CVIndependent

Mon11182019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

I’m a Spotify Premium subscriber, because I don’t want ads interrupting my stream of the 16 new Oh Sees albums released last week. Thanks to my exorbitant Coachella Valley Independent salary, it’s a small luxury I can easily afford. Please clap.

In March, Spotify added another perk to Premium membership: a free Hulu subscription. Sure, it’s the basic ad-supported version of Hulu, but so what? There’s plenty of cool shit on the streaming service, including every Seinfeld ever (spoiler—it doesn’t hold up) and mucho-buzzed-about originals like The Handmaid’s Tale (the feel-good hit of the Trumpy the Clown era).

Here are eight more lesser-hyped original Hulu series that you may or may not be aware of, so you can get the most out of your freebie sub. Also, after you spring for the Spotify Premium upgrade, give my band a listen—10 million more streams, and we’ll make enough in royalties to buy a case of PBR.

Shrill (Season 1 on Hulu): Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant stars as Annie, an insecure, full-figured young woman toiling away at a Portland newspaper; the death of print is the least of her problems. Fed up with everyone trying to “fix” her, Annie decides to stop apologizing and just be herself—and the results are as human as they are funny. Shrill is short, sweet and one of the best comedies of 2019.

Hard Sun (Season 1 on Hulu): In British import Hard Sun, London detectives Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and Renko (Agyness Deyn) stumble upon government evidence that Earth will suffer a solar extinction event in five years—I know; I wish it were sooner, too. Despite the sci-fi twist, Hard Sun is a gritty Brit cop drama (it’s from Luther creator Neil Cross) that’s deeper than it seems. And waaay violent.

Future Man (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): An average janitor (Josh Hutcherson) who’s an above-average video-gamer is recruited by future warriors to save the world—turns out the game he just beat was a recruitment tool. (Rejoice, e-nerds.) Imagine Back to the Future if Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (the producers of Future Man) applied their sick, stoned imaginations to it, or Ready Player One if it didn’t suck.

Deadbeat (Seasons 1-3 on Hulu): Deadbeat (upper right) is an old, old, old-school Hulu original: It debuted all the way back on 2014! Tyler Labine stars as Pac, a slacker-slob medium who helps spirits move on … when he gets around to it. With the help of his drug-dealer Roofie (Brandon T. Jackson), Pac fucks with “fake” medium Camomile White (Cat Deeley); spooky hilarity ensues. Don’t think about it too hard.

Shut Eye (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): On the medium note: Charlie (Jeffrey Donovan) is a “fortune teller” conman desperate to escape Los Angeles’ gypsy mafia and start his own racket—but then his clairvoyant visions become real, inspiring him to give up the grifter life. Naturally, his mob boss (Isabella Rossellini) doesn’t see eye-to-third-eye with him. Odd that Shut Eye couldn’t predict its own cancellation. 

Difficult People (Seasons 1-3 on Hulu): What’s your tolerance level for Billy Eichner? You might reconsider after checking out Difficult People, wherein he and Julie Klausner play self-absorbed New Yorkers who hate everything and everyone but each other. The pair’s comic interplay sings like an off-Broadway production they’d adore, but wouldn’t cross town to see. DP MVP: James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros.).

The Hotwives (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): It seems impossible to parody The Real Housewives, the TV franchise that helps you understand an anti-American terrorist’s point of view. However! Hulu’s 2014-2015 series The Hotwives (of Orlando; later of Las Vegas) nailed it, thanks to a ridiculously funny cast (including Andrea Savage, Casey Wilson and Kristen Schaal), and a grand total of zero reality TV fucks given.

UnReal (Seasons 1-4 on Hulu): On the darker side of reality TV, UnReal (below) dramatizes the behind-the-scenes machinations of a Bachelor-style dating show, with only a few exaggerations (Drugs! Depression! Murder!) and one hard truth. (Reality shows are 110 percent bullshit). Showrunners Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) are as emotionally wrecked as they are ruthless, and UnReal is too real.

