Sixty-nine-year-old Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) is a Las Vegas stand-up star. For more than two decades, she’s been performing her show at the chic Palmetto Hotel, owned by her old friend Marty (Christopher McDonald). Behind Deborah – under two thousand four hundred performances, she is included in the Guinness Book of Records, but Deborah continues to make under a hundred performances a year.
Deborah has a huge luxurious mansion near Las Vegas, in which, apart from the actress, only the housekeeper Josefina (Rose Abdu) and the executive director Miss Vance Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins) live. Deborah’s husband left for her sister many years ago, and since then Deborah has not communicated with her sister. Deborah’s daughter is a drug addict. So work for her is the main reason for her existence.
And this is where the problems begin. Marty bluntly told Deborah that he is transferring her show from the “fat” days of the week – Fridays, Saturdays – to other days, because he supposedly needs “young blood” in the show. Anyway, Marty hinted that it was time for Deborah to slowly retire, because her time had passed. The actress is furious, but she cannot do anything about it, because Marty is the owner of the hotel, he decides who will perform in his concert hall.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, twenty-five-year-old screenwriter Ava (Hannah Einbinder) begs Jimmy (Paul Wee Downes) from an acting agency to find her some work. Ava was a very promising screenwriter, she wrote a great script for a series with stand-up comedians, but her love for risky jokes did a disservice: once Ava thought of making a joke about a gay senator who sent his son to reparative therapy, and such jokes in the era New ethics can ruin anyone’s career.
As a result, Ava lost her job, her friends turned their backs on her, she has no money to pay the mortgage on the house she just bought – in general, the girl is in complete despair. And then Jimmy, whose client is also Deborah, comes up with the idea to send Ava to Las Vegas to write jokes for Deborah: a screenwriter from the generation of zoomers, she thinks modernly, so it is possible that this collaboration will revive Deborah’s show and make it more relevant.
True, Deborah Jimmy did not ask for anything like this: she wrote jokes for herself for many years and believes that she does not need any help. So Ava, who flies to Las Vegas, might get a very hostile reception.
It’s interesting how some actors and actresses develop their careers. For example, British actor Bill Nye played in little-known films and TV shows for many years, and suddenly, at the age of 54, he was shot by the role of an elderly rocker in Love Actually, after which he became a very popular and popular actor in the UK and the States.
With actress Jean Smart – a similar story. She has been on the screen since 1964, during which time she has played in as many as one hundred and fifty films and TV shows and at the same time she was not very famous. (I remember seeing her for the first time in the second season of “Fargo”, where she played mother Floyd Gerhardt.) And then she suddenly has a bright and very prominent role in the excellent series “Meir from Easttown” and actually a benefit performance in the series “Tricks” , after which she will probably begin to receive very interesting offers, because she is in “Tricks” – that’s just extremely good!
In the original, the series is called Hacks (scribblers, hacks): in one of the scenes of the last episode of the first season, Ava calls Deborah “you are a fucking hack” when she finds out that the actress did not dare to come up with a new format of jokes – in this case, this means something like “hack”.
The series is excellent, I liked it very much, and from all sides: here the script is excellent, and the staging, and most importantly, the acting.
Jean Smart is absolutely gorgeous here. Deborah is a person, in general, not very pleasant: she is very selfish and tyrannical, categorically expresses her opinion and does not tolerate any objections, likes to quarrel and sometimes even dissolves her hands. However, at the same time, she is very charming and artistic, and you forgive her a lot, because she had to go through a lot in this life, she achieved everything herself, and work for her is the main meaning of existence.
And Jean perfectly showed all the complexity, versatility and inconsistency of this character, and the story of her gradual rapprochement with Ava was demonstrated very subtly and touchingly. An absolutely wonderful role, Bagel and I from this actress are simply delighted!
(By the way, her character was most likely inspired by Joan Rivers.)
Ava was played by a little-known (before this series) actress Hannah Einbinder. She is the daughter of SNL star Lorraine Newman and screenwriter Chad Einbinder. At the same time, Hanna herself is a well-known stand-up comedian who has been named “most promising comedian” several times at several awards, she was also the youngest stand-up comedian invited to the David Colbert show.
Played very well. She didn’t cause delight, but this is not the fault of the actress herself (especially since the audience was not shown anything from her own stand-up), but simply purely by the script, her role was still auxiliary in relation to the character of Deborah. But I remember and liked it, although her shoes are just a tragedy. But, Your Honor, these are her character’s shoes, not the actress’s, so please bear this in mind for the jury. (“And it’s a miracle, as was said in one wonderful movie, that these boots have lived so long.”)
Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder aren’t the only actors on the show to watch!
One of the creators of the series, who is also a screenwriter and director Paul Wee Downes, perfectly played Jimmy, Deborah and Ava’s agent. Extremely fake (agents – they are), soft-spoken, slippery and hypocritical at the same time – an excellent character. And there in the series there is a cool find with the fact that the daughter of the owner of the agency Kayla, who is seriously overweight, was identified as Jimmy’s secretary, and Kayla is played by an unknown stand-up comedian Megan Stalter (three thousand subscribers to her youtube channel is a disaster), but in In this series, she is really very funny, although somewhat buffoonish.
I have never seen Karl Clemons-Hopkins, who played Deborah’s closest assistant, who plays an important role in the story, anywhere, but he is charismatic, and he played with dignity, although the character himself plays a supporting role there and shows a minimum of emotions – his work is such. He shows emotions only when he wants to get himself a homosexual partner (well, yes, he has such an orientation, and Ava is bisexual there, as, by the way, the actress herself, which is specially written in the information about her), and there is one associated with this funny scene.
Deborah Dee Jay’s daughter was played by Caitlin Olson, and her character turned out to be interesting and unstamped, which, on the one hand, thanks to the script, but, on the other hand, the actress herself played quite well, she liked it.
What is the result? An excellent series, the first season of which I watched with great pleasure. Jean Smart is absolutely gorgeous, and I really hope that new bright roles await her. Hanna Einbinder is at least interesting, let’s see how she shows herself in the future. I’m very glad I watched this series. It was renewed for a second season, for which they prepared a certain “bomb” (Bublik and I refuse to call it the buzzword “cliffhanger”), which was hinted at in the last episode. Well, if Ava herself is finally released on stage in the second season, it will be interesting.
PS Viewers in the reviews for some reason compared this series with the wonderful series “The Amazing Mrs. Maisel”. Both series are very good, but I don’t see any obvious intersections here, except that they are both about female stand-ups. In the first season of “Maisel” there was a story about how Midge Maisel was offered to work as an opening act for the famous and very rich stand-up comedian Sophie Lennon, played by the wonderful Jane Lynch, and Midge refused, but that’s all. In this case, there are no intersections at all – this is a completely original and very cool series.
PPS The Vegas hotel where the performances take place was called the Palmetto in the show, but it’s actually the Palazzo Hotel built by the owner of the Venetian. This hotel is next to the Wynn hotel of Steve Wynn, one of the most famous hotel owners in Vegas (he owned the Bellagio, Paris and Hotel Hollywood, which he sold, after which he built the Wynn hotel first, and then the Encore hotel next to it in the same style ). And there in the series there was a cool joke by Deborah about this.
Tricks / Hacks
Director: Lucia Agnello, Paul Vee Downes, Jen Statsky Cast: Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Christopher McDonald, Rose Abdu, Paul Vee Downes, Poppy Lew, Meg Stalter, Mark Indelicato, Kathleen Olson
Series, USA, 2021, 30 min.