After acquiring 21st Century Fox earlier this year, The Walt Disney Company gained the majority equity and took full control over streaming service Hulu. Disney is now expected to gain full ownership by 2024, giving the mass media conglomerate a healthy position in the current streaming wars. Following the recent launch of Apple+ and the forthcoming debut of HBO Max, alongside existing major players Netflix and Amazon – Disney now owns three of the biggest names in streaming: Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu. Whether Hulu lives on or is ultimately absorbed into Disney+ remains to be seen. But for the time being, the House of Mouse seems perfectly fine maintaining Hulu as its streaming arm for general entertainment alongside ESPN+’s exclusive sports content and Disney+’s family-friendly properties.
The moral of the story is Hulu may change drastically over the next few years, yet for now remains the same quality content creator viewers have come to know and love. And to celebrate the past 9 years of Hulu original content, we here at HNHH decided to give the 10 best Hulu original series the shine they deserve. Let us know your favorites down in the comments section.
For any viewers who went to middle school during the late ‘90s or early 2000s, Hulu’s cringe comedy PEN15 is the nostalgia trip you didn’t know you needed. Created by and starring Maya Erskine (Casual) and Anna Konkle (Rosewood) as “13-year-old semi-fictional versions of themselves” – PEN15 is the rare comedy that makes you laugh, cry, and pee your pants. With a supporting cast comprised entirely of actual 13-year-olds, the kids elevate certain episodes involving the school band concert and the fall dance. Whether it’s the nostalgia triggered from hearing the sounds of AOL Instant Messenger and seeing a can of SURGE, or the sheer awkwardness of wearing braces and going through puberty in middle school – PEN15 resonates with an early 30’s demographic unlike any other show on TV.
PEN15 takes full advantage of its 10-episode first season by devoting entire episodes to authentic pre-teen topics such as menstruation, masturbation, divorce, thongs, and the Internet. Renewed for a second season expected to air next year, PEN15 has quickly ascended to being Hulu’s premier comedy. Now all we can do is wait for the continuation of Maya and Anna’s misadventures as best friends navigating middle school. Or as Anna puts it, “You are my actual rainbow Gel Pen in a sea of blue & black writing utensils.”
The Handmaid’s Tale (2017)
Hulu commissioned the 10-episode first season of The Handmaid’s Tale in April 2016. Less than a year and a half later, it received five Emmy’s for writing, directing, supporting actress (Ann Dowd), lead actress (Elisabeth Moss), and best drama. Recognized as the show that launched Hulu into the awards circuit, cementing the streamer as a major player alongside Netflix and Amazon – the dystopian drama aired its third season this past summer. Considered by many as the most depressing show on television, The Handmaid’s Tale was recently renewed for a fourth season to air in 2020. The series expands on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel in which a Second American Civil War results in an oppressive society where fertile women (Handmaids) are reduced to childbearing slaves. But as Offred, our Red Habit-wearing protagonist says in the season three trailer, “They should have never given us uniforms if they didn’t want us to be an army.”
In addition to the third season of Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood has had quite the year, releasing her most recent novel, The Testaments. The official sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments is set 15 years following the events of the original novel. Atwood’s latest masterpiece was quickly put into development by Hulu and won the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction, awarded for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom. Now Handmaid’s fans have a couple of shows to look forward to next year.
Difficult People (2015)
As Billy on the Street moved from Fuse to truTV between its third and fourth seasons, Billy Eichner earned his first shot at starring in a sitcom. Written by and co-starring author, podcaster and Billy on the Street head writer, Julie Klausner – Difficult People showcases the duo playing struggling comedians in New York City. Basically they’re heightened versions of themselves. The voice of Billy on the Street that viewers fell in love with over the past eight years is on full display throughout all three seasons of Difficult People: loud, mean, jaded, and sarcastic. Oh yeah, and Jewish. Difficult People’s humor is tailor-made for New York Jews, with episodes devoted to the holy trinity of cultural Judaism – Yom Kippur, Passover & attending a Bat Mitzvah.
