Season 1 of Hacks brings Jean Smart back to comedy

Jean Smart in Hacks

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.

Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder in Hacks

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.

Carl Clemons-Hopkins in Hacks

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.

Poster for Hacks

The trailer tells you quite a bit about the storyline.

Did you watch this season? What did you think of Jean Smart‘s performance?

Author: Virginia DeBolt

After many years as an educator and writer, Virginia retired from working life. She's always loved a good movie or TV show and wants to use her free time to talk about them with you now. She's Old Ain't Dead!

4 thoughts on “Season 1 of Hacks brings Jean Smart back to comedy”

  1. always liked Jean Smart but never realized how really talented she is – she nails this role and also was terrific as the Mom in Mare of Eastown. Not liking Ava too much – so glad this was renewed –

  2. I have to say that for me, Hacks is the best comedy that I’ve seen in a long time. I was absolutely hooked with the sparring between Deborah and Ava. Hard work vs Entitlement. I see that quite a bit in the real work world. I think I’m now officially in love with Jean Smart. She owned this character! The writing was fantastic and I totally agree that all of the side characters really added to the depth of this show. Hannah Einbinder was perfectly cast as Ava. I’ve enjoyed watching the interviews that she and Jean have done together – such natural chemistry and mutual admiration. So glad to hear that we’ll be getting Season 2.

Comments are appreciated!