The new season of Hacks picks up right after the end of the first season, with Ava realizing she made a huge mistake when she revealed Deborah’s worst habits to a pair of TV writers. It will take a couple of episodes for this bombshell to really drop in Deborah and Ava’s lives, but the way it unfolds is mesmerizing in the way it plays on the Hack themes. Without spoiler, this turns Deborah and Ava into real-world adversaries, though they are forced to be allies while working on their new show on the road, away from the safety of the Las Vegas Strip. Hacks understands how showbiz can make people who can’t stand each other on the same level simultaneously creative inspirations for each other. Like Deborah, Ava struggles to figure out who she is by constantly moving towards better habits – this year she’s trying to get sober and limit her use of technology in her life – but realizes that forcing change never works. The Crackers is a story about two women at very different career levels who actually go through the same path – it can be seen as a story about how we actually try to figure out who we are all our lives.
It’s also just fucking funny. Despite the relatively deep previous paragraph, the second season feels more like an ensemble comedy. Deborah and Ava’s manager Jimmy (very funny Paul Downes) goes into hysterics trying to fix both his troubled clients and an eccentric assistant (Megan Stalter) who makes his life much more difficult. The premiere features almost every supporting player from the first season, including DJ Caitlin Olson, Chris McDonald’s Marty and Damien Mark Indelicato. And it’s good to see Carl Clemons-Hopkins once again get a rich arc this season as Marcus wrestles with the heavy burden of perfectionism he places on himself as Deborah’s closest ally against the perception of happiness that includes going to clubs and owning a dog. This season’s casting agent also deserves an award for casting Laurie Metcalf for the brilliant couple, the great Harriet Sansom Harris, Margaret Cho’s cameo and Devon Sawa’s hilarious performance. This is clearly a show that everyone wants to join.
The writing of «Hacks» is better when it avoids plots that could be called a sitcom. In episode four, Deborah and Ava go on a cruise and the character work is great, but the plot feels too predictable and simple, especially for a show that tends to take a left turn when things seem to be going right. It’s good that a show like «Hacks» looks silly at times, but these moments this season stand out more than the backdrop when it feels like the show’s ideas are being taken more seriously.
However, The Burglars overcomes these attitudes to remain a wonderfully smart comedy, a piece of software that understands human behavior and how show business distorts it. What Jean Smart is doing here will probably win her another well-deserved Emmy award, but I hope this year’s increased attention extends to the rest of the ensemble. There is no weak link in this cast. Not a single cracker in the bunch.
Six episodes reviewed.