The Hulu sitcom never gained the traction it deserved and was canceled after three seasons. However, it was beloved among Hollywood’s biggest actors, as seen throughout the series’ extensive guest list. In just 28 episodes, Difficult People featured characters played by Kate McKinnon, Amy Sedaris, Debbie Harry, Seth Meyers, John Mulaney, Julianne Moore, Vanessa Williams, John Turturro, Rosie O’Donnell, and the show’s executive producer Amy Poehler. Not to mention the endless number of cameos such as Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andy Cohen, and Martin Short to name a few. The perfect start to the amazing moment Billy Eichner’s been having as of late (The Lion King, American Horror Story, Friends From College) Difficult People is highly bingeable and worth going back to finally watch if you never had the chance.
Between the breakout successes of his debut hour-long HBO stand-up special and Hulu sitcom, comedian-actor Ramy Youssef (Mr. Robot) has had the year of most comedians dreams. In April of 2019, Youssef filmed his HBO special, Ramy Youssef: Feelings to a diverse crowd full of hijabs and hipsters. Which is essentially his demographic sweet spot – contemporary Muslim Americans and woke Millennials. At the heart of that social Venn diagram you will find Ramy and his particular brand of comedy chock-full of faith and vulgarity. Premiering days after the filming of his special, Ramy, Hulu’s 10-episode dramedy created, written by, and starring Youssef touches on the New Jersey comedian of Egyptian descent’s experiences growing up in post-9/11 America. Co-starring Amr Waked (Marco Polo), Hiam Abbass (Succession), and fellow Muslim comedian Mo Amer (The Vagabond), Ramy boasts a predominantly Muslim cast and marks a milestone for Hulu as the home of television’s first critically-acclaimed Muslim American family sitcom.
Ramy is semi-autobiographical as it follows “a first-generation American Muslim… on a spiritual journey in his politically divided New Jersey neighborhood… explor[ing] the challenges of what it is like being caught between an Egyptian community that thinks life is a moral test, and a Millennial generation that thinks life has no consequences.” If this is the first you’re hearing of the rapidly rising talent, Ramy Youssef, queue up his HBO special and the first season of Ramy immediately. Ramy returns to Hulu for a second season next year.
Hulu’s first foray into the dramedy genre was 2015’s Casual. Executive produced and directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air), Casual is a dysfunctional family comedy with dramatic elements about a recently divorced mother played by Michaela Watkins (Transparent, The Unicorn), her rebellious teenage daughter (Tara Lynne Barr), and bachelor brother (Tommy Dewey) all living together in one home. Airing for four seasons on Hulu, Casual never gained the traction of more successful and tonally similar family dramedies like Transparent, Weeds, and Six Feet Under. Named after the online dating profile option “casual,” the series begins with Watkins’ character Valerie, as she puts herself out into the world in search of some good old-fashioned casual sex. With her daughter Laura simultaneously discovering her own sexuality and her brother Alex coming to terms with the fact that being a bachelor late in his 30s isn’t all he imagined it to be – the three coexist under one roof with plenty of fighting and fucking to go around.
Featuring a tremendous recurring cast of characters including Frances Conroy (American Horror Story, Six Feet Under) as Valerie and Alex’s mother, Fred Melamed (A Serious Man) as their father, Zak Orth (Wet Hot American Summer) as Valerie’s ex-husband, and Katie Aselton (The League) as Valerie’s therapist, the series served as a show actors could really sink their teeth into. Casual’s four-season run also included a number of popular faces in guest roles such as Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings), Kyle Bornheimer (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), Maya Erskine (PEN15), and Judy Greer (Archer, Kidding). Ultimately, the show airing for four seasons was a gift and lives on through Hulu for any new viewers to discover.
Future Man (2017)
From the creator of British dramedy Misfits and executive produced/directed by masters of comedy Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg comes Future Man – a show that could only be executed by these sci-fi and stoner comedy veterans. Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherson) is a janitor at a medical lab obsessed with his favorite video game, Biotic Wars. Considered to be unbeatable, when Josh completes the game he is named the “savior” and introduced to its two main characters, Tiger and Wolf. The futuristic video game duo suddenly appear in order to recruit Josh to save the world from the actual Biotic Wars. Tiger, played by Eliza Coupe, explains to Josh “everything that happens in the Bionic Wars is real. The game is a recruitment and training tool sent back in time to find the one person with the skills to save [the world]. [Josh] is the first and only person to have beaten the game.” Which Josh astutely points out is the exact same plot as The Last Starfighter. From there, the series expands to involve laser guns, conspiracy theories, time travel, and herpes. Co-starring Derek Wilson (Preacher) as Wolf, Ed Begley Jr. (Best In Show), Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), and Keith David (Requiem for a Dream) – Future Man’s third and final season is set to air on Hulu next year.
