Hacks, season 1, just finished its run on HBO Max. Season 2 was approved just as season 1 ended. In Jean Smart’s long career we’ve seen her do everything, but she hasn’t often been the lead character. In Hacks she’s running the show and her performance is absolute gold.
Jean Smart did everything for this series. She played the comedian Deborah Vance. Her timing on the delivery of jokes was impeccable. She hit the right emotional notes with every situation around her and the people around her. She wore every look from old and frumpy to glamorous and gorgeous equally well. At the end of every episode my chief feeling was, holy shit Jean Smart is killing it.
The plot begins with Marty (Christopher McDonald) telling Deborah that after 20+ years headlining at his Las Vegas Casino, her act was on the way out. She’s advised to get some hip new material. Her agent recommends a 25 year old Ava (Hannah Einbinder) to help Deborah bring her act into the 21st Century.
Ava is a failure where she is in LA. Her act isn’t funny. Her girlfriend dumps her. She goes to Las Vegas for the interview and blows it. But Deborah sees something in her that could be useful and hires her. At first they struggle to get acquainted, to agree on what is funny, and to learn to write jokes together.
Deborah is a money making machine. She has merchandise, she sells all sorts of junk on the home shopping networks, she makes public appearances for tons of cash.
Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins) works for Deborah on the business side of things. He can see that she’s becoming dated as a comic, but he’s really good at finding ways to use her brand to make money.
Another important character in Deborah’s life is her daughter, DJ (Kaitlin Olson). DJ thinks she’s successful on her own, but her mother is propping her up in secret. DJ’s a bit of a loser.
Many secondary characters are used to add to the comedy. There’s Deborah’s agent’s assistant, Ava’s parents, the water guy who falls for Marcus, the suicidal guy in the casino who hooks up with Ava, and assorted guest stars.
Through it all Deborah and Ava work to develop new more modern material. While they are doing that they accidentally develop a relationship and affection for each other.
Ava screws up frequently. Frequently. The final cliffhanger at the end of the season is one of her biggest screw ups. We’ll have to wait and see if Deborah fires her (again) for it.
Hacks was created and written by Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky. It was directed by Lucia Aniello, Desiree Akhavan, and Paul W. Downs.
The trailer tells you quite a bit about the storyline.
Did you watch this season? What did you think of Jean Smart‘s performance?