Comedy sci-fi Future Man stars Josh Hutcherson.
Aside from hosting a stack of shows from NBC, Fox and ABC, Hulu is building an impressive stash of original shows making a compelling case for adding the streamer to your roster. The Great and High Fidelity are up there, along with a few co-productions that have brought us the stunning Normal People and This Way Up.
Here are some of the best of the bunch from one of the cheapest streamers out there. A bargain at $6 per month — if you don’t mind a few ads.
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The Great (2020—)
From the writer of The Favourite comes another unique period drama that has members of royalty say things like, “Ever I am of gentle heart and massive cock.” Elle Fanning stars as Catherine the Great in her early days moving to Russia to live with her new husband, who proves to be far less romantic than her naive heart expected. Picking up where The Favourite left off, The Great is filled with amazingly indecent lines delivered by the most unexpected characters.
Solar Opposites (2020—)
From Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland comes another animated sitcom that pairs outer space with middle America. Solar Opposites centers on a family of aliens who must take refuge on Earth, a place that is both fascinating and awful to them in equal measure. With humor and humanity to ground the fast-pace craziness, Solar Opposites is an easy hit.
Not only is Staged one of the best shows to be set during lockdown, it incredibly manages to make Zoom calls entertaining. David Tennant and Michael Sheen star as fictionalized versions of themselves, attempting to virtually rehearse a play without letting their own petulant childish egos get in the way. The supporting cast, featuring real-life partners and family members, provide the required sarcasm and maturity. Plus the cameos, from Judi Dench to Cate Blanchett, are Ricky Gervais Extras-type fun.
High Fidelity (2020)
In reimagining Nick Hornby’s famous novel, High Fidelity the TV series couldn’t have picked a cooler star to take over the Championship Vinyl record store. Zoe Kravitz plays the music-obsessed Rob, who becomes concerned with finding out exactly why her past relationships didn’t work out. With a chef’s kiss soundtrack and relatable relationship drama set in a hip Brooklyn, High Fidelity… hits all the right notes.
This Way Up (2019—)
Centered on a woman who has a nervous breakdown, This Way Up is the kind of comedy that adds a shade of darkness to the stream of jokes. When she’s not worrying her older sister, Áine’s teaching English as a second language. Or she’s going on dates with guys who aren’t as available as she thinks they are. Buoyed by creator-star Aisling Bea’s endless stocks of charm, This Way Up is at the pinnacle of shows centered on a young woman figuring things out.
If Ocean’s Eleven-type schemes but in a northern English town sound like an inspired combination to you, then try Brassic. Vinnie and his five mates commit various imaginative crimes in lieu of real jobs, but as time inevitably wears a few of them down, they start to turn their heads to life away from the town. It can be zany and crude, but also delicately sweet in an authentic way.
Yes, you read the title correctly for this comedy series that thrives off cringe humor. PEN15 is a unique, wild farce about growing up in the 2000s, so internet dial-up, Discmans and choker necklaces are everywhere. The weird part: We follow two 13-year-olds played by adult actors, while their school co-stars are all the right age. You definitely have to see the ridiculous fun for yourself.
SNL star Aidy Bryant is all charm and relatability in this comedy that offers an honest look at the life of a young woman learning to accept her body. The theme streams through her work and love life, with some standout secondary characters including the hilarious Patti Harrison along for the ride. While some of the storylines are a little familiar, Shrill is nevertheless both delightful and uplifting.
George Clooney stars in this adaptation of Joseph Heller’s satirical war novel, keeping the darkly comedic tone. Set during World War II, Catch-22 sees an unhappy US Army Air Forces bombardier forced to fly more and more missions, dropping bombs on strangers who want to kill him. While he does his best to sabotage his situation, he’s trapped in the job by an infuriating bureaucratic rule. Both hilarious and horrifying, Catch-22 soars.
The Bisexual (2018)
After spending her 20s in a relationship with a woman, Sadie realizes she needs a break to explore her bisexuality. She has flings with both men and women on a messy, complicated journey to self-discovery. Delivered with total compassion by creator-star Desiree Akhavan, The Bisexual is as poignant as it is witty.
Future Man (2017-2020)
Misfits creator Howard Overman teams up with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to bring us this ludicrous comedy about a time traveling janitor. After Josh Futturman completes his favorite video game, the characters come to life and recruit him to help save the world. Along with the dumb jokes and surprisingly compelling sci-fi, there’s a sense of nostalgia that enriches the overall fun.
