For cord cutters everywhere, Hulu’s service is essential thanks to its Live-TV options and bundling option with ESPN+ and Disney+. But in the last few years, Hulu has really stepped up their game in the world of original programming. While considerably praised for their dynamite limited series like Mrs. America and The Act, Hulu has yet to reach a fifth season for any of their original content. Fortunately, that makes binge-watching a breeze and catching up with any of these shows can be done in a flash.
Into the Dark
Okay, so this might be considered cheating since each episode is its own movie, but the Hulu + Blumhouse collaboration has delivered an anthology horror series unlike anything ever before. Each month, a different horror movie from an entirely different director and production team debuts, loosely related to a holiday or social event typically occurring in said month. Just about every subgenre of horror has been covered at this point, with some standouts like New Year, New You, Midnight Kiss, Pooka!, Pilgrim, A Nasty Piece of Work, All That We Destroy, Pure, My Valentine, and Culture Shock.
Throughout the course of Marvel’s foray into television, the results have been...mixed, to say the least. Fortunately for Hulu, Marvel’s Runaways is easily one of the very best. Six teens discover that all of their parents are part of an evil crime syndicate called Pride, and join forces to try and take them and the supervillains they encounter along the way. Considering the story focuses on teenagers, many dismissed the show as another Riverdale, despite that being the furthest possible comparison anyone should make. (Y’all, there are more than just CW shows starring teens.) Ultimately, the advent of Disney+ killed the series, but fans are holding out hope that future seasons come to fruition.
What is it about whiny white dramadies that we can’t seem to get enough of? One of the longest running original shows on Hulu, Casual follows a bachelor living with his newly divorced sister raising her daughter as a single mother. Despite this, Casual is a show dripping with privilege and yet people somehow couldn’t look away. Perhaps the show sparked an odd sense of schadenfreude or maybe it’s because deep down, we all love watching garbage people make trash decisions, but Casual is an easy binge of moderately funny relationship drama junk food that will definitely make you talk back to the screen.
Light as a Feather
Based on the Zoe Aarsen book of the same name, Light as a Feather is the supernatural teen drama of your dreams. Uber-popular high schooler Olivia invites Violet, the new girl in town, to join her clique at the cemetery on Halloween night. Violet convinces the group to play the popular sleepover/levitation game “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” featuring elaborate predictions about how each girl will die. After one of the girls dies exactly as foreseen, the rest of the crew desperately tries to figure out why they’re being targeted, and how they’ll survive. If Pretty Little Liars smashed into Final Destination and joined TikTok, you’d have Light as a Feather.
Unless you are also a fat woman, it is incredibly difficult to explain why Shrill is not just wonderful to watch, but one of the most important series to debut in a very long time. Starring Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant, Shrill follows a journalist named Annie dealing with a lackluster love life, complicated friendships, a frustrating work environment, all through the lens of existing in the world as a fat person and the unique difficulties that brings along with it. Fat representation is somewhat nonexistent for women, let alone fat women characters that are allowed to be complex, messy, imperfect, and more than just a side character or physical punchline. Based on Lindy West’s memoir of the same name, Shrill has proved after only two seasons that it’s one of the best shows on television.
Wu-Tang: An American Saga
Fresh off the heels of Reagan’s presidency and deep in the heart of America’s war on drugs, an unlikely band of heroes emerged from Staten Island and grew to become one of the most influential hip-hop artists of all time. Created by Wu-Tang co-founder turned filmmaker, RZA and screenwriter Alex Tse, Wu-Tang: An American Saga took almost a decade to come to fruition and debuted in celebration of the collective’s 25th Anniversary tour. The series has been called “self-mythologizing,” but given the incredible impact and influence of Wu-Tang Clan after all these years, the origin story of these legendary creators is more than deserving.
Taste the Nation With Padma Lakshmi
This ain’t your mama’s food show. Award-winning cookbook author and host of Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi, travels across the country to redefine and analyze what it means to be “American Food.” The goal of Taste the Nation is to celebrate the various cultures that America’s culinary landscape have been appropriating for over a century, rather than the colonized versions that frequently win awards and earn television shows. Everything from the stories of immigrants reclaiming the hot dog to the recipes Vietnamese women brought to America after marrying soldiers during the war are all brought to the center of what many may confuse as just another “food porn” show.
