REVIEW: ‘Lucky Hank’ Makes Wallowing Funny

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Lucky Hank — But Why Tho

Starring Bob Odenkirk and Mireille Enos, Lucky Hank is an eight-episode mid-life crisis tale set at Railton College. This new AMC title premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival, putting audiences into William Henry Devereaux, Jr.’s life (Odenkirk). Aaron Zelman and Paul Lieberstein, who adapted the project from the novel Straight Man by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo, serve as the Lucky Hank co-showrunners. The series is directed by Peter Farrelly (Green Book). This review is based on the first two episodes provided. 

Hank is the head of the English department at Railton College, and when he isn’t dealing with his staff’s petty grievances, Hank is batting away at an insistently growing self-loathing. Sure, Hank wrote one decently received book, but he can’t even inch out a follow-up with his father’s shadow hanging over him. His inability to write leaks into his teaching as his motivation dwindles. That lack of a spark also starts to harm his parenting and his marriage, even if his wife, Lily (Enos), is doing everything she can to help him.

Truth be told, Hank is just tired of the world and of every person around him. That exhaustion is palpable, and Odenkirk plays it perfectly, still managing to be endearing while being annoying and depressed too. Feeling helpless and propelled by his famous academic father’s retirement, Lucky Hank is told in the first person from his perspective. His life is slow. His passion is low. When a student pushes him to the edge, and he drops his filter and berates a student, his sad little life starts to change, if only slightly. Don’t let the depression fool you, though; Lucky Hank is effortlessly funny in dialogue delivered and through physical comedy. Some of the funniest moments of the first two episodes come more from the situation than anything being said by the characters.

Lucky Hank nails so much about academia while exaggerating it to absurd levels to make it a comedy. Whether it’s how little money gets made from royalties, how academics stall out in comfortable seats, or how awful students can be, it all just hits and brings back memories of when I had to teach annoying 18-year-olds at a state school. There is a dead-end element to Lucky Hank that Odenkirk plays perfectly. What do you do when your students have ideas of grandeur, but you know just how bad your college is and how bad your job is? There is no question about it; this mid-life crisis isn’t about new sports cars or chasing a new dream; it’s about getting yourself out of a depression spiral, and man, that makes sense if you’ve ever known an older academic.

The only problem with Lucky Hank so far in these first couple of episodes is that I only care about our titular character. Hank is simultaneously morose and narcissistic, a personality that Odenkirk manages to channel his charisma into even the character’s insecurity. Odenkirk is perfect for Hank, but that also means that when he isn’t in the series and the story starts to investigate side characters, it gets a tad stale, with only the room full of tired professors and their bickering ever holding the same focus as Hank.

Lucky Hank is a good series so far and that is because it’s a sad series that also manages to show that an absolute lack of joy can be funny when stretching the banal elements of academia into absurdity. The best scenes are when Hank is with other academics. Their back and forth have a bite, and they end up acing conversations I heard in the faculty room years ago. But can the series thrive beyond Odenkirk? That’s left to be seen after the first two episodes.

Lucky Hank premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival and aired new episodes every Sunday on AMC.

Lucky Hank
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10


Lucky Hank is a good series so far and that is because it’s a sad series that also manages to show that an absolute lack of joy can be funny when stretching the banal elements of academia into absurdity.

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