With 32 nominations and 3 Emmys, the second season of “Hacks” fulfills its promise as a comic examination of female friendship.
The series picks up where it left off — as stand-up comedy legend Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) recovers from bombing in her final Las Vegas performance, losing her long-time residency at the glitzy Palmetto Casino.
“It’s not my town anymore,” she sadly admits, acknowledging the rapidly-shifting entertainment landscape.
Ready to go on the road in Deborah’s new tour bus, her Gen-Z comedy-writing protégé Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) is terrified that her boss will discover that she drunkenly sent off an incriminating e-mail detailing her negative feelings about Deborah and revealing damaging details about her personal life. It’s a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode.
Also along for the bumpy ride are Deborah’s personal assistant Damien (Mark Indelicato) and veteran road-coordinator, aptly nicknamed Weed (Laurie Metcalf), leaving Deborah’s imperturbable business manager Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins) back in Las Vegas and Deborah’s long-suffering talent agent Jimmy (Paul W. Downs) in Los Angeles with his ditsy assistant Kayla (Megan Stalter).
After conferring with Ava, Deborah’s new ‘back-to-basics’ act will focus on more confessional material — like when Deborah ‘lost’ the late-night talk show and her husband ran off with her sister — as they travel around the country, munching on fast-food snacks and stopping for yard sale bargains at Lord ‘n’ Taylor before being upstaged at a State Fair by a pregnant cow and being abruptly ejected from a lesbian cruise.
Confidently created by Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky, who have become experts at pacing and timing, it’s now a solidified, consistently funny two-hander as acidic, imperious Deborah deepens the prickly dynamic, struggling not only to survive but also to mentor snide, self-destructive Ava.
Plus there’s a terrific supporting cast, including Kiki (Poppy Liu), the freelance blackjack dealer, and Deborah’s estranged daughter DJ (Kaitlin Olson) with her cage-fighting husband.
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Hacks” is an often hilarious, insightful 8, streaming on HBO Max and already renewed for a third season.
The Gray Man
What’s the fuss about? And why is “The Gray Man,” this gun-riddled action-thriller, set for a spinoff and a sequel?
If you’re aware of current events, mass shootings in public places are simply terrifying. So when Ryan Gosling, a former CIA assassin handcuffed to a bench in Prague’s Old Town, is spotted by Chris Evans, the psychopathic CIA agent sent to ‘eliminate’ him, there’s a total bloodbath.
Since active shooter emergencies are all too prevalent these days, perhaps it’s time to stop glorifying them as escapist entertainment.
Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling) is a convicted killer who is recruited by Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton), who offers to commute his prison sentence in exchange for his agreement to go into training as the CIA hitman known as Sierra Six.
“You’ll exist in the gray,” Fitzroy says.
“Does that mean ‘disposable’?” Six asks.
After 18 years, he’s assigned a ‘new’ handler, Director of Operations Denny Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page from “Bridgerton”), who orders Six to kill a fellow agent known as Sierra Four. Predictably, problems arise as Six is then pursued by amoral agent-gone-rogue Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans).
Operating out of a French castle, set on 19,000 acres, mustachioed, mercenary Hanson is holding Fitzroy’s kidnapped niece, Claire (Julia Butters).
Yet, the most memorable brawl is between Agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas from “No Time To Die”) and Tamil cinema star Dhanush.
Costing a whopping $200 million and based on Mark Greeaney’s first novel in the best-selling spy series, it’s adapted by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and Joe Russo, who directs with his brother Anthony Russo (“Avengers: Endgame”). But, somehow, the concept of character development was jettisoned while globe-trotting to Berlin, London, Mumbai, Vienna, and Bangkok.
FYI: Chris Evans was originally considered for the lead role but he preferred to play the villain. And every character in the film wears a Tag Heuer watch since Ryan Gosling is the brand spokesman.
On the Granger Gauge, “The Gray Man” is a frenetic, forgettable 4, streaming on Netflix.
Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures. Her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M.
As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O’Brien, and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism.
During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie and drama critic, syndicating her reviews and articles around the world, including Video Librarian. She has appeared on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies. In 2017, her book 150 Timeless Movies was published by Hannacroix Creek Books.
Her website is www.susangranger.com. Follow her on Twitter @susangranger.