Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Review: Hacks On HBO Max

This September Jean Smart turns 70, and 2021 is one of the greatest years in her illustrious career. Not only did she play a phenomenal role as the mother of Kate Winslet’s character in HBO’s Marre of Easttown, an exquisitely crafted crime drama replete with dark humor unpredictable twists — but she’s also absolutely killing it as Deborah Vance in Hacks, an HBO Max Original. The last couple episodes of Hacks were released today, and two days ago the show got renewed for a second season. If you haven’t watched Hacks yet, please do. Read on for my thoughts on this tremendous new comedy.

I grew up watching The Golden Girls, Murder, She Wrote, Family Matters, and Designing Women, among other timeless sitcoms. While shows that follow this format still exist, more realistic, dark, and edgy humor is what attracts the masses. Caustic wit and sardonic one-liners from strong female leads became mainstream with Bea Arthur as Maude. She continued to carry this torch as Dorothy in The Golden Girls, and Dixie Carter played a similar role during this era as Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women. While Dixie, Delta Burke, and, even Annie Potts, got much of the attention, Jean Smart as Charlene Frazier was delightful, demonstrating confidence, humor, and charm.

Since then, Smart has gone on to have a wonderful career, taking part in amazing roles in shows such as Harry’s Law, 24, Fargo, and Watchmen — all of which she was nominated for an Emmy — and Frazier, for which she won two Emmys. Smart wasn’t restricted to the small screen; she was nominated for a Tony Award in 2001 for “Best Actress in a Play” as a result of her performance in The Man Who Came to Dinner. And this is just scratching the surface. Simply put: Jean Smart has had a storied career, and she’s as relevant and successful now as she’s ever been — which is heartwarming and inspiring.

Hacks is a brilliant show. Jean Smart is essentially a Joan Rivers-esque comedian who has been in Vegas for many years, delivering the same jokes. She gets paired up with a young, progressive writer and odd couple shenanigans ensue. The chemistry between Smart and her co-star, Hannah Einbinder, is pure magic. The supporting cast is excellent, and the writing is top notch. At only 30 minutes in length, the episodes blow by, creating a feeling of satisfaction and longing. The finale in this 10-episode season hints at some wild, fun times ahead, and I can’t wait to see how this story and its characters evolve. If there’s one new comedy you watch this year, make it Hacks. It’s not often that a 70-year-old actress gets a leading role on a platform like this, and Jean Smart is owning it on a whole nother level.

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