It’s a show about some of the most unlikable people ever written that you can’t help but love and want to hang out with if only to hear how Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner would read you to filth before stealing your leftover takeout. Difficult People is one of the few shows to truly capture the “everyone is terrible” essence in a post-Seinfeld world, and never once pulls any punches. The show was both ahead of its time and exactly of its moment, tackling subjects like the horrific reputations of Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey long before hashtag campaigns while reveling in Billy and Julie’s misanthropic tastes in humor. Of all the cancelled Hulu shows, this is the one that most deserves to be brought back to life.
For fans of sci-fi comedies, Future Man is a show you’ll binge over a weekend and then feel frustrated over when you’re out of episodes. Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherson) works as a janitor by day but is a high-ranking world class gamer. After beating a game promoted as “undefeatable,” soldiers from the future arrive and inform him that he’s the only hope in defeating an imminent invasion. Josh travels through time to assemble a team to defeat the impending villains, doing all he can to save planet Earth in the process. If this sounds like an amalgamation of a ton of sci-fi movies you already know and love, it’s because Future Man is a walking homage to science-fiction movies, tv shows, comic books, and video games. The humor can be sophomoric at times, but it’s a fun enough ride to enjoy regardless.
Middle school was a horrific time of hormonal cringe for most of us, and Pen15 is here to laugh alongside this trip down millennial memory lane. Anna and Maya are seventh grade best friends (played by Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine, both in their thirties) in the year 2000 trying to adjust to puberty, popularity, and peer pressure. The new millennium nostalgia is a comforting perk, but the true joy of Pen15 is recognizing that junior high can be a brutal experience, but if we’re watching this show, it means we made it out alive. There’s a brutal honesty to the show both in its humorous situations, like watching Wild Things with your biggest crush, but also in the bitter realities, like unchecked discriminatory behaviors that likely went unrecognized as a kid. Thankfully, the second is coming on September 18.
The Handmaid’s Tale
It might actually be against the law to talk about Hulu shows without mentioning their smash-hit, The Handmaid’s Tale. Based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian (yet somehow feeling closer and closer to reality every day…) novel of the same name, the Elizabeth Moss starring series has become a downright cultural phenomenon. Protesters all across the world have dressed in handmaid’s attire to protest legislation harming reproductive rights, and many have used the show as a warning to what looms in the not so distant future if we don’t stand up for injustice.
East Los High
An absolute barrier breaker in regard to Latinx representation, East Los High is currently (until The Handmaid’s Tale overtakes it) the longest running Hulu original series. On the surface, it seems like a typical teen soap, but the reality is that East Los High was a legitimate social science experiment to try and make a hit TV show that also encouraged Latinx youth to make positive choices and have access to comprehensive sex education. It’s “edutainment” inspired by the popular telenovelas of the 60s and 70s that did the same, but in a way that never feels preachy or like an after-school-special. Rather, East Los High is legitimately entertaining television that happens to have health professionals and social scientists contributing to the writers’ room.
The world of Stephen King is vast and iconic, but the advantageous Castle Rock effortlessly weaves the characters, settings, and themes of the most horrifying place in all of Maine. The show is simultaneously an authentically new horror story and a love letter to all things King. For longtime fans of King’s work, familiar characters are given a new life, and stories we’ve heard time and time again explore roads never traveled. Even if you’ve never read a page of Stephen King or watched one of the many film/TV adaptations (seriously, who are you?), Castle Rock is still compelling and downright terrifying as a standalone property.
Straight up--Ramy is probably the best show on Hulu. Loosely based on the creator and protagonist Ramy Youssef, Ramy is a messy yet charming comedy highlighting the variety of experiences of Muslim-Americans in New Jersey. Conflicts related to religion, tradition, relationships, familial pressure, politics, selfishness, stereotypes, and toxic behaviors are all presented earnestly with nuanced storytelling at every step. It’s a show about understanding, growing, and self-education, for both the titular character and the audience tuning into the show. Youssef received the Golden Globe for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy this year and famously said during his acceptance speech, “Look, I know you guys haven’t seen my show.” He’s right. Most people haven’t seen Ramy, and they should. Time to prove him wrong.
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