Review by Sean Boelman
Bob Odenkirk is one of the most acclaimed actors working in television today, so Lucky Hank was one of the most anticipated new shows of the season. While it’s unlikely to be a sensation on the level of Better Call Saul, it shows a lot of potential in a way that could make it a really good show down the line.
The show follows the unlikely department head of an underfunded college, as he navigates the bureaucracy of the educational system. It’s a story that, at first glance, doesn’t sound particularly interesting. However, Bob Odenkirk being attached to the project is enough to make it an exciting prospect alone. The question remains: is the premise interesting enough to entertain the average viewer?
It’s interesting to see a show attempt to handle a theme as ambitious as cancel culture in a way that is genuinely engaging. Many attempts to discuss cancel culture end up feeling whiny, claiming that cancel culture is ruining freedom of speech, but Lucky Hank asks some legitimately thought-provoking questions.
The other fascinating thing about the series is that the protagonist is unquestionably rather unlikable. He makes a lot of frustrating decisions, and has a lack of filter that is often shocking, but it’s hard not to get at least somewhat endeared by his curmudgeonly ways. It will be intriguing to see how his arc evolves over the course of the show.
AMC is using Lucky Hank as their new keystone series thanks to it being Odenkirk’s first role post-Better Call Saul. His performance is very good — as always — but it has started to feel like he’s getting typecast in these assholish roles. He’s quite good at it, obviously, but diminishing returns are beginning to kick in. He's getting typecast in these assholish roles. He’s quite good at it, obviously, but diminishing returns are beginning to kick in.
Indeed, much of the humor comes from the shock value of not being able to believe that a professor is saying these things. And the thing that Odenkirk does well with the performance is absolutely sell every line. He’s giving a very straight-faced performance in a comedic context, and it works very well.
This is very much an acting showcase for Bob Odenkirk, leaving very little opportunity for any supporting cast members to have their moment in the spotlight. That being said, Cedric Yarbrough gets a few very funny moments in his supporting role and is the only character that really stands out.
Lucky Hank might end up being a bit too dry and literary for the taste of most viewers, but Bob Odenkirk’s performance is good enough to make it worth watching. The beginning of the show is intriguing and asks some interesting questions that, if expounded upon in the rest of the series, could make for a very good watch.
Lucky Hank screened at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 10-18 in Austin, TX.