Programming Review: HBO Max‘s ‘Hacks’ Mines the Generation Gap

Hacks on HBO Max
Hannah Einbinder (l.) and Jean Smart in HBO Max series 'Hacks.' (Image credit: HBO Max)

HBO Max explores the complex relationship between an aging comedian and an up-and-coming writer in its new dramedy Hacks

The series stars Jean Smart (Watchmen) as Deborah Vance, a legendary comic who is at a crossroads in her career as a Las Vegas entertainer. 

Despite her achievements and wealth — the pilot episode explores Deborah’s huge mansion outside of Vegas with all the trappings of success — she’s on the verge of losing her Las Vegas residency to younger performers and music acts like Pentatonix. Fed up with the disrespect, she reaches out to her agent (Paul Downs) to rectify the situation.

Instead, he hooks Deborah up with a rising but toxic 25-year-old comedy writer, Ava (Hannah Einbinder), who has been blacklisted from Hollywood after texting an inappropriate joke about the sexual liaisons of a congressman. Desperate for a job, Ava reluctantly flies out to Las Vegas to meet with Deborah, who has no interest in hiring a joke writer and is not aware the meeting with Ava has been arranged.

The collaboration quickly devolves into a tit for tat of insults as the two comedians with polar opposite personalities go at it and a frustrated and disgusted Ava storms out of the house. Just as quickly as Ava leaves, Deborah reconsiders and decides to work with the young writer.

The interactions between the older, established Deborah and the younger, more free-spirited Ava throughout the series create some humorous and unusual situations, including an adventurous car ride in the desert during one of the early episodes. The relationship between the two begins to evolve over time after both realize that they need each other to overcome the obstacles in their careers. 

Hacks also stars Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Kaitlin Olson, Christopher McDonald, Mark Indelicato, Poppy Liu and Meg Stalter.

HBO Max will stream the first two episodes of the 10-episode season May 13, adding two additional episodes over the subsequent four weeks. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.