Hulu has always been cool, you just haven’t been paying attention
Hulu has been making original shows since 2011, but it’s the lavish adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale that has finally put the streaming service on the map.
The dystopian drama, which stars Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes, was just renewed for a second season a week after premiering, and is already earning major awards buzz — something that has previously eluded the streamer while rivals Amazon and Netflix rack up accolades.
With its cinematic production values, eerily timely subject matter and A+ viral marketing strategy, The Handmaid’s Tale is a prestige drama that can stand toe-to-toe with any premium cable series, and critics have taken notice; it’s currently rated 98 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
The online network has also made major strides in viewership — it’s now averaging 47 million unique viewers a month — and has just launched an option for streaming live TV with more than 50 channels, 50 hours of recording storage and a cloud DVR upgrade. The new service puts Hulu in direct competition with the likes of Sling TV, DirectTV Now, PlayStation Vue and YouTube’s newly-launched live TV package.
But Hulu has long been must-see TV for cord cutters — offering new episodes of many broadcast dramas the day after air (or earlier), along with extensive libraries of past seasons of shows from the ’50s through today.
While Netflix’s bench of originals is undeniably deeper, Hulu has been aggressive in acquiring fan-favorite classics to satisfy your nostalgia in recent years, including Seinfeld, The Golden Girls, Cheers, I Love Lucy, Taxi, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Twilight Zone, to name a few. It also has an impressive number of ’90s hits that you can’t find elsewhere, like Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, Felicity, Dawson’s Creek and My So-Called Life.
Then there’s the roster of current or recent favorites, like every season of Nashville, Empire, South Park, Broad City, The Good Wife, CSI and CSI: Miami, Inside Amy Schumer, Louie, and Community.
And while The Handmaid’s Tale may be Hulu’s first awards contender, there are a number of other originals you should check out while you’re waiting for your next weekly installment.
Here are six of our favorites:
Hulu’s saucy new period drama may star Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown-Findlay, but that’s where the similarities end — the Dowager Countess would have a conniption if she saw what these ladies get up to. Based on the stories of real sex workers of the 18th century, the show provides a liberated slice of counterprogramming to the repression of The Handmaid’s Tale, as these women use their bodies, minds and any other means to get what they want.
5. National Treasure
Sadly unrelated to the Nicolas Cage classic of the same name, this tense British drama is a stressful but timely examination of celebrity culture, truth and perception, following an aging comedian who is arrested following a rape allegation that surfaces decades after the fact.
4. Difficult People
Difficult People is hardly everyone’s cup of tea; the tipoff is in the title. But if Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner’s acerbic cynicism resonates with you, the show is a laugh-out-loud cringey binge, dismantling romantic views of New York and even of the elusive idea of success.
Hulu’s Golden Globe-nominated comedy puts the fun in dysfunctional family, but even when it’s awkward, it’s always honest. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be grateful for your own wacky family.
2. The Mindy Project
Though it got its start on Fox, The Mindy Project found its footing on Hulu. The romantic comedy was always building toward Mindy and Danny, but once they got together, things really got interesting. Themes of how to sustain a relationship and Mindy as a single mother only came through in the Hulu iteration (along with some selective stretching of S&P with the words “shit” and “tits”). The platform let Kaling and her writers stretch their legs with episodes like “Bernardo and Anita” and “Mindy Kaling is a white man.”
1. Moone Boy
This quirky British import is an instant charmer, following a dorky 12-year-old Irish boy and his adult-sized, deeply sarcastic imaginary friend (who is embodied by a fearless Chris O’Dowd). The semi-autobiographical tale is written by Dowd, who renders the show’s childhood tribulations — and the adult issues that often surround them — with specificity, heart and hilarity.
Proma Khosla contributed to this story.