‘Lucky Hank’ Review: Bob Odenkirk’s New Show Is Must-Watch Comedy

Mar 12, 2023

Less than a year following the Better Call Saul finale, Slippin’ Jimmy McGill star Bob Odenkirk is sliding back onto AMC with Lucky Hank, a brand-new series that finds the award-winning actor facing another kind of existentialism this time around. Trading cartels and flashy suits for an underfunded college with tame middle-America fashion choices, the mid-life crisis tale finds Odenkirk at the top of his game as the perfect narrator for life’s craziness through the lens of a disgruntled, yet humorously self-aware professor.

Based on the book Straight Man by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo and executive produced by showrunners Paul Lieberstein (The Office) and Aaron Zelman (Damages), Lucky Hank is a show that truly stands out on its own with its sharp, social commentary and hyperbole that acts as a wondrous ode to mediocrity. Filled with humor, some of it quite dark and a lot of it dry under the direction of Peter Farrelly (Green Book), viewers will find themselves chuckling one minute and laughing out loud the next at the quirky, workplace drama-comedy. Not to mention, being charmed by an unfiltered, very nuanced honesty and sincerity led by Odenkirk and an incredibly complementary cast.

Image via AMC

Related: ‘Lucky Hank’: Release Date, Trailer, Cast, and Everything We Know So Far

Upon screening the first two episodes provided for review, Lucky Hank is undoubtedly one of 2023’s best new series. The show finds Odenkirk stepping into the shoes of the curmudgeon William Henry “Hank” Devereaux, Jr., a reluctant English department chairman of a low-tier college in the Pennsylvania rust belt. Exhausted by the ins and outs of his life, the constant pleas for money from his daughter, and the mentions of “necrophilia” from pretentious and entitled students who compare their work to Chaucer, Hank, for the life of him, can’t understand why everyone is obsessed with happiness. As he puts it, “being an adult is 80 percent misery,” and solitary misery might be the best thing humankind has going for them.

As the town and its people have slowly lost their charisma while sliding into obscurity, Lucky Hank finds our reticent protagonist at the center of a milieu all too relatable, chronicling the defeatism of suburbia and the intimate conversation surrounding contentedness. In the pilot, Hank steps into a major misfire after growing frustrated with a student and begins ranting against his very employer, Railton College. Calling it “mediocrity’s capital,” the administration is pressured to fire him, with the spent chairman contemplating a future outside his monotonous existence alongside his wife Lily Devereux, played most strikingly by Mireille Enos. It’s in this dynamic between the two that we see these layers peel back and learn through Hank’s life unraveling that Lily too questions her reality amid a very emotionally grounded presence. As the vice principal of a local high school, she begins to note her own choices with the dream of a life beyond their community. Enos as Lily is enthralling to watch as she complements Odenkirk’s downward spiraling Hank. The two are captivating as a yin and yang, creating a soft, approachable dynamic born from quiet chaos.

While the blend of hilarity with heartbreak offers some hilarious and unforgettable moments, including one that finds Hank in the midst of a very painful notebook accident, the character’s offbeat outlook plays most spiritedly to Odenkirk’s longstanding charm and edginess to an uncompromising eccentricity that has made him such a beloved TV staple. In all his gravity and conviction, Odenkirk as a man jaded by his own choices is magnetic to watch and relatable on just about every level. When it comes to his performance, the joy of watching Odenkirk is not in what he says as Hank, whose reluctance and pessimism speak volumes to a collectively relatable middle-class struggle, but more of how he says it through artful expressions, like a furrowed forehead, a deepened stare or a half smile. It’s this very eloquent form of articulation that reels the audience into his favor, creating a realm of understanding that has us siding with him and falling into his feelings most easily.

Image via AMC

His narration alone makes the show ever so endearing as we learn more about Hank’s life and the discontent that follows, including several issues that have marred his confidence including a one-hit-wonder book, being the son of the famous English professor, William Henry Devereaux, Sr., and pestering anxiety that prevents him from a natural occurrence. Through Hank’s anarchist attitudes, Odenkirk’s apt delivery of biting wit and instinctive sarcasm makes this character-based comedy one worth tuning into. Add to the mix, a hilarious and charming motley crew of academics once promised success, now vying for security and prestige in a liberal arts college of a lackluster university, and you’ve got yourself a heightened, more kaleidoscopic look at workplace comedies.

While neatly packing in the conversation of faculty relations and the politics that involve staffing, joining Odenkirk and Enos is an eclectic cast that preserves a strong captivation for every scene. Starring the likes of Oscar Nuñez as Railton’s quite passive yet helpful Dean of Faculty, Diedrich Bader as Hank’s best friend and philosophy professor, and Cedric Yarbrough as a poetry professor who drives a shiny red Camaro and is on his third marriage, these stars round off the cast with Sara Amini, Suzanne Cryer, Olivia Scott Welch, and Nancy Robertson — all of whom bring a generous dose of heart and smart comedy to their performances, offering knockout laughs steeped in thoughtful honesty.

With Leiberstein and Zelman at the helm, Lucky Hank does an attractive job of balancing salty comedy with bittersweet moments for an intimate, easily identifiable show that will be a new favorite for viewers. Through a ticklishly frank and droll form of storytelling, the two manage to bring out life’s truths in a highly observant, funny manner that blends emotionally raw and true-to-life situations for impressive social commentaries. As Odenkirk steers the ship with terrific, vivid immediacy, Lucky Hank embodies a plenitude of warmth and sadness that lays down the roots for a show that is whimsically lovable. Weave in some very poignant backstories with Hank’s crass, and you’ve got a story that is in no way familiar, yet feels comfortable and one you want to stick around for.

Rating: A

Lucky Hank made its world premiere at SXSW on March 11. It will make its broadcast television debut on Sunday, March 19 at 9 PM EST on AMC and AMC+ along with its AMC Networks’ linear networks, BBC AMERICA, IFC, and SundanceTV for a multi-network premiere event.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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