TV Review – Hacks Season 1

Hacks is an HBO Max series that has a total of ten episodes. Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) is a legendary Las Vegas comedy diva clinging to keep her spot as younger performers threaten to take her dates.

Vance’s agent sends Ava (Hannah Einbinder), an entitled 25-year old, to help freshen up the material, and Vance begins mentoring her.

While I was looking to see what others were giving it high praise as a comedy. I don’t know if I entirely agree, or maybe I’ve become quite picky about my comedies.

Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) is a comedienne who looks in no way ready to retire. Her days are booked with QVC appearances, new restaurant openings, and her Vegas shows. According to her business partner Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins), she becomes a problem if Deborah isn’t working. She lives a lavish life, full of high-quality items, collecting antiques, having a home with multiple people working for her like the head of her house, a personal assistant, and a business partner.

Deborah is a mix of Joan Rivers and Debbie Reynolds. Someone tough, but as seen through a collection of scenes, she’s working on the same material every night. She could do her show in her sleep, but there’s a threat in her losing her dates with Marty (Christopher McDonald), the head of the hotel wishing to bring in a younger act.

Ava is a young comedy writer who can’t get work because of a problematic tweet. She’s work-driven. It’s detailed that she was discovered young, and in return, doesn’t know what else to do with herself. She’s insulted that Jimmy (Paul W. Downs) sends her to work with Deborah, but desperate to keep sending money to her parents and to keep her townhouse, she goes.

This is where we watch Deborah and Ava are at opposite ends. New school versus Old school. New generation versus Old generation.

My problem is Deborah and Ava are the same person but with an age gap. I am not saying that Hacks isn’t funny. It’s not relatable.

Anyone familiar with comedians or comedy podcasts (Comedy Bang Bang and other likes) where there are points of serious talks between sketches detail how hard it is to work in comedy. Same with comedians who’ve written books (Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey). They become workaholics. There’s a constant fear that the work will stop and you’ll be broke.

There are touches of it with Deborah explaining how after her ex-husband left her, she was broke and going into stand-up to make money. However, I don’t ever feel Ava has struggled economically. She’s scared of it, but there’s never a moment that she’s staring at her bank account and is panicking.

We also never witness Ava doing stand-up. There are scenes of Ava watching recordings of Deborah doing stand-up, tapes that have been collected with the plan to do a best-of for the stand-up legend. We don’t get a single moment that we witness Ava testing a crowd, so it confuses me as to what kind of writer she is.

Whenever Ava does encounter a peer, she’s sneered at in the end after pleasantries are done. She’s exhausted, everyone. She’s been entirely exploitive to any person she’s worked with. It’s a valid thing. I am sure this is a real thing someone has done. I never get a feeling that she is funny. I am not sure if maybe they didn’t want this to be a female version of Crashing, but I need something that sells me just how talented she is.

The show has so much potential. I was excited with the possibility that Ava might be developing feelings beyond that of a mentor for Deborah, but it’s quickly diminished.

My favorite characters are Kayla (Megan Stalter), who plays Jimmy’s assistant and the daughter of the agency’s co-owner, and DJ (Kaitlin Olson), who plays Deborah’s daughter. Kayla is an aloof person who is constantly messing up. DJ is genuine but played (Kaitlin Olson is a gem at playing douchbag with a heart of gold).

I am not saying that Hacks isn’t worth it. It’s just going to be another show to put in the background and might have some interesting moments. Don’t expect belly laughs. Watch, I think You Should Leave for that instead.

It’s just missed its point and feels like they’re referring to so many things but are missing it. I need a little more.

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