Hacks – a well-timed comedy series about sour jokes
Good comedy is all about timing. And what better time for a new show preoccupied with where the humor ends and the offense begins than within a week of “the slap in the face”?
In truth, hacks, a quick-witted, introspective series about making people laugh for a living, first aired nearly a year ago in the US on HBO Max. Although it won two Golden Globes — for Best TV Comedy and for Jean Smart’s Exquisite Leading Role as a Fading Las Vegas Diva — it’s taken Amazon Prime so far to reclaim the rights to the UK. Like a killer punchline, it’s worth the wait.
The configuration does not promise much. A cross-generation odd couple story that finds a hard-nosed older comedian teaming up with a millennial comic book extravaganza sounds like fodder for a joyless vehicle for end-of-the-era Robert De Niro. Or Al Pacino. Or Christopher Walken. In fact, the plot bears more than a passing resemblance to the likeable but forgettable 2019 film. Late at night, which starred Emma Thompson as a talk show host opposite a new, younger joke writer (Mindy Kaling). Corn hacks creators Lucia Aniello, Paul W Downs and Jen Statsky take a well-worn premise and elevate it with a crisp, smooth delivery. The gags are balanced with the seriousness of the storytelling.
Deborah Vance (Smart) is the doyenne of the Vegas comedy scene. Her lucrative 30-year residency in a casino has spawned a private jet, a fanatical fanbase and soon a street named in her honor — “it’ll probably be a dead end with an abortion clinic on it,” he jokes. she. Despite her surroundings, she’s not taking any bets with her set which is filled with safe observations about midlife sex. The time has come, decides the owner of the room, to snatch the place of honor from him.
In her desert mansion (which has abnormally green gardens), Deborah becomes increasingly fragile as she is parched from the recognition she dreams of. There are echoes of sunset boulevardis movie star Norma Desmond. Deborah is still big, it’s the jokes that have gone small – as little as 140 characters in some cases.
To prove she can still draw a fresh crowd, her agent suggests she work with another client of hers — unrestrained young writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder), who was canceled after posting a risque tweet about a politician — to liven up her obsolete hardware. But for Deborah, the problem with Ava’s career-ending joke isn’t that she’s insensitive, it’s that she’s not funny. Collaboration doesn’t come naturally either, and the two spend most of their time trading cutting lines. It is up to us to decide if a line has been crossed.
Corn hacks knows that a show can’t sustain itself on barbs alone, even allowing two leads with crackling chemistry. Instead, it leaves room for Deborah and Ava to forge a deeper, if still strained, relationship — one built on a shared sense of sadness rather than a shared sense of humor.
On Amazon Prime in the UK from April 1 and on HBO Max in the US now
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