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.
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.
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