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I only needed to hear “from the creators of Crank” to be all-in for Happy! (series debut Wednesday, Dec. 6, Syfy). Based on the Image comic, Happy! follows disgraced ex-cop Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni, killing his old Law and Order: SVU character once and for all), now a druggie fuck-up and assassin for hire. After being gunned down and left for dead, Nick awakens to a cartoon winged unicorn named Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) who needs his help in rescuing a little girl who’s been kidnapped by Santa Claus. Yep: Insanity, violence and a gonzo-command performance from Meloni ensue. Happy! is too bizarre to last long, so drink it in.

What Vikings did for, well, Vikings, the new, terribly titled Knightfall (series debut Wednesday, Dec. 6, History) hopes to do for the Middle Ages tale of the Knights Templar. The Knights were warrior monks charged with protecting Christian relics—most notably, the Cup of Christ, aka the Holy Grail, which they, of course, lost. Knightfall stars the requisite amount of beardy, semi-familiar British actors from period dramas like Downton Abbey, Spartacus and The Tudors, as well as basic-cable swordplay and sex, but it’s nowhere near the Vikings 2.0 or Game of Thrones-lite epic it thinks it is. The network’s companion videogame, Knightfall: Rivals, is more compelling. Not a good sign.

Shut Eye (Season 2 premiere Wednesday, Dec. 6, Hulu), a dark dramedy about a Los Angeles crime syndicate of gypsy psychics, was one of 2016’s more interesting, if overlooked, streaming debuts. Charlie (Jeffrey Donovan, Burn Notice) is a cynical fortune-teller conman desperate to get out of the gypsies’ racket and start his own with his wife, Linda (KaDee Strickland)—and also, thanks to a head trauma, he might really be clairvoyant now. In Season 2, Charlie and Linda are still struggling to get away from the gypsy syndicate, while boss Rita (Isabella Rossellini) is under federal investigation. Unlike with some other Hulu shows, all 10 episodes of Shut Eye are dropping at once (a see-the-future gag?).

It was inevitable that Psych: The Movie (Thursday, Dec. 7, USA) would happen because, after all, the series ended three whole years ago—a lifetime in revival years. After eight seasons of wacky crime-solving in Santa Barbara, fake psychic Sean (James Roday) and partner Gus (Dulé Hill) relocated to San Francisco and renamed the business PsychPhrancisco (sure, why not?), but now the gang (Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, Corbin Bernsen and, to a lesser extent, Tim Omundson) is reunited to bring down another mid-level bad guy. The details matter not; Psych: The Movie is full-tilt comfort-food fan service, and that’s not downplayed in the least. Bonus treat: A loving David Bowie tribute, personified by Zachary Levi (Chuck).

Aside from Jean-Claude Van Damme, himself, who exactly is Jean-Claude Van Johnson (series debut Friday, Dec. 15, Amazon Prime) for? This can’t be part of Amazon Prime’s “We’re the new HBO” plan … can it? Anyway: Jean-Claude Van Johnson is JCVD’s under-thought alias as an unhappily retired international superspy now forced to slum it as a Hollywood martial-arts star—can you smell the meta comedy? Jean-Claude Van Johnson is funnier, more action-packed and definitely more expensive-looking than it should be—a nice surprise, since this series is arriving to zero expectations, probably not even from the Prime members who’ve forgotten they upvoted it.

I’ve worked as hard as I can to stop the scourge of stupid that is Fuller House (Season 3 winter premiere Friday, Dec. 22, Netflix), but ’Merica is apparently beyond saving. We’re now three—three!—seasons into the most moronic, soul-eating, Sept. 11-times-1,000 reboot that television has ever excreted, and the second half is dropping right before Christmas! Oh, the laugh-tracked humanity!

