×

They say two minds are better than one — and three minds is the ultimate trifecta. That’s the case for HBO’s “Hacks.” Created by Jen Statsky, Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs, the series follows the relationship between a comedy legend (played by Jean Smart) and a young writer (Hannah Einbinder). The show became a massive hit following its launch in May 2021, taking home three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes. The comedy was renewed for a second season two days before its finale aired in June.

“Hacks” marked the first time that Statsky, Aniello and Downs created a show together. This year, they will be honored with the inaugural Variety Showrunner Award at the 10th annual SCAD TVfest, set to take place virtually from Feb. 17 to 19. They will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Michael Schneider, Variety deputy TV editor.

Statsky, who co-wrote three of the 10 episodes, isn’t new to working in comedy and TV, working her way from intern on “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” to writer on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” That job opened the door to many more opportunities, as she later became a writer on “Parks and Recreation,” “Broad City,” “Forever” and “The Good Place.”

“For so long, women in lm and TV were obviously relegated to very limited roles,” Statsky tells Variety. “While that’s thankfully changed for the better, it still hopefully feels fresh and unique to showcase a relationship between two women who are bonded by the love of their work, first and foremost.”

Downs, Aniello and Statsky met in 2007 on the comedy scene, beginning their working relationship. Downs and Aniello then began creating shorts and eventually launched a digital series together. They went on to serve as both writers and producers on “Broad City.” Downs also starred in the show for five years.

Jean Smart Hacks HBO

“I think people were excited to see a story about an irreverent, original character in her 60s,” he says of the success of “Hacks,” which earned critical accolades almost immediately after dropping on HBO Max. “It didn’t hurt that that character is played by Jean Smart. Getting to showcase her and the rest of this incredible ensemble has meant so much to us.”

In addition to co-showrunning, Aniello served as a director on six episodes of the first season of “Hacks.” In 2015, she and Downs wrote, with Aniello directing, the Sony comedy “Rough Night,” which, at the time, was the first R-rated film helmed by a woman in nearly 20 years. She also directed and executive produced Comedy Central’s “Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens” and Netflix’s “The Baby-Sitters Club.”

While she can’t put her finger on why “Hacks” had the impact it did, she notes, “If it results in more shows getting made about leads who are kind of bitchy women, then I’m thrilled.”

Aniello, Downs and Statsky took home the Emmy Award for writing a comedy series for “There Is No Line,” the pilot episode, while Aniello won the Emmy for directing a comedy series for the same episode.

As to what each of the producers have learned about being a showrunner, they can’t help but to build each other up: “Jen is always right,” Aniello says. Statksy responds, “Paul is always right,” while Downs rebuts, “Lucia is always right.”