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If You Loved Hacks, Watch These 10 Films & Series About Big Second Acts

Because there’s no expiration date on a career.

10 Series & Films About Successful Second Acts To Watch If You Loved 'Hacks.' Photo courtesy of HBO Max
Courtesy of HBO Max

HBO Max’s Hacks follows Deborah Vance (played by Jean Smart), an iconic Las Vegas comedian striving to maintain her relevance despite a push from her theater’s manager to decrease her number of weekly performances. In order to prevent the loss of her shows, Deborah’s manager pairs her up with Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), a millennial comedy writer in search of work, whom she reluctantly collaborates with on an updated set of jokes in an attempt to rejuvenate her career. Nominated for 15 awards at the 2021 Emmys and recently renewed for Season 2, Hacks was universally acclaimed for its portrayal of a successful woman paving the way for her own professional second act.

The series pushes back on the notion that women have some sort of expiration date as they reach their 30s, 40s, and beyond. Per a 2018 AARP report, 64% of women claim to have faced or witnessed age discrimination in the workplace, and a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that companies are less likely to offer job interviews to women whose applications reveal them to be older. Dismissing women as they grow further into adulthood isn’t just a preference, it’s ageist — and frankly, complete bullsh*t.

As women age and progress in their careers, their resumes and skill sets only become richer; they become worthier candidates, not less. But all too often, in order to continuously thrive professionally, women are forced to take their careers into their own hands. Luckily, there are many empowering television series and movies portraying women who’ve successfully done exactly that, from Hacks to Netflix’s Grace and Frankie and Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Girls5eva

Heidi Gutman/Peacock

This 2020 Peacock comedy centers around Girls5eva, a one-hit-wonder ’90s girl group who decide to make a comeback after gaining exposure through a modern rapper who sampled their song. But after reevaluating their catalog of songs written by money-hungry men, they strive to craft relatable, uplifting music for women like themselves. Starring Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Paula Pell, and Renée Elise Goldsberry, the Emmy-nominated series tells the story of four women working against an ageist music industry to prove their time in the spotlight isn’t over.

Stream it on Peacock.

Grace And Frankie

This Emmy-nominated Netflix comedy series follows longtime frenemies Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin), who know each other through their husbands, Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston), partners at a law firm. But when Robert and Sol announce that they’re actually in love with each other, cosmetics mogul Grace and free-thinking artist Frankie are left to their own devices and strike up an unlikely friendship. As their bond grows stronger, the two begin to successfully pursue business ventures geared toward women of a certain age, from arthritis-friendly sex toys to a toilet with a motorized incline.

Stream it on Netflix.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Rachel Brosnahan stars in this Amazon original dramedy as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a New York City housewife in the late 1950s whose businessman husband performs highly derivative comedy routines in his free time. But after a particularly bad show, he leaves her for his secretary, prompting a drunken Midge to perform her own impromptu comedy set, unleashing an unexpected passion within her. With several Golden Globe and Emmy awards under its belt, this series portrays an independent woman carving an unlikely path to success in a period where women were largely expected to simply support their husbands.

Stream it on Amazon Prime Video.

The Golden Girls

This iconic, 11-time Emmy-winning sitcom centers around Dorothy (Bea Arthur), Rose (Betty White), Blanche (Rue McClanahan), and Sophia (Estelle Getty), four older women — three widows and one divorcée — who share a home in Miami, Florida. Regarded by the Writers’ Guild of America as one of the best written TV series of all time, The Golden Girls was revolutionary for its portrayal of women over 50 experiencing real-life issues with elder care, assisted suicide, sexism, and ageism — as well as its discussion of often-controversial topics like homosexuality, HIV/AIDS, racism, war, and homelessness.

Stream it on Hulu.

Second Act

Barry Wetcher; STX Films

This 2018 rom-com follows Maya (Jennifer Lopez), the longtime assistant manager of a store who is expecting to be promoted to manager after continuously improving the store’s sales figures over her 15-year tenure. When the promotion instead goes to a male colleague due to the fact that Maya has only her GED and no college degree, Maya embellishes her resume and nabs a high-profile position at a cosmetics company. She’s quickly asked to spearhead an important company project, proving that hard work and determination can outweigh frivolous qualifications.

Stream it on Hulu.

Hot In Cleveland

This six-season TV Land sitcom that debuted in 2010 follows Melanie (Valerie Bertinelli), Joy (Jane Leeves), and Victoria (Wendie Malick), three aging Los Angeles entertainment industry veterans who end up in Cleveland, Ohio, after their plane to Paris makes an emergency landing. Enticed by the significantly less appearance-concerned and superficial culture, they lease a home from Elka (Betty White), a snarky, sexually active, elderly caretaker who lives in its guest house. Inspired by The Golden Girls, the Emmy-winning series shows that women don’t have to “have it all” in society’s eyes in order to be happy and successful.

Stream it on Paramount+.

Romy And Michele’s High School Reunion

Released in 1997, this wacky cult-classic comedy centers on Romy White (Mira Sorvino) and Michele Weinberger (Lisa Kudrow), lifelong best friends who live happily unambitious and mundane lives in Los Angeles. But as their 10-year high school reunion approaches, they feel pressured to have achieved success in life and decide to pose as pseudo businesswomen to impress their former classmates. Through their scheme, the pair learns that adult success isn’t measured by accomplishments, but rather happiness.

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.

The First Wives Club

Featuring a star-studded cast led by Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, and Goldie Hawn, this 1996 comedy follows three divorcées who reconnect in their middle age and bond over the fact that all of their husbands left them for much younger women. The trio then join forces as The First Wives Club to seek revenge on the men who scorned them, exposing their respective professional and personal wrongdoings and — spoiler alert — eventually using their leverage to start a foundation that supports abuse victims.

Stream it on Starz.

GLOW

Erica Parise/Netflix

Based on the actual 1980s televised women’s professional wrestling circuit called Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, this Netflix dramedy follows Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), a struggling actress who auditions for GLOW as a last-resort job. Also starring Betty Gilpin and singer Kate Nash, the Emmy-winning series sees the women of GLOW working together — against a rude, sexist male boss — to make the program successful, turning an unfavorable job into an empowering display of women’s strength and tenacity.

Stream it on Netflix.

Good Girls

Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks, Parks & Recreation’s Retta, and Parenthood’s Mae Whitman star in this NBC dramedy as three suburban Michigan mothers struggling to support their families financially. Sick of the strenuous grind of 9-to-5 work, they decide to turn to robbery and money laundering — before quickly realizing they’re in over their heads and now indefinitely committed to lives of crime. It’s a wild concept, but at its heart is an unexpectedly heartwarming tale of mothers going to great lengths for their families’ well-being when traditional avenues have failed them.

Stream it on Netflix.