Bob Odenkirk Doesn't Want You To Call Lucky Hank A Dramedy

How do you follow up starring in one of the most critically acclaimed series of the last decade ("Better Call Saul"), which was spun off from one of the most critically acclaimed series of the decade before that ("Breaking Bad")? If you're Bob Odenkirk, the first thing you do is flee that universe, and say "Hell no" to every lawyer role you're offered. From there, you look for something literate and something funny — but not "Mr. Show" funny. In doing so, you might find yourself drawn to the writing of Richard Russo, whose book "Nobody's Fool" was turned into an agreeably spiky slice-of-life comedy starring Paul Newman. Something with an edge, but not something outright mean. Something like Russo's 1997 novel "Straight Man," about an English professor at a fictional Pennsylvania university who finds himself in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

They have a portmanteau for projects like this, which has been retitled "Lucky Hank" ahead of its March 19, 2023 premiere on AMC. It's called "dramedy." The moniker became popular in the mid-1980s, somewhere around the premiere of Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz's ABC hit "Thirtysomething." It's now commonly used to categorize a film or television show that is both funny and dramatic. It is an annoyingly broad term that can be used for everything from "Broadcast News" to "Atlanta."

People may use it to explain "Lucky Hank." And Bob Odenkirk doesn't like that one bit.

Dramedy is a bland term that needs to die

At today's Television Critics Association panel for "Lucky Hank," attended by /Film's Vanessa Armstrong, Odenkirk rejected the term. "I don't like that word," he said. "That doesn't tell you anything."

So how would Odenkirk describe "Lucky Hank"? He could say it's "very Richard Russo," but, sadly, that means nothing to the vast majority of television viewers. Rather than utilize the "x meets y" formula of explaining a dramatic work, Odenkirk laid it down like this:

"We don't got no zombies, we don't got no drugs, we don't got no guns ... we got people fighting, struggling, trying to establish their sense of themselves, trying to love each other, trying to love themselves, and stumbling and falling. They're all smart people. They all can make jokes, they all can get jokes, they all hear everything everyone else says, and that's a really cool group of people."

Odenkirk went on to add, "It might strike you more as the people you know than some TV comedy does." If that doesn't do it for you, he said later that they referenced Alexander Payne movies (e.g. "Election," "Sideways," and "The Descendants") while shooting the first season.

As a Russo fan who digs Payne's early work, this sounds like a must-see. But with Odenkirk in the lead, it was a must-see from the jump. He'll be joined onscreen by Mireille Enos, Diedrich Bader, Cedric Yarbrough, Suzanne Cryer, and Kyle MacLachlan. March 19 can't get here soon enough. In the meantime, you can check out this tease-iest of teasers.