This column launched in 1998, three years after the blessed demise of the original Full House; since then, I’ve tried to warn you away from hundreds upon hundreds of shit TV shows. It’s like you people aren’t even listening to me! Pay attention! I’m brilliant and fascinating! Argh! Chokes on burrito; turns blue; falls forever silent

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Pacific Heat (Friday, Dec. 2, Netflix), series debut: Much has already been written about how animated Australian import Pacific Heat looks a hell of a lot like long-running American series Archer—and now here’s one more, damn it. First of all, the animation isn’t as slick as Archer’s; Pacific Heat more resembles a haphazard Microsoft Paint attempt at a tribute than a calculated rip-off. Second, the real stoopid-genius of Archer lies in its writing and voice talents, which are among the best on TV, cartoon or otherwise. The Gold Coast law-enforcement agents of Pacific Heat aren’t particularly clever or distinct, and every joke can be seen coming from a kilometer away. You could blame an Aussie/American disconnect, but remember Danger 5? That was some Down Under funny—time to bring it back, Netflix!

Mr. Neighbor’s House (Friday, Dec. 2, Adult Swim), special: You probably know actor Brian Huskey as “that guy” from People of Earth, Veep, Another Period, Childrens Hospital and 100 other bizarro-comedy series and movies. Mr. Neighbor’s House could be the first time Huskey has played a lead role, and he’s disturbingly perfect as a slowly-coming-unglued children’s show host who internally seethes like Patrick Bateman stuck with Mr. Rogers’ shitty sweater—and shittier puppets. Unfortunately, Mr. Neighbor’s House (which was created by Huskey and fellow alt-comedy vet Jason Mantzoukas) has been sitting in Adult Swim purgatory for more than a year, and only one episode of what could have been a hilarious series was produced. So, enjoy Mr. Neighbor’s “31st Annual 5th Birthday Party” and wonder what’s going on at Adult Swim programming these days.

The Royals (Sunday, Dec. 4, E!), season premiere: Sexy glam-trash soap opera The Royals is the only non-reality show on E!, as well as the network’s lone offering that isn’t an insult to anyone with an IQ higher than 50. (Has The Soup really been gone a year? Sigh …) Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley), Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) and the rest of the fictional British royal family have been locked in a tawdry, shifting power struggle over the throne for two seasons now, and the unexpected return of presumed-dead Prince Robert (Max Brown, replete with fake castaway beard) at the outset of Season 3 further complicates an already sticky wicket. (Hey, I tried.) Catch up on The Royals over the holidays on Amazon Prime; the accents will fool your family into thinking you’re watching some proper PBS fare.

Shut Eye (Wednesday, Dec. 7, Hulu), series debut: A dark dramedy about a Los Angeles crime syndicate of gypsy psychics? Well-played, Hulu. Charlie (Jeffrey Donovan, Burn Notice) is a cynical fortune-teller conman desperate to get out of the gypsies’ racket and start his own racket with his wife (KaDee Strickland, Secrets and Lies), ripping suckers off as an independent businessman, because ’Merica. The idea of a grifter couple trying to get out from under the thumb of a ruthless psychic mafia is intriguing enough, but Shut Eye throws in another twist: When Charlie sustains a beat-down head injury that enables him to experience (seemingly, at least) real clairvoyant visions, the career fraud suddenly has a new outlook on life—not that gypsy mob bosses Fonzo (Angus Sampson) and Rita (Isabella Rossellini) care; their only interest is in retaining their star crystal-baller and his cash flow. Another left-field winner from Hulu.

Hairspray Live! (Wednesday, Dec. 7, NBC), special: John Waters got it right in 1988 with the original Hairspray movie—how many unnecessary and increasingly watered-down stage and film versions need to be made? Apparently one more, because current broadcast network TV is more about nostalgia and cheap stunts than original concepts and risk-taking. (Didya hear that Hulu has a series about a psychic crime syndicate, NBC?) Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Andrea Martin, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, Maddie Baillio, Ephraim Sykes, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Billy Eichner, Sean Hayes and Rosie O’Donnell make up the Who’s Who of Who Cares? cast, and every remaining trace of Waters’ subversive undertones will surely have been scrubbed out by airtime. At least he’ll get a check.

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