What the show is far more interested in proving is how similar these women are, beneath the trappings of generational idiom. Again, it’s obvious from that very first meeting, as they match each other insult for insult, like a romcom’s sparring couple. Both women blew up their reputations in pursuit of laughter – Ava by tweeting that joke, Deborah in colluding in the rumour that she burned down her ex-husband’s house (“It killed” she tells Ava, poignantly, of her first time telling the joke). So while it’s only Ava who makes a point of calling her boss a hack, the show’s title tells a different story. After all, both of them pump out gags for a living.
Both women are also suffering. The story of how Deborah’s husband left her for her own sister is mined for laughs by the writers early on, in a reflection of Deborah’s own strategy for coping with the hurt, but as the series continues we begin to understand its emotional toll on her. The shadow of Ava’s dying father, meanwhile, looms over the season, culminating in a moving and hilarious funeral scene, while in one shocking late episode Ava comes face to face with the dark underbelly of human desperation that Vegas represents, when her date throws himself from a hotel window. For a comedy, Hacks is unafraid to go dark.
It is also, I think, a love story: certainly it adheres to the classic romcom structure that takes a couple from repulsion to romance. Deborah and Ava make each other crazy and they make each other laugh. One lovely mid-season scene, which begins with Deborah calling the hotel room she’s paying for Ava to live in to ask if she really ordered three room service chicken parmigianas in one night, sees them watching TV together over the phone. It is lifted straight from When Harry Met Sally, whose writer Nora Ephron created the scene after hearing that it was something the director Rob Reiner and the male lead Billy Crystal used to do together. The Hacks tribute is a quiet mission statement: the future of comedy lies in female collaboration.
In 2022, when the political fault-lines of the internet (and the toxic four syllables JK Rowling) would have us believe that glass-ceiling smashing mothers and their inclusivity-focussed daughters have nothing in common, Hacks is a vital corrective. If only we could watch it.