Directors: Peter Farrelly
Writers: Paul Lieberstein, Aaron Zelman
Cast: Bob Odenkirk, Mireille Enos, Jackson Kelly, Jacki Gunn, Shannon DeVido, Olivia Scott Welch, Chris Gethard, Lilah Fitzgerald
‘Pilot’ Air Date: 20/03/2023
”Hank rants against Railton College, calling it “Mediocrity’s Capitol,” and the administration is pressured to fire him. Hank and Lily contemplate a future outside of Railton.”
’George Saunders” Air Date: 27/03/2023
”When George Saunders visits Railton College, the professors scramble to impress the celebrated writer, while Hank is reminded of his own failed writing career. Hank and Lily anticipate an announcement from their daughter Julie.”
Bob Odenkirk returns to AMC following the finale of last year’s Better Call Saul. However, compared to that series in which Odenkirk played the at times loud and boisterous lawyer Saul Goodman who mixed it with criminals, including Breaking Bad’s Walter White, here he plays the Chairman of the English department at an under-funded arts college. As Odenkirk has proven, he’s versatile, from picking up supporting roles in Little Women over the past few years to starring in the action film Nobody. Mixing up his straight-shooting drop-pan comedy with the dramatic side he’s sharpened over the past several years on Better Call Saul; if the first two episodes are anything to go by, Lucky Hank is set to be another hit for AMC and Odenkirk.
With showrunners Paul Lieberstein (The Office) and Aaron Zelman (Criminal Minds) combining their experience of workplace drama and comedy, Lucky Hank is left with a similar feeling of the school and office being the primary location of the show rather than the home of Hank. In the first episode, we’re introduced to Hank staring into oblivion before one of his creative writing students interrupts his daydreaming and asks for honest feedback. Hank shoots straight and tells his entire class what he thinks: they’re not very good and that no one at this school, in his mind, is bound to end up in any place of success. As you might have guessed, this doesn’t go over too well with the students who take to sharing what he said in the school paper and spreading it on social media. The parents of the kid that asked for feedback attempt to get Hank fired, but he is in a position where it’s not easy to lose his job, even if it’s very obvious that Hank wouldn’t care much if he did.
It’s hard to talk about Lucky Hank without sounding like Hank is this curmudgeon teacher who yells at kids to get off his lawn. He’s undoubtedly falling into the category of a nihilist with his voice-over in the premiere proclaiming that “being an adult is 80 per cent misery,” but he’s not unlikable, and he’s fun to watch. A curmudgeon seems like what he is at first, but he’s not. Hank has undeniable issues surrounding his feelings and doubts his skills as a writer; he feels useless at his school; he fills himself with jealousy over his friends who have done better than him, and there’s a lot of untouched trauma surrounding his father, which I’m sure the series will dig into as the show progresses. At home, his relationship with his wife Lilly (Mireille Enos) is lively as she pokes at his negative attitude while trying to rely on all too hopeful solutions for her students at a high school to adverse effects. Their daughter only shows up to ask for money, which Hank seems to have made a game out of dodging, and both Hank and Lilly don’t share any love for the boyfriend, who appears to be doing anything other than getting a job in an attempt to get-rich-quick.
While at the school, the motley crew of teachers who seem to spend as much time sitting in their facilities arguing with one another as they do attending to their students and classes deliver a lot of the straight-faced comedy you’d find in something like The Office. Arguments over the loudness of one’s car, to the teachers critiquing one another’s work in front of their students, causing them to pick sides as if they’re part of some weird poem-sports club, are all part of the fun.
It’s hard to describe Lucky Hank based on the first two episodes. Odenkirk is instantly enjoyable as his voice-over quibbles over life, while his co-workers provide more of the typical comedy you’d find in Paul Lieberstein’s previous work. I’m excited to see where and how far life will push Hank, and Odenkirk is the perfect actor to portray any direction the character heads in.