This post contains detailed spoilers for Hacks. Discover our last review here.
TV is awash with late-night talk shows, but no woman has held the illustrious lead role on either The show tonight Where The late show. Joan Rivers was the permanent guest of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, but when rumors suggested that Carson was going to retire, a list of 10 potentials was leaked and Rivers (nor any other women) was not mentioned. This caused a bitter break in between, with Rivers launching her own rival show on fledgling Fox in 1986, which lasted only two seasons.
Comedy is a difficult industry to break into and one that presents multiple hurdles for women – stand-up is still considered a boys club. Deborah Vance is a comedienne with a solid Joan Rivers foundation, including her tough exterior, acerbic wit, and self-deprecating jokes. The similarities in hacks expand to include a late-night dream that never came to fruition, and Episode 3’s final scene is far more revealing than any conversation Deborah has ever shared with Ava (Hannah Einbinder).
Next comes episode 4 exploring the difficult relationship between Deborah and her daughter DJ (Kaitlin Olson), who also begins to find out who Ava is. She might consider herself an open book, but Ava is similar to her boss in the areas she keeps close to her chest.
The reason the Las Vegas resident said yes to Jimmy’s (Paul Downs) offer to hire a writer wasn’t that she saw it as a promise, but because she’ll do whatever she can. power to stay on top. She’s the queen of an impressive empire and Marty (Christopher McDonald) has threatened to kidnap her by cutting her performance dates. Ava may poke fun at some of the gigs she works at, but her lavish lifestyle is paid for by opening chains of pizzerias and selling collections on QVC.
When she told Ava she made her way to the top, she wasn’t being facetious, though the helicopter pick-up of the news was a flex that undermines her point. Nonetheless, Deborah still clings desperately to her position as a de facto Vegas comedian, and her actions in “D’Jewelry” are driven by her quest to keep what she’s earned.
All in hacks that led Deborah to where she is now is kept in the basement that Ava was assigned to archive. Sorting through over 40 years of material in some now-defunct formats feels like punishment, but at the end of episode three, Ava struck gold with a 1976 tape.
A package that arrived from Deborah’s estranged sister prompted this specific search and after the article was thrown away unopened, the young writer rescued it from the kitchen trash. Ava was prompted partly by chance because she was drying her hair with a paper towel after lying on the overworked sprinkler system. Her new boss still finds it hard to tolerate her presence, though Ava’s comments about Deborah’s brand of comedy (including the repeated gags about her cheating husband’s house fire) could be subject to criticism. a refinement. Ava is, of course, leaning into her unfiltered personality, though that leaves her wide open for the roast she’s the subject of in an open-top tour bus.
In hacksIn the first episode, Deborah argues there’s no comedic retort after Ava reveals her personal “cancellation” woes, but the joke has to be funny. Watching the reflections on the generation gap that Deborah makes in an open-top bus meant only for Ava is uncomfortable with the way she chooses her appearance and the lack of response to the nude photo she sent to his ex-girlfriend. This is the first time we’ve seen the older comedienne be outwardly cruel, and it’s in reaction to the perceived disrespect Ava directed at her earlier. The hacks would tire very quickly if it was beard after beard, thankfully it’s more nuanced than just a case of old versus young.
“You think you know everyone better than they know themselves,” her ex Ruby (Lorenza Izzo) told Ava when she finally spoke to her. The “I miss you” comment wasn’t an invitation to send the topless pic and she’s back with her ex. Ava’s lack of close relationships beyond her manager Jimmy (and even that is transactional) is comparable to Deborah’s and they both struggle with their families.
During her conversation with Ruby, it is her reaction to the question about her father that proves most revealing. “Alive” is his description of how he is and the following episode includes a thorny conversation with his mother while his father sleeps. The assumption is that he is sick and Ava noticed last week hacks episode where she sends money to her parents. It’s not before hacks fourth episode she rings in to tell her mom she’s currently living in Vegas (she clearly doesn’t follow her daughter on Instagram) and it’s a heated discussion about the instability of her chosen profession. The terse dynamic is similar to Deborah and her 40-year-old DJ daughter, and the happy family portrait depicted in the invisible Late Night with Deborah Vance pilot is far from the current reality.
