A guide to breakout Emmy favorite ‘Hacks’

Jean Smart in "Hacks" on HBO.
(Jake Giles Netter/HBO)

It wasn’t a shock that double-nominee Jean Smart earned an Emmy Sunday for her work in HBO’s “Hacks,” playing a pioneering female comic who builds an unlikely friendship with the up-and-comer (Hannah Einbinder) tasked with freshening up her act.

The 69-year-old was the standout in a category that also included nominees Aidy Bryant for “Shrill,” Kaley Cuoco for “The Flight Attendant,” Allison Janney for “Mom” and Tracee Ellis Ross for “black-ish.” On Friday, reporter Glenn Whipp accurately predicted Smart would end up on top with this award.

But it was something of a surprise to see the HBO Max comedy also win awards for comedy series writing (Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky) and comedy series directing (Aniello), beating out Apple TV+’s inspirational sports comedy “Ted Lasso.”


In its eighth episode, “Hacks” memorably addresses the comedy scene’s #MeToo moment. The series’ co-creators explain how it came together.

June 4, 2021

So, in case you’re just catching up with “Hacks,” here’s what you need to know. Set in Las Vegas, amid the world of standup comedy, the eminently bingeable series is as much about the generational divide between Smart and Einbinder’s characters as it is about the industry. By the end of the 10-episode first season, which premiered this spring, the pair’s story has become a love story — and the show a great one, according to TV critic Robert Lloyd.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not topical. Perhaps its best episode of Season 1 is a takedown of toxic masculinity in a small-town comedy club.

“Hacks” has one more award ahead of it: It competes against “Lasso” for outstanding comedy series in one of the night’s final prizes.