The French comedy-drama Hard, is an undiscovered gem. Confronting but not disturbing; naughty, but not sleazy, and genuinely well-written, acted and produced – Hard is a show that only the French could make convincing.
Before you watch the first episode, available on SBS On Demand, scroll your way through this simple guide to the most important bits of the first two seasons.
Sophie—a prim housewife, and mother of two—loses her husband to a ladder accident, and hence, her bearings on life.
Before she has a chance to breathe, she receives a one-two punch from her dead beau. One: he hid a fifteen-year career as a universally loved porn producer. Two: the company, which he’d named after her —Soph’X — is now in her hands.
After initially scrambling to sell the business, Sophie decides to keep the company and veer Soph'X into a more tasteful space.
Sophie sleeps with love-interest-slash-porn-star Roy the Rod (played by an actor who you’d never, ever see in porn), and is instantaneously conflicted - embarrassed over what she feels is stooping too low.
After Sophie’s ideas/ideals prove incongruous with the established world of get-men-off-quickly porn, she strays even further from tradition and plans to turn Soph'X into a company that re-creates the everyday woman’s deepest fantasy.
In order to keep Sophie, Roy the Rod quits paid penetration for good, replacing it with lapsed dreams of respectable acting.
In series 2 (filmed four years later in 2011), Sophie tries to implement her new direction…
… but finds the transition isn’t easy for the staff, who are used to shooting over-acted porn, not entertaining the fantasies of ordinary women with believability and conviction.
Meanwhile, Roy wants nothing more than for the professional acting world to take him seriously, but discovers he’s never “quite right” for a speaking role.
Sophie sheds her shame and admits she’s in love with Roy, to the last person you’d expect – her dead husband.
When Roy finally gets a role in a play where the director wants him to perform a sex act on stage (he was only asked to perform it due to being a former famous porn star), Sophie is called on a double standard.
A double standard that doesn’t register until the night of the play. She manages to arrive just in time, joining her unknowing, conservative parents, but when Roy reaches the explicit moment…
Which inspires Sophie to finally come clean to her family about Roy’s prior work.
It’s a night that brings the odd couple closer together. A night where Roy asks Sophie to marry him in a way that could have seemed like a joke, or a cheeky exaggeration due to excitement. Either way, the couple gloss over the moment.
Meanwhile, when tempted by a banker to sell the business to an anonymous party for a large sum of money, she agrees without telling the staff, or Roy.
An act committed in full knowledge that business at the revitalised Soph'X is gathering steam.
At home, and as Roy’s on-stage unprofessionalism hasn’t helped his career prospects, he ends up playing full-time househusband.
A househusband who once again brings up marriage, but this time he won’t settle for a giggle or a change of subject. He demands an answer.
Soph then realises that she fell in love with the charismatic porn-star, and asks Roy to the very thing she’d stipulated was a deal-breaker.
He says yes, so she says yes…
Back with the banker, and Sophie pushes to find out the identity of the buyer, who is set to buy Soph'X for $2 Million:
After signing the contract with the Hungarian who’s quite obviously a gangster, she discovers a particular clause, which will see the Soph'X staff (and her new family) lose their jobs.
Something that she never thought was possible.
Unfortunately, Roy meets the Hungarians before she has a chance to do anything about it.
A surprise that enrages Roy…
… but only for a moment.
As we all had hoped, Sophie experiences genuine change of heart…
… but the baby Hungarian gangster really wants Soph-X and has blackmail material: private photos of one of Sophie’s noteworthy clients.
When Sophie won’t back down, she finds the following in her bed, belonging to her son’s pet:
Luckily, the gangster’s father is a bit more rational, and apologises for his son’s behaviour.
Daddy gangster reveals he doesn’t want to buy the business. She can keep it. He only wants control of the “strip poker” arm of the business, which is considered a legal service as opposed to illegal gambling.
She has no choice but to agree, but within weeks, realises what the man is up to.
She’s told to mind her own business and deal with what she’s been given. But she can’t let everyone down, so she hatches a plan to force the criminals out of Soph'X.
Heavily pregnant, and in the middle of organising a wedding, Sophie leaks the Secretary of State’s risqué material, and gets herself arrested.
Which the Hungarians don’t take too lightly…
What’s not in this recap:
- Sophie’s son’s battle with sexuality and befriending of a trans staff member.
- Sophie’s daughter’s hard-rock band and her boyfriend ending up in a Soph'X version of The Graduate.
- Sophie’s best friend and business partner/lawyer sleeping with the Banker while organising the contracts for the sale.
- An epic Eyes Wide Shut homage made for a wealthy couple, and shot over the course of season two.
- A LOT of nudity.
Hard fans have been forced to wait five years for a third season. Now you can see exactly why their anticipation never wavered.
Watch Hard series 3 on Tuesdays at 10:30pm (AEST) on SBS. After they air, episodes will also be available on SBS On Demand.
Missed the first episode? Watch it right here: