For 'Hung' Team, Offbeat TV Is A Growth Industry

Dmitry Lipkin and Colette Burson i i

Dmitry Lipkin and Colette Burson are writing and producing Hung. They told The Wall Street Journal that Lipkin tends to write most of the characters' back-stories, and Burson, the jokes. Jeff Kravitz/HBO hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Kravitz/HBO
Dmitry Lipkin and Colette Burson

Dmitry Lipkin and Colette Burson are writing and producing Hung. They told The Wall Street Journal that Lipkin tends to write most of the characters' back-stories, and Burson, the jokes.

Jeff Kravitz/HBO

Watch Clips From 'Hung'

Thomas Jane and Jane Adams i i

Jane Adams, left, plays Tanya a one-time lover of Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane, right). When he goes pro as a gigolo, she works as his pimp. Chuck Hodes/HBO hide caption

itoggle caption Chuck Hodes/HBO
Thomas Jane and Jane Adams

Jane Adams, left, plays Tanya a one-time lover of Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane, right). When he goes pro as a gigolo, she works as his pimp.

Chuck Hodes/HBO

Dmitry Lipkin and Colette Burson, a husband-and-wife writer-producer team, are the creative force behind the new HBO series Hung.

In the series, directed by Alexander Payne, Thomas Jane plays Ray Drecker, a divorced schoolteacher who tries to get out of dire financial straits by working as a gigolo — with special attention in his marketing materials to one substantial asset. His business partner is Tanya (Jane Adams), an entrepreneurial poet who offers to be his pimp in exchange for a cut of his earnings.

But in the end, the show's creator's say, it's not exactly size that matters. It's swagger.

"We don't think of Ray as being some ... Guinness Book of World Records freak show," Burson says. "We think of him as being the most hung guy in the room, the most hung guy in his high school, the most hung guy on the basketball court, and that that imbues him with a certain confidence."

That still leaves room, the creators say, for Ray's development as a character.

"We make it pretty clear that that's just a very small aspect of his sexuality, and he's got a lot to learn about women," Lipkin says.

Burson adds: "As Tanya says to him, 'You know, you could learn a little more about foreplay."

Lipkin, who was born in Russia and grew up in Louisiana, also created The Riches, another series about shady goings-on behind the facade of suburban conformity.

The Riches, which lasted two seasons on the FX cable channel, was about a family of Travelers — sometimes called "gypsies" — who install themselves in a suburban community, pretending to be people they're not. Lipkin says that show was partly informed by his experience as an immigrant.

"I always looked at America through that prism, through the prism of being an outsider, and I wanted to have a television show that looks at America from the outside in," Lipkin says.

Burson wrote one episode for The Riches, and she co-wrote the screenplay for the 2001 German comedy Madchen, Madchen. She wrote and directed the 2000 indie film Coming Soon, starring Mia Farrow.

The thread running through her work, she says, may be a female perspective reinterpreting Hollywood depictions of sexuality.

"There were so many teen comedies from the boys' point of view, and ... no one was really dealing with what it was like to have sex when you are in high school, as so many teenage girls do," she says. "I think they're left in this state of confusion, thinking that being left completely unfulfilled is a natural state of being."

That different in perspective manifests again in the couple's current project, Burson says.

"When men watch episodes of Hung, and when women watch of episodes of Hung, I've come to realize that they're watching very different things. ... I'm watching Ray, and I'm thinking of Ray's experience as he goes through it.

"And I was surprised to realize, talking to Dmitry and the male writers and others, that they're watching the different women that Ray encounters. So they're very aware of which women he is about to have sex with, or thinking of having sex with, and what it would be like to have sex with her, and I'm not thinking about it at all."

"I think a lot of what Hung deals with is men's view on women and women's view on men," Burson says.

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