John Bronco—Hulu’s new sub-40-minute mockumentary about a “lost” “Ford pitchman”—is a good idea, well-executed. What if you took the competent-idiot Southern charm of Justified‘s Boyd Crowder, but, instead of an Appalachian criminal, made the character the unlikely pitchman for a beloved classic SUV, who oozes over-the-top marketable machismo a la the Marlboro Man? And… what if you can get Walton Goggins himself to play the S.O.B? To call that comedic premise excellent, well, “It’d be like saying, ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is just margarine…’ which I guess it is,” as one interviewee describes Bronco.
In case the title alone doesn’t explain the premise: sometime around the 1960s, Ford had a rugged SUV, called the Bronco, lined up for the masses. But it needed a way to sell this new contraption. The company decided it would enter a prototype of the vehicle in the Baja 1000, a famed off-road race. It needed someone tough enough to handle this beast of a vehicle and course, so it sought out whoever seemed to be the most rugged guy in the region—a rodeo champ named John Bronco. John Bronco chronicles the (to be clear, fictional) man’s rise, fall, and disappearance before trying to figure out where the legendary ad icon is now.
The team behind John Bronco—Director Jake Szymanski (HBO’s Tour de Pharmacy) and producer Marc Gilbar—started on the idea in 2019 but ultimately timed the project for maximum impact when they learned Ford had real-life plans to relaunch the iconic Bronco late this summer. According to The Ringer, the team met directly with Ford and earned access to the company’s marketing archives, which get mined thoroughly for aesthetic and pseudo-accuracy in the film. For instance: if you, too, were also born after the mid-1980s, maybe it’d be surprising to learn Doug Flutie had enough of a Q score to actually hawk cars for Ford in 1985 (though the original ad does not seem to end in tragedy).