hotel–his ex-wife Jessica (Anne Heche, who we must say, is excellent in this series), and with the abrasive Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff) co-pimping Ray with Tanya (Jane Adams), or “T-Brain”, as Lenore prefers.  Things are tough in Detroit, as they are everywhere, and Ray, the beloved coach and educator, is seen maintaining the school’s baseball field himself, on a picket line in a job action, and arguing with Principal Rhonda (Gina Hecht) over transportation money for the team.

Conversely, we see Jessica, Ray’s ex-wife, in a loveless marriage with Dr. Ronnie (Eddie Jemison), the plastic surgeon who she broke up with Ray to marry, brooding in bed over being snubbed by the prostitute who she did not know was her ex-husband.  At the Detroit Institute of Art, the newly formed pimping braintrust gathers, and while viewing a sprawling fresco on class struggle, Lenore says with her usual bossy, crass atittude, “Although we sell dick and not cars, we can learn a lot from Diego Rivera.”  Lenore goes on with her speech, explains something she calls “stripper theory”, and gets snippy with Tanya when she tries to interject, and says, “You don’t know shit about it, T-Brain!”  The blue collar Ray, uncomfortable with the speech and the museum experience, even asks her to hurry to the point, planting the seed that perhaps Ray is already growing uncomfortable with this business arrangement.

For Tanya, who then stakes out a bad neighboorhood looking for a pimp who can advise her, there’s no doubt.  When a bunch of hookers rush up to her car asking for sandwiches because they have her confused with an aid worker, a concerned Tanya tells them she has no sandwiches, but can buy them a doughnut.  One of the hookers then shot Tanya one of a few classic lines in last night’s episode: “You think I need a doughnut?  Read the sign.  This is a doughnut hole!”

Tanya then runs into who she suspects is their pimp, who tells her to “…get the fuck out of here.”  Jessica is doing dishes at Ronnie’s house while her mother (Marylouise Burke) and the mother’s friend play cards and gossip in Russian.  The conversation provided more classic Hung lines, as the mother tells the other woman that Ronnie wants to kill her, that her grandchildren are weird, and that the boy always follows the girl around.  The rest of the exchange is hilarious, and we can let the pictures tell the story (below).

Meanwhile, Ray is still fucking his neighbor’s wife (Alanna Ubach), his house is still an unfinished mess, and he’s worried about Jessica, and what circumstances would prompt her to pay for sex.  When Tanya comes over with burgers, also equipped with pimping advice from Charlie, the ghetto pimp who finally decides to help her out, they discuss Ray’s problem servicing his only current client, the pregnant Claire (Katherine Hahn).  Ray confides that he’s having a mental block with Claire because she reminds him of his pregnant wife, and how in love he was when she was pregnant, and how much he loved having sex with her.  He is reminded of a happy time, but it bothers him, we think especially in light of his financial and family struggles, and Jessica’s struggles, which he keeps imagining, proving once again how much she is on the brain.

Pimps Charlie and Tanya (above).

Meanwhile, Jessica, who firmly defends her “weird” children to her mother, gets rocked by daughter Darby’s (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) assertion that her mother has built her existence completely around the men in her life, and that if she took her advice about boys, “…I might end up with your life.”  Darby then staggers her mother again when she says, “Not to be mean mom, but you just seem like a totally lost person to me.”

Ray, who has been calling Jessica non stop since being the ho that stood her up, tells her he wants to meet behind the premise that they should talk about their children.  After Jessica gets lit up by the kids, she takes a trip down memory lane, looking at the pictures from her teenaged years that her kids would be so quick to criticize her for.  She looks long and hard at a prom picture of her and Ray, and next, we see her breeze in to the bowling alley where Ray wants to meet her and talk.  After some trepidation, because she’s married, she decides to take Ray up on his offer to bowl, obviously something they enjoyed doing together in their past, and the two have a great time.

Ray and Jessica look destined for another crack at their relationship, which both seem as though they might want, making us wonder if Ray might go through with it if there’s a next time for Jessica behind the hotel door, or better yet, and affair with the ex as he tries to survive in these terrible economic conditions on the strength of his penis.  Tanya seems resolved to beat out the pushy Lenore in the battle of the pimps, and her conversation with Charlie makes us wonder if there will be male clients in poor Ray’s future, which would certainly be an interesting twist, if not for Ray.

And Hung has started season 2 by re-establishing itself as a smart comedy that does more than just highlight the human condition.  Instead, Hung dick slaps us with the depressing conditions of just about all its characters–whether it be Ray living in a tent on the site of his burned down house, Ronnie losing close to a mil on the market, Jessica’s identity crisis starkly summed up by her teen children, those children’s own identity problems, or Tanya’s struggle for respect–while making us laugh at the same time.

We’re glad it’s back.

–Crack (