On Screen: “Hacks: Season 3”

Hacks: Season 3

Delightfully original, “Hacks” is a clever character study about writing and performing comedy, bridging the generation gap with smart show business satire.

For the first two seasons, legendary Boomer diva Deborah Vance (Emmy winner Jean Smart) has been working in Las Vegas with Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), her combative Gen Z comedy writer protégé. Then they go their separate ways.

As the third season begins, Deborah’s stand-up TV comeback special is wildly successful, and Ava has secured a prestigious new writing gig in Los Angeles. Problem is: Deborah misses her provocative young collaborator, and Ava cannot resist the creative challenge.

Deborah’s quest this time is to become the first woman to host a late-night talk show on a major television network — like Johnny Carson. The season explores the pitfalls in pursuit of this elusive prize.

This isn’t a new goal for Deborah; she ‘almost’ snagged it 40 years ago. “I need to be sharper and funnier than I’ve ever been,” she tells Ava, refusing to even consider that she may be past her prime. Their toxic, symbiotic, co-dependent chemistry is the crux of the show.

Septuagenarian Deborah summons her support squad: stalwart CEO Marcus (Carl Clemons Hopkins), personal assistant Damien (Mark Indelicato), beleaguered agent Jimmy (Paul W. Downs) and his delusional assistant Kayla (Megan Stalter).

Causing relationship complications, there’s Deborah’s resentful daughter DJ (Kaitlin Olson) and estranged younger sister Kathy Vance (J. Smith-Cameron). Plus a full roster of guests stars, including Tony Goldwyn, Christina Hendricks, Helen Hunt, Christopher Lloyd and Chris McDonald as casino magnate Marty Ghilain.

Showrunners Jan Statsky, Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs tackle — among other humorous conundrums — the difficulty of racist, sexist, fat-phobic jokes that may have been funny — in the context of their time — but didn’t age well. “I can’t be woke! I’m exhausted,” Deborah wails.

Jean Smart is beyond brilliant, embodying a composite of trailblazing comediennes including Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Kathy Griffin, even Betty White, while Hannah Einbinder, daughter of SNL’s Laraine Newman and comedy writer Chad Einbinder, has a terrific deadpan and superbly timed delivery.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Hacks: Season 3” is a fast-paced, nimble 9. All nine episodes are streaming on Max and it’s just been renewed for Season 4.


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.

Also in Weston Today...