The Reel Review


When comedy legend Deborah Vance risks losing her long-running stand-up gig in Las Vegas, she tries to revive her career by hiring a clever young writer shunned by Hollywood over a controversial tweet. This HBO Max comedy series starring Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder explores the generational clash which yields laughs as well as unexpected professional and personal growth for each of them.

Jean Smart in Hacks.

If the setup sounds familiar it’s because it is. Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling did a bang up job in the 2019 comedy Late Night. That said, in Hacks, Jean Smart (Designing Women, 24, Samantha Who?) has never been better and finally gets the star vehicle she is justly due. She is hysterical, channeling the caustic wit and tireless work ethic of Joan Rivers in her latter years. (Her character, Deborah, even hawks products on QVC.) Smart has impeccable comic timing and even when her character is a total bitch she still is immensely entertaining and likable. And Hannah Einbinder holds her own as the tactless millennial without a filter.

Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder in Hacks.

Created by three of the writers of the sitcom Broad City, the 10 episodes are crisp and clever, packed with laughs, tender moments and surprises. Show writer Paul W. Downs is hilarious as the duo’s agent. Hacks is all about keeping viewers on their toes. And it does so in the most fun, entertaining way.


• Jean Smart currently has two new series on HBO Max – the other is the crime whodunit Mare of Easttown, playing the mother of its star, Kate Winslet. She has won three Emmys – for Frasier and Samantha Who?

Richard Gilliland and Jean Smart; (right) Gilliland, Annie Potts and Smart in Designing Women.

• Jean Smart’s husband of 34 years, Richard Gilliland, died unexpectedly on March 18, 2021 after a brief illness in Los Angeles at age 71 during the last week of production of Hacks. They met in 1986 where he was a regular on the CBS sitcom Designing Women, playing the role of Mary Jo Shively’s boyfriend, J.D.

• Stand up comedian Hannah Einbinder is the daughter of Saturday Night Live alum Laraine Newman and actor Chad Einbender.

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