In Hung (Sunday, 9 p.m., HBO), Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane) is one of those square-jawed men with huge ambitions and huge penises who used to own the world. But the old value system is crumbling, and so is Ray. The one-time sports star with unlimited prospects is now divorced, despised by his kids and humiliated in his gym-teacher job. The huge ambitions are gone, leaving only the huge penis. To make ends meet, Ray decides to use his remaining asset-his "one winning tool," as a marketing guru puts it-to become a male prostitute.
Hung deserves props for putting over an unlikely scenario. The pilot marches us through the catastrophes that have brought Ray to this point, deftly moving back and forth in time. The tone is droll, even as the script takes a hard look at vanishing white male privilege. And fans of enormous phallic symbols-cranes, baseball bats, etc.-won't be disappointed.
HBO's producers are geniuses at selling unsympathetic characters, from Tony Soprano to the Entourage horndogs to the weaselly Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm. It's not yet clear if Ray Drecker will be one of those creeps we can't help but watch, either because we identify with his bad qualities or because we kind of like him in spite of them. But if Hung handles the character just right in future episodes, I think it could be a hit. A…big one.
Sunday, 8 pm (PBS)
PBS goes another round with the Agatha Christie detective Hercule Poirot (David Suchet). In this week's mystery, Poirot runs through his usual routine in trying to solve the murder of an old lady who ran a boardinghouse. He waddles around an English village with his cane, leather gloves, bow tie, watch chain, fedora and turned-up mustache, proclaiming in a hammy Belgian accent: "I am zee greatest detective in zee world!" This quaint nonsense might be enjoyable if played for camp, but there's little humor in evidence. I think we're really supposed to admire Poirot's brilliance when he says, "Zee question is this: If James Bentley didn't kill Mrs. McGinty, who deed?"
PBS would do wonders for its image by dropping this musty series. How do I know? Because I am zee greatest TV critic in zee world!
Dance Your Ass Off
Monday, 9 pm (Oxygen)
TV dance competitions are popular, and so are TV weight-loss programs. So Oxygen got the bright idea of combining So You Think You Can Dance with The Biggest Loser to create a kind of So Losers Think They Can Dance. Overweight contestants try to shimmy off the pounds while the producers tempt them with fattening foods.
No, Dance Your Ass Off is not exactly a showcase for human dignity. But I guess no one in search of human dignity would be watching basic cable anyway.
Tuesday, 9 pm (Bravo)
After The Real Housewives, The Millionaire Matchmaker, etc., Bravo has found yet another population to disgust us with. NYC Prep is about the real-life Gossip Girl set-Manhattan's elite prep-school kids.
These are 15- to 18-year-olds with limitless money and a limitless sense of entitlement. They spend $500 a day on dining out, and that's about all they do. Why worry about homework when Mom and Dad can pull strings at Harvard? "It's about who you know and how much money you have," says an 18-year-old named P.C., apparently thinking he's the first jerk to have figured that out.
I spent most of the first episode trying to determine which of these kids is the most repulsive. Jessie pulled into the lead when she said "I treat my clothing like my children. You don't wear all your labels at once." Predatory Sebastian came on strong with his penchant for treating girls like so many trophies to bag, using his fake nice-guy act as a weapon. But ultimately, P.C. takes the prize with his habit of saying horrid things about his "best friend" on national TV. "If you roll your eyes one more time, P.C., I swear I'll slap you in the face," the friend tells him.
That slap didn't happen in episode one. I'm tuning in again this week with my fingers crossed.