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Collegiate sit-coms are not unlike people who accuse you of false equivalency because TLDR is their default critical position, likely since Lyndon Larouche died. The TV genre does rely on common denominators and similar smarminess, but the difference between sit-com and dramedy can’t be simply the duration.
The latest bit of TV drama-comedy debuts builds on a 1997 text about mediocre college life that wants to be relatable to a 2023 audience. “Our television love language is anxiety”, and our lives approach Breaking Bad more like the extinction-event asteroid.
Lucky Hank is a “dark comedy” probably no different than Better Call Saul and not as surreal as AMC’s Brockmire, from which could be borrowed more Bunuel-like twists. Then again, it only seems like nothing ever changes in higher education especially petty bureaucracy. The show looks for the same audience that enjoyed The Chair and may suffer from that precedent as some of the stereotypes endure.
Lucky Hank is based on the novel Straight Man by Richard Russo and such disquisitions on campus life likely are understood more personally by people who have actually had to endure faculty meetings. Teachable moments are scarce at least in the pilot because ennui isn’t scarce but we will see how the narrative arcs develop.
Watching Lucky Hank reminded me of Guy Cecil’s departure from one of the important Democratic party funding institutions as it was acknowledged by the Rachael Maddow program. We only know the central importance of capital(sic) even if it’s middling and mediocre but like the FTX collapse and the SVB failure, it’s based on scheming. All very relatable in the age of persistent trumpism.
"With the fortune of Bob Odenkirk in its favor, Lucky Hank makes ennui essential viewing with a comedy rooted in relatable human behavior".
This gives Hank a ray of hope — he doesn't have a care when meeting with Dean Jacob about next year's budget and gets another boost from stiffing his dad's assistant when the old man couldn't reach out to him directly. When it comes time for the vote, Hank watches with glee as he is ousted. However, they have to delay the vote for a new chair because they didn't think that far ahead in their scheming.
The Hank in question, then, being Odenkirk’s character, William Henry “Hank” Devereaux Jr., a Pennsylvania English professor who’s currently undergoing one of those mid-life crises you’re always hearing about in the art of sad mid-life men. Said crisis ends up impacting his wife (The Killing’s Mireille Enos), obviously, and also, less obviously, the waterfowl of Hank’s college, after he threatens to kill a goose on campus every day until his English department gets its proper budget from the higher-ups. (That’s straight from the synopsis of Russo’s book.)
And, look: We’re not saying Lucky Hank is a good title—it puts us in what might be best described as a Maximum Bob mindset, and that’s a reference so old we’re not sure even we get it. But it is a better name than…the other one. Sad Guy. Sober Dude. Whatever, scroll up if you really care, because the show’s not called that anymore, anyway.
Hank is so exasperated by everybody and everything around him that he’d be a lot like Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm if he had enough motivation to be a committed curmudgeon.
Unlike the New York Times telling us how former professors at major universities marry their students coincidentally, the Railton College of the show is mediocrity’s capitol in Pennsylvania unlike Russo’s Colby College in Maine. Shows about colleges in this century make us pine for the Pendelton State University situated in Rutherford, Ohio on Third Rock from the Sun. The latter achieved funny because it was intergalactically absurd, yet it was also influenced by the faculty spouse experiences of one of its stars.
Lucky Hank is worth watching (episode 1 on YouTube) to see whether a threat to kill geese will increase department funding succeeds. There is some smart writing and good acting, but it won’t be as funny as Community if only because there’s a secondary attempt to show that higher education is humorous. Let’s hope that Lucky Hank looks at more than Professional-Managerial Class anguish. At least Big Bang Theory delivered a Nobel Prize.
"Our love language is anxiety in the Democratic Party." -Guy Cecil on @maddow
#1 BEST COLLEGE FOOD IN AMERICA
University of California - Los Angeles
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#3 BEST COLLEGE FOOD IN AMERICA
University of Massachusetts Amherst