The Path (2016)
A year and a half following the series finale of Breaking Bad, Hulu announced a 10-episode order for a new show called The Path, marking Aaron Paul’s official return to dramatic television. Created by playwright Jessica Goldberg, The Path stars Aaron Paul as Eddie Lane, a man who along with his family has focused his life around Meyerism, a cult-like movement based around harnessing internal suffering into personal enlightenment. While he’s on a spiritual retreat in Peru, Eddie has a revelation that leads him to question Meyerism and all that he’s ever known. The Path co-stars Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) as Eddie’s wife, Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) as the unofficial leader of Meyerism, Emma Greenwell (Shameless) as a new convert, Sarah Jones (Alcatraz) as a defector from the movement, and Rockmond Dunbar (Prison Break) as the FBI agent investigating the group on cult-watch. The Path ran for three seasons on Hulu before being cancelled.
Wu-Tang: An American Saga (2019)
Announced alongside the 25th anniversary of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Hulu gave a 10-episode series order to a show dramatizing the origin of one of the greatest rap groups of all time – the Wu-Tang Clan. Co-created and written by Wu-Tang founder and de facto leader, RZA, and Alex Tse (Sucker Free City, Superfly) – Wu-Tang: An American Saga tells the tale of a young Bobby Diggs/RZA (Ashton Sanders) as he navigates early ‘90s New York City in the midst of the crack cocaine epidemic. Choosing rap music over the street life, Diggs assembles a dozen young black men also balancing a life of rap and crime, to create one of the most unbelievable groups in hip-hop history. Starring Shameik Moore as Raekwon, Siddiq Saunderson as Ghostface Killah, Dave East as Method Man, Johnell Xavier Young as GZA, Joey Badass as Inspectah Deck, Caleb Castille as Cappadonna, and TJ Atoms as Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Wu: Tang: An American Saga is for the uninformed rap fan and Wu-Tang diehards alike. The “mini-series” ended just a few weeks back, so go stream it now in an effort to help the series get picked up for a second season.
Castle Rock (2015)
Currently airing its second season on Hulu, Castle Rock is set in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine – a pivotal setting within Stephen King’s multiverse. Executive produced by J.J. Abrams (Star Wars) and Stephen King, as Hulu’s first anthology series, Castle Rock draws its characters and locations from a long list of the prolific author’s novels and short stories including It, ‘Salem’s Lot, Dreamcatcher, Misery, The Green Mile, The Shining, Cujo, and The Shawshank Redemption. Weaving genres like the master storyteller does best, Castle Rock jumps from mystery to sci-fi to horror thriller and back all in the span of a one-hour episode. The anthology series’ first season featured a star-studded cast including Andre Holland (Moonlight), Melanie Lynskey (Togetherness), Bill Skarsgard (It), Jane Levy (Suburgatory), and Academy Award-winner Sissy Spacek (Carrie). However, the first season’s cast was only to be matched by it’s most recent season starring film and television heavy-hitters Tim Robbins (Mystic River), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade), and Paul Sparks (Boardwalk Empire). For any fans of the horror genre, Stephen King, and the mythology that has stemmed from his nearly 100 works of literature, Castle Rock is a must-watch on Hulu. Start streaming today.
Marvel’s Runaways (2017)
Marvel’s Runaways, at the moment Hulu’s lone Marvel series, with six more in development, is a month away from premiering its third season. Created by Josh Schwartz (The O.C.) and Stephanie Savage (Gossip Girl), Runaways tells the story of six diverse teens living in the Marvel universe, who walk in on their parents convening their secret super villain team called the Pride. Upon discovering they’ve been lied to their entire lives, the Runaways, comprised of Nico Minoru (Lyrica Okano), Chase Stein (Gregg Sulkin), Karolina Dean (Virginia Gardner), Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz), Molly Hernandez (Allegra Acosta), and Gertrude Yorkes (Ariela Barer), aptly runaway from their families to form one of their own. This superhero adventure-meets-teen drama is the best of both worlds for the masses of young comic book movie fans cultivated over the past 20 years of Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films. And now that Disney owns Hulu in addition to Marvel, there will surely be even more to come. Now go mark your calendars, because the third season of Marvel’s Runaways premieres Friday, December 13th.
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