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Bob Odenkirk directs comedy-drama in new AMC series ‘Lucky Hank’

Bob Odenkirk pivots effortlessly from his gloom “Better Call Saul” to small-town academia in “Lucky Hank,” an enjoyable AMC series that moves to the beat of its own weaknesses.

He plays William Henry “Hank” Devereaux Jr., a best-selling novelist who now chairs the English department at the underfunded Railton College somewhere in Pennsylvania’s Rust Belt, a place he dubs “the capital of mediocrity”.

The bearded Hank mixes cynicism, sarcasm and pessimistic humor – “being an adult is 80% misery”, he postulates – while battling midlife crises on several fronts: with his famous father, a a Columbia University literature professor who abandoned his family years ago and, recently retired, now wants to reconnect; with its bickering staff, a ragtag, conniving team that thinks Hank should be “removed” from his job (“Is it an outpatient procedure these days?” Hank wonders); and with his wife, Lily (Mireille Enos), deputy principal of Railton East High School.

Hank and Lily are settled into a comfortable and loving marriage, not without its own challenges: She, too, faces work issues and is tempted by the prospect of a prestigious job in New York, but must persuade Hank to leave town. native ( and mother) behind – an almost impossible task.

Their 24-year-old daughter, Julie (Olivia Scott Welch), who considers herself a disappointment to her parents, is married to Russell (Daniel Doheny), a modern-day Ralph Kramden who dreams big but never seems to deliver.

Hank’s point of view is crystallized by his inner thoughts, relayed via his occasional voiceover. It’s a plot device that, if overused, can misfire – but it works well here and adds a touch of whimsical gravitas.

Bob Odenkirk as pessimistic English teacher Hank Deveraux Jr. in AMC’s “Lucky Hank.”
Eric Ogden/AMC

Mireille Enos and Bob Odenkirk as Lily and Hank Devereaux in a scene from "Lucky Hank." They face each other across the kitchen counter.  She is holding a cup in her hand and he is leaning on the counter with his elbow.
Mireille Enos and Bob Odenkirk as Lily and Hank Devereaux in a scene from “Lucky Hank”.
Sergei Bachlakov/AMC

Each episode of “Lucky Hank,” based on Richard Russo’s 1997 novel “Straight Man,” deftly stitches together the comedy-drama story arc without losing focus under the sure hands of Paul Lieberstein (“The Office”) and Aaron Zelman (“Damages”, “The Killing” with Enos).

We eventually learn a lot more about Hank, Lily, Julie (and Russell) and Hank’s backstory, particularly regarding his father issues – who are upset when he discovers a cache of family letters revealing much more. on the saga of Devereaux Sr – and his insecurities as a latent writer who fears his best were more the product of his father’s fame (his idea of ​​a “baby nepo”) than his own talent.

Shannen DeVido and Cedric Yarbrough as Emma and Paul.  They are seated side by side at a long table;  she has her hands crossed on her knees and he has his arms crossed on his chest.  They both seem to be giving someone questionable looks off camera.
Emma (Shannen DeVido) and Paul (Cedric Yarbrough) doubt Hank’s leadership qualities.
Sergei Bachlakov/AMC

None of this would work, of course, without sharp writing, and that’s in abundance here (including several episodes penned by Russo). Hank launches a series of retorts – “a yes for a yes” when his colleagues decide the fate of his president; describing himself as “a little more neutral” regarding his “happy” mood – and, given Odenkirk’s comedic past, that fits Hank like a glove, albeit through a world-weary lens, much like in “Breaking Bad” and “You better call Saul.”

Any series (drama or comedy) worthy of its time investment features a stellar supporting cast, and “Lucky Hank” doesn’t disappoint, especially when it comes to colleagues in Hank’s department, including Dean Rose (Oscar Nunez). ; poetry teacher Gracie DuBois (Suzanne Cryer); blatant misogynist Paul Rourke (Cedric Yarbrough, “Speechless”); pretentious enlightened professor Finny (Hague Sutherland); and film professor Emma Wheemer (Shannon DeVido), a self-proclaimed “freight train” of insults.

Buckle up for a bumpy, enjoyable ride into the human condition that takes you on a journey that’s alternately funny, melancholy, and insightful, but never dull.

New York Post

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