‘Hacks’ Creators Explain Why Deborah’s ‘White Whale’ Dream Job Unlocks a New Set of Problems in Season 4

At first glance, it may seem as though “Hacks” Season 3 ended with the best possible outcome for Deborah Vance (Jean Smart). Once a comedian on the brink of falling out of public consciousness, the season wrapped with Deborah securing her dream job hosting a late night comedy show. But “Hacks” showrunners Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky know firsthand that achieving your dreams isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“We have an idea of where we want the show to go,” Statsky told TheWrap, noting that when the trio originally pitched the show, they did so with a specific ending in mind. However, since Season 3 ended with a “dog caught the car” moment as Deborah landed her dream job, the series will change considerably moving forward.

“We want to speak to the idea of when you get your dream job, there is a whole other set of things that come into play. You think it’s going to be one way, and it is not,” Statsky said. “I think you get your white whale, and then you’re like, ‘Oh, what do I do with this whale?'”

Statsky likened Deborah’s late night journey to her own. “I specifically remember being 25 and getting my first writing job, which was writing for ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.’ I was like, ‘Great, amazing. Now I’m a professional writer. And I’ve never felt worse,’ ” Statsky said. “It just brought in a whole host of new issues.”

For “Hacks,” we know at least one of the issues that will haunt Deborah and Ava (Hannah Einbinder) in future seasons. After Deborah lied to her, Ava blackmailed her boss to get the head writer job she was originally promised. That’s sure to put a strain on their already complicated relationship moving forward.

Though Season 3 is all about Deborah’s quest for late night, Downs emphasized that the ultimate goal was never about the actual job of hosting a network TV show for Deborah or Ava.

“One of the things that unites them is dignity,” Downs said. “Certainly for Deborah, she wants respect, and she wants to feel a sense of accomplishment. And I don’t know that the job is going to get her that. So in a way, what Jen is saying is right. The dog has caught the car in terms of the job, but in terms of her plight to have dignity, I think that there may be a long road ahead.”

Part of the reason this job may not be everything Deborah dreamed has to do with the state of late night. Deborah started in comedy during the era of Johnny Carson, when late night comedy was at its peak. That’s no longer the case. That detail actually helped Deborah land her dream job. One of her agent’s (Downs) most compelling pitches to the network head (Helen Hunt) was that the average late night viewer is in the same age range as a Deborah fan.

“I think that happens to people a lot,” Downs said. “People in their careers, especially in entertainment, they’re like, ‘I want to do this thing.’ And by the time they’re able to achieve it… yeah.”

“You always hear the people who are like, ‘I auditioned for “SNL” when I was this age.’ Then five years later, they’re in a new place in their career, and now ‘SNL’ says, ‘Hey, do you want to audition as a formality?’ And they’re like, ‘Not really,'” Aniello said. “It’s like, you want that thing in that moment that you want it. But after that, you know, the timing just doesn’t make sense anymore.”

All episodes of “Hacks” are available to stream on Max.

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