Please, if you’re at an impressionable age, stop reading this review now. I feel dirty writing about The Hard Times of RJ Berger. I feel dirty watching The Hard Times of RJ Berger. Mostly, I feel dirty that I kind of enjoyed it.
This is not a great show—not by any stretch of the imagination. But Hard Times is somewhat entertaining and it has potential. It’s lewd and sex-obsessed; while this is played for shock value in the pilot, I think it could transform the series into something legitimately interesting and subversive. Lines like, “Any time, any place, any orifice” and “My boner just got all hard” aren’t particularly profound, but they’re a dark alternative to what most teen shows offer. Even the new ABC Family isn’t this edgy.
At the same time, is this really something we want or need to see? I was honestly uncomfortable watching Hard Times, which—since I haven’t expressly mentioned this already—is about an awkward high school kid (Paul Iacono) with a huge penis. Really, that’s the set-up. I found myself asking the obvious question: “Just how big is RJ’s package?” And then, the more unnerving follow-up: “Why am I thinking about a teenage boy’s junk?”
There’s something creepy about it. This is the second “big penis” show on the air after HBO’s Hung, so on one level it’s not exactly new terrain. But the penis in question belongs to someone underage, which gives the enterprise a sketchy feel. Add to that scenes of teenage debauchery that sometimes cross the line into flat-out wrong. Case in point: RJ’s best friend Miles (Jareb Dauplaise) watching a drunk girl vomit, then kissing her. That’s a little too close to sexual assault for my tastes.
Still, there’s something there. I can’t help but feel that Hard Times isn’t just about shocking its audience. The show is tongue-in-cheek—just look at the anime-inspired scene in the pilot, which was its funniest moment. Is “This terrifying Godzilla penis presents a challenge” funny? Is it offensive? Yes and yes. I snickered, then felt the appropriate twinge of guilt. I get the sense that any subsequent Hard Times viewings will produce the same set of reactions.
How sustainable is a show like this? Well, that depends on what MTV chooses to do with it. Hard Times needs to be more than just, “Did he really say that?” moments. It has to develop past the gag. No matter how hefty—and forgive me for saying this—a penis can’t carry a show.