“Lucky Hank” is Bob Odenkirk, in his first television outing since leaving “Better Call Saul.” The premiere episode of the AMC+ series premiered at SXSW on March 12th (Oscar day), showing once and once only at the Stateside Theater in Austin.
The series owes much to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book on which it is based, “Straight Man,” by Richard Russo.
The synopsis for the series reads: “An English department chairman at an underfunded college, Professor Hank Devereaux toes the line between midlife crisis and full-blown meltdown, navigating the offbeat chaos in his personal and professional life.” As IMDB further says, William Henry Devereaux, Jr., spiritually suited to playing left field but forced by a bad hamstring to try first base, is the unlikely chairman of the English department at Railton East University. Over the course of a single convoluted week, he threatens to execute a duck, has his nose slashed by a feminist poet, discovers that his secretary writes better fiction than he does, suspects his wife of having an affair with his dean, and finally confronts his philandering elderly father, the one-time king of American Literary Theory, at an abandoned amusement park”
If this all sounds like a great vehicle for Bob Odenkirk, you’re right. The humor and sarcasm are on full display in this clip.
The cast, headed by Odenkirk, is stellar. Mirielle Enos (“World War Z,” “The Killing”) plays Hanks’ wife, Lily, and she is a revelation. In the Q&A following the screening, she admitted that she “wanted to play a less closeted woman.” Her serious role in “The Killing” made her a natural choice for screenwriters Paul Lieberstein and Aaron Zelman, who had worked with her on “The Killing.” Those representing the premiere in Austin referred to the cast as “spectacular.”
The writers are similarly spectacular. Although credit must also be given to the source material, as the writers admit that they constantly “went back to the book” while also adding depth to Hank’s character.
Bob Odenkirk, onstage after the screening, talked about how he ended up working this hard so soon after “Better Call Saul” ended. “I had said yes to the show. I really thought it would take forever. It didn’t.” Factor in a heart attack that Odenkirk described as, “what happens when you don’t take your heart medication” and here he is in an 8-episode series that he praised as “A place for everyone to do their best” and “A lot of variety on a journey that goes somewhere.” Odenkirk added that it was “Great use of modern TV. We had 4 different directors and travel alterations. The stories and characters progress and it is more like an 8-episode movie.”
He also praised the dream cast and said, of his character, “He’s so different from Saul, who was a loner. There are people in the right relationships. You love your wife and then, if you’re married long enough, you hate them.” (This brought laughter and an admonition from the writers, “Bob! Your wife is in the audience.”) Odenkirk continued, “If it’s a great relationship, you find your way back and you don’t even know how.” He felt that Saul and Kim in “Better Call Saul” were loners, but “I liked the way this guy relates to other people.” Pointing out the fundamental differences between his Saul character and Hank he said, “It’s fun to do wildly different things. It’s one of the reasons I went into this business.”
For me, the bad is that I currently don’t have AMC+. In order to watch this wildly entertaining series, I am going to have to subscribe, which means that my spouse (of 55 years) is going to be gifted with a subscription to the series (which premieres on March 19th). Since his birthday is March 21st, thank you, Hank, for figuring out what to give the man who has everything. This looks like a totally enjoyable, witty, well-written and well-acted 8-episode series that will entertain mightily.