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‘Lucky Hank’ Brings Bob Odenkirk Back to AMC With Higher Education and Lower Stakes: TV Review
Joshua Alston Some of the best television shows are about whip-smart operators and the political nuances of their professional worlds. So why then is it so challenging to make a satisfying series about academia? It’s not only difficult to think of a television show that has succeeded in lifting the veil of a university, it’s tough to think of shows that have even tried. The most recent swipe at it was Netflix’s “The Chair,” a thin but charming dramedy starring Sandra Oh that ended after a single season. Even as college campuses remain a go-to battleground for American culture wars, the inner lives of the professors caught in the crossfire are usually reserved for novels. The latest such attempt to animate the tenured life is AMC’s “Lucky Hank,” which is built from just such a novel. It’s an adaptation of “Straight Man,” the Richard Russo novel that preceded his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Empire Falls.” Much of Russo’s work borrowed elements from his real-life origins as an English professor-turned-novelist, which explains why “Lucky Hank” so accurately captures professorial ennui. But it might capture ennui a little too well, resulting in a show that seems to amble in no particular direction with little indication of when it might hit a stride.