We’re introduced this week to William Henry Devereaux Jr. (Bob Odenkirk) the chairman of Railton College eight-member English department, played, as usual, with his grace, talent and humor. Well, crabby, grumpy humor.

We’ve been in Bob’s corner for many years now, and we love him, with most notably, “Better Call Saul,” and we welcome him back hiding behind a beard, glasses and snarl.

The title of this epic comes from English professor Richard Russo’s novel “Straight Man,” which I must read before I go any further with Hank.

I’m proud to say I knew the great Pulitzer Prize writer Richard Russo when he taught at Colby here in Waterville. I spent enough time with Professor Russo to know he was definitely not “Hank.” I wonder now, what professor at Colby was the model? Russo, I should add is an executive producer on the show.

“Hank” is described as a “natural hang dog, and burnt-out, Volvo-driving academic wondering where it all went wrong.” What went wrong, we learn, started with a famous father, a noted literary critic.

Here Hank is on the campus of an ivy-covered, goose-haunted and backwoods school not found on Pennsylvania road map.


Hank is not happy at Railton. We’re guessing Hank hasn’t been happy for a long time, long before his beard lost its original color.

I would bet my house that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of Railton campuses hidden in small towns across America, full of Hanks and Hank’s annoying collection of wannabe writers.

We are treated at Railton, to a bevy of these characters in Hank’s world, including his patient professional wife (the really, very good Mireille Enos of TV’s “The Killing”) who heads the “crisis” office of a local high school, where a stoned student openly urinates on a locker, and she has to buy cleaning supplies to clean it up because the janitor, who is grumpier than Hank says “I don’t do urine.”

We come upon the sweet, harried Oscar Nunez, (“The Office”) the Dean of Faculty, who truly admires and adores Hank. Do we love Hank? It’s gonna take more than two or three evenings to find out. I would bet my best suit that despite our fondness for Bob, we’ll soon tire of Hank, who at the moment, is teaching a fiction-writing workshop where, in a perpetual stage of grouch, he goes about wittily insulting his student (Jackson Kelly), and a snide pack of talentless kids who look down at Hank.

“You’ve got only one ONLY novel,” is the whisper they share.

In this first-year writing class, Hank has to listen to the drivel from first-year students, whom he calls his “mediocrities,” who all think they are Marlon James or Elena Ferrante.


On occasion, the constantly harried Hank loses it and snaps back.

“You’re HERE! The reason you’re here really shows that you didn’t try very hard in high school.”

In other remarks, Hank snarls about a real writer, “Do you know … no, I’d bet a KIDNEY that you don’t.

This and episodes like it puts Hank in front of the revue board and he loses his chairmanship and is asked to print an apology, which he won’t do, and that’s the canvass we begin in.

That’s where I left it because AMC+ has released only the two chapters.

The show moves slowly, very slowly, with occasional pumps of humor, and the required focus on Hank and his famous literary critic father.


We met the other teachers, each one a fully carved sit-com human, are diligently played by pros like Suzanne Cryer, Cedric Yarbrough, Shannon DeVido, Arthur Keng, Nancy Robertson, Haig Sutherland and Alvina August. No stands outs there.

I will continue, I hope you will as well, if just to watch the fine actor Bob Odenkirk distance himself so capably from the final shreddings of “Better Call Saul,” and allowed us to embrace him once again.

“Lucky Hank” streams on AMC+.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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