Is This Hit Show on Max the Perfect Boomer-Millennial Comedy?

Awkward generational differences? LOLZ

Hacks boomer-millennial comedy: Ave and Deborah look in a mirror
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Max

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot" is Charlie Chaplin's oft-quoted philosophy of filmmaking, but also life. And it is the day-to-day of my family, what with conflicts over boomer grandparenting, onboarding Generation Alpha children and all-round caretaking (what is the sandwich generation, anyway?). So when I sit down to my hour of downtime with my loved ones, I am ready for a break. I want to be engaged, but not pissed off—honestly, that's how I feel about spending time with said loved ones overall. And what hits that endorphin lever for not just me, but for my parents, too? The acclaimed streaming show Hacks, now on its third season on Max (and beyond—the network just greenlit a fourth season).

The Emmy award-winning show is the story of 70-year-old Las Vegas standup comedian Deborah Vance, who hires 25-year-old comedy writer Ava Daniels to freshen her act and revitalize her career. Vance is loosely based on the late Joan Rivers, the comedian and late night TV host whose take-no-prisoners insult humor made her a household name beginning in the 1980s. Ava is based on—well, the idea of an Everyperson from an upstart younger generation, one whose fluid sexuality, yearning for social justice and tendency toward TMI makes her ripe for mockery.

So, sure, it makes sense that this show is going to appeal to both my parents and me when we're watching television—but not just because there is a representation of both our demographics on screen (well, almost—I'm technically a Gen Xer and they're just into the Greatest Generation demographic, but stay with me here). The reason this show works for all ages is the intelligence and heart. The humor is more subtle and sophisticated than schtick, for example this season when Ava texts Deborah if she should "do stock market" instead of just keeping her bank account flush to see a big number at the ATM, or earlier in the series when Deborah asks the androgynous Ava why she's dressed like Rachel Maddow's mechanic.

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Against the backdrop of a hike-gone-wrong, away from cell service, the two leads exchange perspectives on female aging and agency in a series of really vulnerable, touching exchanges. It's Chaplin's comedy close-up as tragedy

It's the heart that keeps my coming back to the show, and what my parents and I enjoy discussing. Episode 5 is a special highlight of the season, when against the backdrop of a hike-gone-wrong, away from cell service, the two leads exchange perspectives on female aging and agency in a series of really vulnerable and touching exchanges. It's Chaplin's comedy close-up as tragedy, and this episode is a solid contender for an Emmy win next year. Moments of humor and intimacy like this, side-by-side, recall my parents' generation's classic TV comedies that made light of generational conflict, such as All in the Family and One Day at a Time.

In three seasons, I've come to appreciate how, as Deborah puts it, Ava got in her head and made her reconsider how previous assumptions about gender and race bias were hurtful. (There's even a reckoning on a college campus in season 3 that is sensitively handled.) And in a few surprising twists and turns in the second and third seasons, Deborah's hard-driving ambition and shifting loyalties get in Ava's head, too. Watching Hacks, I remember to listen and learn from my parents, as well as laughing along with a younger generation. Which reminds me—ahead of re-watching this season of Hacks, I'll be tuning in to star Hannah Einbinder in her new stand-up special on Max on June 13.

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dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...