Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Oh, Hulu - what was once the second coolest streaming service (following Netflix) now sits comfortably at number three, surpassed in popularity and total subscriptions by both Netflix and Disney+. However, as we rattled off frequently as children, first is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with the treasure chest. In this case, though not entirely accurate, there is one nugget of truth: Hulu and its treasure chest.
In 2020, Hulu produced some impressive original content. From movies, to new series, to book-to-miniseries adaptations, there is a decent amount of new and noteworthy content living on the platform, waiting to be streamed. If you’re already a Hulu subscriber looking for something new to watch, or you need a succinct list of what to stream during your 30-day free trial, check out these one-season 2020 Hulu originals.
Get ready to have your preexisting concept of television completely shattered and pieced back together again as something entirely new. Normal People is the most unique, boundary-pushing, moving show to grace our generation, like, ever. Hulu describes it as one of its “ground-breaking original series” - couldn’t agree more.
Normal People is a one-season adaptation of the best selling novel by the same name. It follows the intertwined stories of Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), beginning in their rural Irish hometown and ending up on the streets of Dublin. Their stories at many times become one: their deep connection and unavoidable gravitation towards one another brings them together time and time again, yet their struggles with communication, honesty, and self-love pushes them apart just as often.
Though Normal People is a love story, the way Marianne and Connell’s relationship (and at times, lack thereof) is depicted feels so authentic yet completely different from most modern portrayals of young love. Typically, we see “intimate” moments on-screen that lack true intimacy; most shows have plenty of sexual encounters and relationships that come and go without really leaving a major impact on either the characters or the viewers. Normal People explores intimacy in all its facets, diving into what it truly means to be so connected to another person and to be deeply affected by the sheer desire for them. Part of this exploration happens explicitly on-screen: long, graphic moments between the pair are not uncommon. The physical manifestation of this intimacy can be a bit surprising at first (it’s more than what we’re used to seeing in traditional television), but we’re all adults here and can handle it! Just maybe don’t watch Normal People with your parents.
Everything about this show is beautiful. It plays out more like a long movie and less like a show due to its cinematic nature: there is an emphasis on emotion and visuals (the camera angles? obsessed) and less of a reliance on dialogue. But wait, there’s more! Normal People essentially single handedly ends toxic masculinity with every one of Connell’s actions. He is the king of asking for consent, is never afraid to cry or to feel, and stands up to sexual assault and familial abuse. Incredible. Not to mention the exploration of class struggles, suicide, BDSM, and finding one’s way in the world.
This is not the only new Hulu show based on a popular novel, which have all sparked an interesting debate of whether the storylines should be expanded or preserved. Audiences and critics rated this show in particular so highly that the question naturally is, will there be a second season? We’re torn between wanting to see more of Marianne and Connell and to take another twelve episode dive into their worlds and their hearts, and understanding the story was written the way it was for a certain reason. Novel purists and bloodthirsty streaming bingers alike are impatiently awaiting the official season two verdict from Hulu, but as of writing, there is not a second season in the cards.
If you’re hoping to be deeply moved by a story, stirred by stunning cinematography, and fall in love with two actors you never heard of before all in the course of twelve episodes, stream this Emmy-nominated show. Right. Now.
Little Fires Everywhere
Another Hulu original based on a best-selling novel, Little Fires Everywhere is FIRE! Though the show premiered in March, it saw an increase in popularity following the murder of George Floyd, as it was frequently featured on lists of educational resources centered around awareness of Black experiences and injustices in America. Set in the upper middle class suburban town of Shaker Heights, Ohio, the show opens to the disturbing image of a colossal house on fire, before proceeding to tell the story of how exactly that fire came to be.
When the nomadic, mysterious Warren family moves into a rental home belonging to the cookie-cutter Richardson’s, both families’ lives as well as the perceived status-quo of Shaker Heights turn upside down. The two mothers, Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) and Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) immediately clash; they are complete opposites, somehow a worse combination than oil and water. Meanwhile, Mia’s daughter Pearl puts her blood, sweat, tears, and then some into fitting in with the Richardson kids. Mia is the antithesis of all that Shaker Heights embodies; Elena is a product of the town. Pearl desperately grasps at straws trying to feel a sense of belonging; the Richardson’s “belong” yet feel like outsiders in their own home.