The truth behind the pap photos that capture the least glamorous Deborah is twofold. DJ is the one giving advice to the photographers, but Deborah deliberately dresses up to help her daughter’s money-making scheme. For a woman who is so meticulous about her camera-ready look, it’s a huge sacrifice, but it also calls into question why she can’t support other DJ endeavors. The one she’s touting this week is her jewelry line, and DJ thinks that might be ideal for QVC. Her mother disagrees and doesn’t even try to taint her brand with these “substantial” looking pieces. It’s a blow, but Deborah won’t let her dilute her organized brand and to make her appear self-sufficient, her mother resorts to public photography shaming.
Spending time with DJ is fun for Ava as she tries to piss off her boss, but it’s also fun for us to see Kaitlin Olson getting more time to shine as a tough girl. This character could easily be considered a spoiled brat, but she also grew up in a fractured family with a mother whose grief infected every corner of the lavish mansion. DJ goes from brash to insecure and is impressed when Ava pushes her way through a conversation with a Neiman Marcus shopper at the jewelry show – the reference to Busy Philipps’ Instagram Stories is kind of a joke. observational humor that makes this show sing.
All this while Deborah tries to redeem her dates with a limited-edition Birkin for Marty’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah (before she has to bend down to gather blackmail gear). DJ tells Ava all about her mother’s 40-year-old feud with her sister and that she made her first line of coke when she was 13. Calling himself a “work in progress”, his animosity towards his mother runs deep. Picking up at the DJ means no powder or pills (cocktails are fine) and her messy relationship with her parents is reflected in everything she does. Given Ava’s animosity towards her boss, it wouldn’t be surprising if she let go of what she learned. Instead, his inability to keep his mouth shut extends to telling Deborah a truth she already knows.
It’s a learning curve for Ava and each of these two episodes ends with a poignant moment that strikes at the heart of why. hacks is more than just a clash between old and young. After the tense conversation with her own mother, Ava receives a call from Deborah to verify what she believes to be an excessive ordering error on the room service bill (it’s not). The usual verbal brawl begins, but when Deborah recognizes the Law and order background music (she guesses it’s SVU but it’s the underrated Criminal intent) she changes the channel for this community viewing experience. What follows is a closer split screen that’s usually reserved for romantic couples who are in bed (but in different places) that started with the defiant production code Indiscreet with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman before When Harry Met Sally echoes this configuration (later imitated by Dan and Blair in Gossip Girl). It’s not romantic love but the intimacy and ease of this scene reveals that these two women are capable of intimacy even as they struggle with their own families.
Even Marcus is frustrated with his longtime boss, despite serving the Vance empire and fans called “Little Debbies” (including the wonderful Guy Branum who appears in Episode 3). It’s clear that Marcus is a big part of Deborah’s success in how he handles his opportunities and stardom, but hopefully we’ll get more information on who he is in future episodes.
Going back to the package sent by Deborah’s sister, it is a 1976 issue of Time which references the Lily Tomlin “New Queen of Comedy” illustrated design from 1977. Instead of a top hat, Deborah wears a crown with a cover similar to Tomlin’s: “TV’s It Girl – Will Deborah Vance Make history?” First of all, kudos to the art department who created this gorgeous number of Time and to the team who put together Deborah’s seamless vintage clips. The title of This Time is a nod to the late-night concert that would never air, and Ava is shocked by the discovery. Her lack of research gives us the series’ most emotional moment so far when Deborah watches silently from the shady stairs as Ava laughs at the comedy on fire. When Deborah shows a rare emotional reaction on screen to this opportunity being “the honor of my life,” it’s impossible not to cry along with her. Everything about this sequence points to why Deborah is so reluctant to abandon the Second Empire and it’s safe to say that the Little Debbies have a new member in their ranks.