This comedy set in a small Ontario, Canada, community is mad in the best way possible. Ice hockey players, “hicks,” out-of-towners, drug addicts and the “natives” all form the cast of delightfully strange and refreshing characters. They often speak in a thick Ontario dialect as they come up with a surprising stream of wordplay, puns and discussion of big issues.
Casual brings impressive credentials behind the scenes, with Jason Reitman of Juno and Up In The Air sitting in the director’s chair for a host of episodes. We follow Valerie, a recently divorced single mom living with her weird brother. The show doesn’t hold back as she starts internet dating, with hilarious sharp edges to the dialogue, as well as a few deeper reflections on life.
Difficult People (2015-2017)
A show about unlikeable characters who you actually like? With Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner playing the leads, Difficult People delivers just that. The struggling and jaded comedians hate on everyone, from annoying people taking selfies, to people who don’t look where they’re walking on the street. With a host of cameos including Kate McKinnon, Difficult People is wildly amusing entertainment.
The Wrong Mans (2013-2014)
Back in 2013, James Corden and Matthew Boynton reunited from their Gavin & Stacey days to write and star in an ambitious series that attempts to combine the sitcom format with a Hollywood thriller. Did they succeed? For the most part, yes, especially if you can get your head around that unique approach. With a heavily stylized feel and joke after joke, The Wrong Mans is definitely worth checking out.
The Thick of It (2005-2012)
Hulu came into the picture for this British political satire in season 4 all the way back in 2012. Since then, star Peter Capaldi has had a stint as The Doctor in Doctor Who and creator Armando Iannucci has adapted his own work to bring us the formidable US-set Veep. The talent behind The Thick of It is clear, so go back and watch Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker, the “enforcer” in Number 10, dealing with blundering ministers, party spin doctors and more.
Love, Victor (2020—)
The spinoff of Love, Simon follows another young man figuring out his identity and sexual orientation. Michael Cimino plays Victor, a half Puerto Rican, half Colombian-American starting at a new school in Atlanta. Delivered with all the heart you could hope for, Love, Victor is a welcome continuation of the Love, Simon world, with Nick Robinson returning to narrate.
A Teacher (2020)
This miniseries starring Kate Mara and Love, Simon’s Nick Robinson traverses the tricky territory of a forbidden affair between a Texas high school teacher and her 18-year-old student. Treated realistically, the romance brings consequences for the lovers, with sharp moments holding on its psychological impact. A quiet yet captivating cautionary tale.
Normal People (2020)
Sally Rooney’s novel turned miniseries is anything but normal. Normal People charts the romance between Marianne and Connell, from growing up on the Irish coast to starting university in Dublin. You see all their ups and downs, from breakups and depression, to the tough first steps at university. Eventually you’re so embedded in their lives, your heart breaks with theirs. It’s incredibly hard not to fall in love with this show and its soulful couple.
Little Fires Everywhere (2020)
Based on a Celeste Ng novel, Little Fires Everywhere puts a microscope on two women and their differing socioeconomic backgrounds. The ever brilliant Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington play the women, who both juggle teenage children, work and a whole lot of other conflicts. It all kicks off with a house burning down, so you know you’re in for some dark twists and big acting moments.
Mrs. America (2020)
This historical miniseries has a stacked cast, including Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne and Sarah Paulson. Blanchett plays Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative activist who caused unexpected backlash to the political movement to pass The Equal Rights Amendment. Other prominent feminists of the ’70s like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan all pop up. For a vivid look at history through powerhouse performances, Mrs. America is tremendous.
Ramy Youssef stars in this comedy-drama that shines a light on life for a first-generation American Muslim growing up in New Jersey. Understanding the values of his Egyptian community can be precarious for Ramy, but he takes on his spiritual journey with humor and empathy. It gets even better when Mahershala Ali joins in season 2.
The Accident (2019)
If you’re a British TV fan, it doesn’t get much better than a Sarah Lancashire-led miniseries. The Accident is about, yep, an accident in a fictional Welsh community. An explosion on a construction site kills several children, leaving the community fighting for justice. Lancashire plays a hairdresser married to a local politician, whose plans to improve the town don’t quite work out. Smart, nuanced and tackling complicated material, The Accident is compelling viewing.
