‘Hacks’ pulls back the curtain on brutality as the secret sauce in Hollywood success

‘Hacks’ pulls back the curtain on brutality as the secret sauce in Hollywood success

The third season of “Hacks,” Max’s Emmy-nominated comedy series, in one respect feels strange, with veteran comic Deborah Vance continuing her career-leading late-night TV show, at a time when the series has lost much of its luster from its heyday. Yet the show also contains what feels like a timeless lesson about Hollywood and doing whatever it takes to get ahead.

The finale makes it clear, after Deborah (Jean Smart) lies to her writer/confidante Ava (Hannah Einbinder), telling her that the network has prevented her from installing Ava as head writer on her show.

Fortunately, Ava has met with the network boss (Helen Hunt), who explains that the choice is Deborah’s, who then admits it, saying she doesn’t want to do anything that might harm her to blow this delay. shot to late night fame.

“You have to be selfish,” he told Ava, adding, “This show has to be bulletproof, and it has to work. I’ve lost too much not to.”

Although Ava’s first impulse is to quit on principle over Deborah’s betrayal, the final scene marks a turning of the tables, with Ava blackmailing Deborah into giving her the head writer position. When Deborah asks if she’s willing to use that tactic to get what she wants, Ava replies firmly, “I would. Wouldn’t I?”

What the future holds for their uneasy alliance remains to be seen, though the two have been through enough ups and downs that they can’t seem to let go of each other, for better or for worse.

But what “Hacks” has captured so well is the mix of narcissism and self-absorption that often feels like a prerequisite to achieving show business success, in this latest season somewhat mirroring another series set in the world of late-night TV, “The Larry Sanders Show, ” whose host (played by the late Garry Shandling) has all kinds of powers that barely hide his neurosis, a description that also applies to those around him.

The irony is that “Larry Sanders” (which premiered in 1992 on HBO, while “Hacks” occupied its streaming service, Max) appeared at a very different time of late night, when the image of Johnny Carson as the kingmaker of comedy was still emerging. on business. The series made its debut a few months after Carson’s final episode, playing out as the so-called “late night war” rages.

Today, names like Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel still have prestige and respect, but audiences have dwindled amid incredible audience fragmentation, and other late-night shows featuring James Corden and Samantha Bee have been swept up in the mid- in the middle of an economy that is less friendly to that. fare. There is also a fellowship among the current hosts, who also worked together during the writers’ strike, which has little in common with David Letterman and Jay Leno’s famous feud.

While Deborah seems to be living in the past, “Hacks” never was, as evidenced by its penultimate episode, which discussed the comic having to deal with the fallout from an old joke resurfacing soon, similar to the scenario that prompted Kevin Hart to quit as the host of the Oscars.

Then again, after the show’s Christmas episode, it might make sense that “Hacks” would find a way to live in the past, the present, and as long as this dynamic continues, maybe the future.

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