Movie Synopsis

Bob Odenkirk leads the way

Welcome to Up Next, a column bringing you an overview of the latest TV content. This week we’re looking at new AMC campus comedy Lucky Hank, starring Bob Odenkirk.

Just seven months after retiring from one of the most acclaimed shows of the past decade, Bob Odenkirk is back at AMC with another starring role. Lucky Hankbut is nothing like that Better call Saul or breaking Bad. A sometimes melancholic campus comedy about a professor who seems determined to turn his life around Lucky Hank evolves into another subtle, clever, secretly emotional work anchored by a great Odenkirk performance.

It is worth noting that only two episodes of Lucky Hank were made available for review ahead of the show’s premiere, but the first season will feature eight in total. From what I’ve seen the show is interesting and irreverent. It’s also oddly comforting — in a way that only a story based on a book written decades before the discourse on safe spaces, trigger warnings and “awakening” could be, and college campuses into one of the dumbest cultural ones transformed battlefields of America. The plot comes from the 1997 novel “Straight Man” by Richard Russo Lucky Hank set in modern times, it feels a bit like a wonder boys-esque reminiscence with a misanthropic touch.

The misanthropy comes mainly from Professor Hank Devereaux (Odenkirk), a professor and head of the English department at a less prestigious college. While the series’ official synopsis describes it as a “mid-life crisis story,” the first two hours don’t see Hank in crisis mode, but definitely detached. Bored with his job, put off by the ambitious but unchallenged students in his class, he approaches his own incomplete second novel with a sense that somehow he has already been wronged. Yes, this is one of those campus stories: Hank is a middle-aged college graduate with a sizeable chip on his shoulder. Somehow but Lucky Hank takes a tired setup and makes it fun.

The show captivates in large part for its prickly but endearing sense of humor, tailored for the liberal arts school alumni among us. Hank might be a bit insufferable, but he’s not mocking him. There’s no combative, culture-war commentary undercurrent that threatens to turn the story into bad satire. Sure, he’ll go viral in the show’s pilot, but it’s for a mild tirade about the school’s mediocrity, and the series surprisingly dodges any talk of “cancellation.” In fact, most of the time the whole thing fizzles out pretty quickly, giving the show a quasi-sitcom feel, while the second episode segues into an entertaining but fairly disjointed storyline involving guest writer George Saunders.

In a strange but bold move, the show transforms into the real George Saunders, the highly decorated author of books Tenth December And lincoln in the bardo, into a character played by Brian Huskey. As with its viral rant-plot, the show proves smarter and more playful with its portrayal of Saunders than when it was cut. Though the show revolves around a man who insists he’s sick of the academic world, the show itself seems to love its intellectual sandbox environment. It skewers the idiosyncrasies of America’s high school system with generous candor. It will definitely be the only show this year with a laugh scene centered around a faculty election.

geek humor aside, Lucky Hank is captivating, thanks in large part to its amazing cast. In the first two episodes, Odenkirk succeeds in playing Hank as a man who is difficult to pin down, as well as one whose image of himself almost hilariously misrepresents how he comes across. Occasionally he bursts into voiceovers and supposedly reads us parts of what he writes, but his observations are myopic and cliche, and his prose nothing extraordinary. He fears he’s a bad writer, or worse, a writer who doesn’t write at all, but he also seems trapped in his own perspective. Mireille Enos, Star of The killing And HannaAs Hank’s wife Lily, she’s a great co-star here. She understands Hank better than he does, but she also has her own career in education, one that sets her apart despite her lack of flashiness.

While Lucky Hank perhaps not for everyone, thanks to its niche subject matter and intelligent scripts that refuse to make the mundane too sensational, it might win viewers over with its terrific cast alone. Beside Odenkirk and Enos, The office Alum Oscar Nuñez stars as Hank’s fake boss (formerly The office Actor and showrunner Paul Lieberstein helped create the series) while better thingsDiedrich Bader turns up as the professor’s friend. However, the show’s secret weapon might be Shannon DeVido (Difficult people, the other two), who plays Emma, ​​a younger member of the English department who can’t even pretend to have time for her rival peers’ cleaning drama. DeVido is effortlessly funny, and Emma steals every scene she’s in. The entire English faculty becomes a bastion of dry humor and dysfunction. However, the quietly reflective show makes us laugh at its characters while still writing them as three-dimensional characters.

With his throwback sensibilities and fairly niche comedy, Lucky Hank is a bit of an oddball, but the first two episodes are extremely promising. It’s an irreverent, often bittersweet, campus saga built around a talented cast, with Odenkirk’s Hank leading one convincing misstep after another.

Lucky Hank debuts Sunday, March 19 on AMC. Watch the series trailer here.


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