Looking For Alaska (2019)
The latest John Green young adult novel adaptation is an impressive miniseries set in the early 2000s, following students at a boarding school and a love story between Pudge and Alaska. But in a sad turn, there’s a tragedy the students have to come to terms with. Looking For Alaska brings big teen emotions to life with an excellent cast and a wash of nostalgia.
The Looming Tower (2018)
This Jeff Daniels-led 10-episode series gives you an accessible look at what happened between the CIA and the FBI during the rise of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in the late ’90s. Based on a book that examines events in the lead up to Sept. 11, The Looming Tower dissects the rivalry between the divisions and how it might have paved the path for tragedy. It’s as fascinating, pacey and sharp as it sounds.
Set in 18th century London, Harlots follows Margaret Wells, a brothel owner who faces competition from a rival brothel that offers posher services to more elite clientele. Looking at life for women at the time, when they could only move up in the world through marriage or sex work, Harlots has a bittersweet side amid the campy fun.
Unreal’s four seasons are all up on Hulu for you to devour. The satirical series centers on the behind-the-scenes of a Bachelor-type dating show and the questionable integrity of its producers. Clinging to her moral compass is Rachel Goldberg, whose particular talent lies in manipulating addictive reality TV drama. But things get complicated when she develops feelings for the show’s playboy suitor. Smart, biting and occasionally grim, Unreal is a sharp assessment of people and popular TV.
Alex Garland brings his existential sci-fi mastery to TV in Devs, a miniseries centered on a Silicon Valley quantum computing company. Somehow a thriller that moves at a contemplative pace, Devs sees Lily investigate the mysterious death of her boyfriend who dies on his first day working for Devs, a division of the company no one seems able to explain. Haunting, atmospheric and going big with its exploration of free will and determinism, Devs is unforgettable TV.
Baghdad Central (2020)
Set during the Iraq War in 2003, this British crime thriller follows a former policeman who, while searching for his missing daughter, is captured and tortured by US troops. But then he’s recruited by a former British policeman to become a police officer in the Green Zone. Told from the perspective of Iraqis, this riveting six-parter that plays out almost like a western is an impressive gem.
The Act (2019)
Based on a disturbing true story, The Act depicts a mother abusing her daughter by fabricating illness and disabilities. Thanks to two outstanding performances from the formidable Joey King and Patricia Arquette, The Act is a true crime dramatization that hits you with shock after shock.
Castle Rock (2018-2019)
Inspired by the stories of Stephen King, Castle Rock blends complicated characters and mystery with classic King themes. Over two seasons, the show delves into the dark secrets of its titular town, through characters like a criminal attorney, a prisoner and the niece of Jack Torrence. King fans will appreciate the references, while everyone can enjoy the rich psychological horror.
The Handmaid’s Tale (2017—)
Based on a Margaret Atwood novel, Hulu’s dystopian tragedy series depicts a totalitarian US where women are trapped in child-bearing slavery. While that might sound like tough viewing, especially when the “Handmaids” are raped by their Commanders, you still have hope a resistance will see them find safety in Canada. The production values are immense, making the tension and suspense all that more palpable. A mesmerizing and subtly fierce lead performance from Elisabeth Moss adds another vivid layer. See how it all ends in the currently streaming season 4.
Dimension 404 (2017)
This Twilight Zone-inspired anthology series from a few years ago serves up six mini-movies that focus on our internet generation. Dimension 404 explores the strange corners of cyberspace, with a healthy dose of dark comedy and Black Mirror twists. If that wasn’t weird and wonderful enough — Mark Hamill narrates.
James Franco serves up an impressively grounded lead performance at the heart of this sci-fi thriller based on a Stephen King novel. He plays James Epping, a recently divorced English teacher who’s persuaded to nip back in time to the early ’60s, specifically Nov. 22, 1963, to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Handsomely made, with conspiracies and an affecting romance, 11.22.63 will keep you in town for longer than you signed up for.
Marvel’s Runaways (2017-2019)
Marvel’s show about teenage superheroes has a pretty intriguing premise: Six youngsters team up to fight against… their criminal parents. Eventually The Runaways sees the teens do some running, escaping their parents as well as villains like Morgan le Fay. Despite the occasionally standard superhero storytelling, the strong ensemble will grow on you, alongside the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe references and general exciting action. If you’re a fan of the comics, you’ll be satisfied.
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