Hacks: 8 Reasons The Comedy Is One Of The Best Shows On HBO Max

Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Jean Smart, Paul W. Downs, and Hannah Einbinder in Hacks
(Image credit: HBO Max)

HBO is known for putting out some of the best original series on television. In just the few short years since the launch of their new subscription service, HBO Max, the media powerhouse has produced wildly popular and critically acclaimed original series like The Flight Attendant, Our Flag Means Death, and The Sex Lives of College Girls.

Which is why what I’m about to say may sound controversial: Hacks is the best show on HBO Max.

For those who don’t know, Hacks follows the unlikely pair of Deborah Vance, a comedy legend who’s losing her Vegas residency, and Ava, a young comedy writer who’s hired to write for her.

This HBOMax original series follows the comedians on their journey to build (or rebuild) their careers and learn to work together along the way. The show was nominated for fifteen Emmys, winning three.

Not convinced? Here are some of the reasons why Hacks is one of the best shows on HBO Max.

Jean Smart winning the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

(Image credit: Television Academy)

The Acting Is Amazing

Hacks certainly has its fair share of talented actors, starting with leading ladies Jean Smart (Deborah) and Hannah Einbinder (Ava). We, of course, can’t forget Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins), the overworked COO of Deborah’s company.

Hacks received four Emmy nominations for acting, with lead actor Jean Smart winning Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and Hannah Einbinder and Carl Clemons-Hopkins earning supporting actor nominations.

Smart and Einbinder are unforgettable as our two anti-heros, delivering comedic lines with as much commitment and gravity as dramatic ones. The two are able to play off each other in a way that makes you forget these characters are fictional.

Paul W. Downs in Hacks

(Image credit: HBO Max)

The Writing Is Witty

Series creators and writers Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 2021 for Season 1 of Hacks, and the quality of the material certainly hasn’t decreased from the first season to the second. 

One thing’s for sure: Hacks will make you laugh, cry, cringe, and gasp in quick succession. The writers have mastered the art of sneaking shocking and absurd moments in between heartfelt scenes, while never straying too far from the reason we’re all here in the first place: comedy.

Hannah Einbinder and Jean Smart in Hacks

(Image credit: HBO Max)

The Chemistry Between The Characters Is Unmatched

From their first meeting, it’s clear Deborah and Ava have a lot more in common than they think. While they remain at odds before coming together as partners, the two have an unspoken connection that’s definitely thanks in part to the on-screen chemistry between Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder. And, the off-screen love between the cast is clear, too:

As we moved into the second season, this group of coworkers started to feel even more like a family, which seems totally fitting for this cast.

Jean Smart in Hacks

(Image credit: HBO Max)

The Show Subverts Stereotypes

We’ve all seen shows about ambitious men, but Hacks flips the script to show what it’s like to be an ambitious woman. Both Deborah and Ava spend all their time working, with Ava determined to “make it” as a writer and Deborah focused on preventing her career from fizzling out.

Since they’re at two very different points in their careers, we see the before and after of what it’s like to be a woman in a male-centered space. Ava is an unknown writer who isn’t taken seriously and is outcast at the slightest misstep—but after over 40 years in the industry, we see that Deborah hasn’t earned much more respect from her male peers. Like Ava, she still has to scratch and claw to “make it” as a comedian, despite the long and successful career she’s crafted.

In addition, Hacks includes many LGBTQ+ cast members and characters, so the romance in the show rarely features the typical heterosexual relationships you'd expect to see in a comedy.

Jean Smart on Hacks

(Image credit: HBO Max)

You Can See The Characters’ Personal Growth

Ava’s progression from a self-absorbed and self-destructive “millennial” to — well, a slightly less self-absorbed and self-destructive person, mirrors Deborah’s journey of realizing her personal life isn’t half as fulfilling as it seems. 

Deborah and Ava aren’t the only characters who evolve during the series, though: we see Marcus grapple with work-life balance and finding himself outside of managing Deborah’s business.

Deborah and Ava still make mistakes (hello, lesbian cruise), but it’s nice to watch them evolve into better versions of themselves.

Hannah Einbinder and Jean Smart on Hacks

(Image credit: HBO Max)

We Get A Sneak Peek At The Comedy Industry

Season 2 of Hacks takes us on the road with Ava and Deborah, where we see the day-to-day process of touring, traveling the country, and testing out new material for different crowds. 

Not only do we see what it’s like for Deborah to perform, we get a glimpse of the writing process for comedians who are in the middle of developing new routines. For Deborah and Ava, the process becomes collaborative and intimate.

Hacks Season 2 sees Deborah and Ava’s work evolve into something bigger than just jokes, and it’s fun to watch them work out the kinks of their routine in the way so many real-life comedians must.

Megan Stalter as Kayla on Hacks

(Image credit: HBO Max)

The Supporting Characters Keep It Interesting

The vibrant and lively supporting cast of characters in Hacks are part of what keeps the laughs-per-minute count high.

Jimmy’s assistant, Kayla (Megan Stalter), provides comic relief nearly every time she’s on screen. Deborah’s eccentric personal blackjack dealer, Kiki (Poppy Liu), embodies the Vegas energy of the show.

Jane Adams, who plays Ava’s mother Nina, was even nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series thanks to her portrayal of the strained and dysfunctional relationship between Nina and Ava.

Additional supporting characters who bring the story to life include DJ (Kaitlin Olson), Deborah’s somewhat messy daughter, and her MMA fighter husband Aidan (Paul Felder), as well as Marcus’ mother Robin (Angela Elayne) and her girlfriend Miss Loretta (Luenell).

Hannah Einbinder and Jean Smart in Hacks

(Image credit: HBO Max)

It’s Dark Humor With A Twist

Forget what you’ve heard about dark humor. Hacks finds the humor in devastating situations—and there are quite a few that come up in our characters’ lives. From Ava’s one night stand gone wrong to the strained parent-child relationships in the series, Hacks is sure to point out what might be humorous about the horrible things that happen in their lives.

The writers manage to do this without the usual trappings of misogyny and bigotry that many people think of when they hear the words “dark humor.” Don’t get it twisted: Hacks is dark, but it never alienates its audience. 

Hacks is available to stream with your HBO Max subscription.

Emily Marek

She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.