The generation gap has been mined for laughs—often poorly—since Adam couldn’t understand why Caine went vegetarian. There’s a cranky, common-sense elder who isn’t quite as in touch as they should be, a flustered, put-upon youngster juggling the demands of the modern world with their duty to their dad/mum/grandparent/boss (delete as applicable), a lot of meeting-in-the-middle plot resolutions. It’s a safe zone for easy laughs.
Hacks doesn’t do easy laughs. Hacks doesn’t do easy characters. The series picks as its field of play not just the generation gap, but the generation gap within comedy. On the one hand, we have ageing comedy legend Deborah Vance (Jean Smart), who has racked up thousands of Vegas residency shows running the same schtick, but whose audiences are starting to dwindle.
On the other, there’s Gen Z comedy writer Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), recently cancelled because of a thoughtless tweet and unable to get work in L.A. Deborah needs fresh material. Ava needs a job. Cue the theme from The Odd Couple.
Except it’s not as simple as that, and thank God. Creators Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Down, and Jen Statsky (all veterans of Broad City) smartly balance the books by making Deborah and Ava equally insufferable. Deborah is insanely rich, arrogant, prickly, closed off, imperious. Ava is entitled, conceited, self-pitying, reckless, pretentious. Each are convinced of both their own rightness and of being the smartest person in any given room, which is a lot of fun when they’re alone together. Savage verbal barbs fly nonstop from the opening credits to the closing. It is, mark my words, hilarious.