The dichotomy of the two families is one of the major storylines and the predominant source of discourse: it sparks (pun intended) countless conversations around how race, class, and privilege shape the livelihoods, futures, and everyday experiences of people across the country. This main storyline is entangled with many other narratives and plotlines throughout the eight episodes, bringing into question motherhood and its true meaning, immigration policies, white suburbia… just to name a few. There is so much to talk about that the cast shared “Fireside Chats” to social media to allow a space for all of the unpacking that needs to happen after watching this show.
The drama, suspense, hard-hitting topics, mystery, incredibly convincing performances, and well-curated series soundtrack make this show 100% binge-worthy. You’ll watch it in a day (or two), but be talking about it for months to come. Unlike with Normal People, grab your mom and give it a watch.
Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland set out on a new intergalactic adventure and created Solar Opposites, a more grounded, more risqué, yet still ~out of this world~ animated sitcom. While Solar Opposites has a lot in common with critically acclaimed Rick and Morty, including the animation style, there are noticeable differences, and an obvious lack of Dan Harmon’s influence, but it works.
Solar Opposites features more of a focus on the family unit, as it centers around an alien family stranded somewhere in the middle of America, which is a stark contrast from the routine evasion of the Sanchez family common in Rick and Morty’s adventures. Episodes follow more of a traditional sitcom structure, typically depicting a story arc centered around the adults and their antics, and a separate storyline revolving around the “kids” / alien teenagers and their earthly adolescent struggles. Later in the season, a very interesting sub-plot emerges involving the alien teenagers and “wall-people” - that’s all I can say to keep this spoiler free! However, fans of the show are totally fanatical about this post-apocolyptic-esque sub-plot and consider it one of the best parts of season one.
It’s shocking just how much can occur in less than 25 minutes! In the eight episode first season, you’ll see shrinking bullies, alien-man caves, broken spaceships, and robots becoming sentient and wreaking havoc, with just a sprinkle of time travel. It’s an exciting ride with plenty of social commentary, pop culture references, zaniness, and laughs. And the wall-people. You’ll know it when you see it.
Solar Opposites is a hit so far, with both a second and third season in the works. If you missed out on the Rick and Morty hype in college, this is your second chance to prove you have a high IQ (stale joke but had to do it) and become a Justin Roiland stan. And if you are already a fan of Rick and Morty, why haven’t you watched Solar Opposites yet? Get on it!
First a novel, then a movie, and now a one-season series, High Fidelity tells a similar story to its source material, but with a 2020 revamp. Zoë Kravitz shines as Rob, a woefully romantic yet charmingly quirky Brooklyn record shop owner. The show revolves around her (failed) attempts at love.
After a particularly soul-crushing breakup, Rob decides to revisit her top-five worst heartbreaks by taking a journey through her past, hoping to find answers and explanations for why things never seem to work out in her favor. By her side are her best friends, aka her coworkers from the record shop who, in their attempts to be supportive, find themselves whisked away on Rob’s journey as well.
Rob and her friends are such awesome characters and all around cool humans. Of course, there’s Rob: a bisexual woman who owns her own business (or wiz-ness, for you Broad City fans) and total music-geek with just the right amount of cynicism. Then there’s Simon: a shy but pragmatic gay man and the backbone of the trio. And, last but definitely not least, Cherise: a woman who owns the spaces she occupies, unapologetically herself and full of big dreams for her future. The New York escapades of a heartbroken woman surrounded by her friends are reminiscent of Sex and the City, if SATC was actually about real New Yorkers and not a group of wealthy, attractive, straight white women. The general narrative is something we’re familiar with, but the characters and diverse cast turn it into something new.
Despite receiving generally favorable ratings, Hulu will NOT be renewing High Fidelity for a second season. The cast and crew expressed their disappointment through various social media posts and comments, most notably Kravitz’s comment that read: “It’s cool. At least Hulu has a ton of other shows starring women of color we can watch. Oh wait.”
TEA! Everyone stream this now and give Hulu hell for canceling a well-received show with a refreshingly diverse cast - we’ll show them! In all seriousness, High Fidelity is a quality show with a relatable premise and an impossible-not-to-love set of characters. It’s funky, it’s funny, it’s worth the watch.
Written by Kayla Jimenez
Edited by Jake Zall & Nick Mandala