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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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Outcast (Friday, June 3, Cinemax), series debut: While the fanboys are nerd-raging against each other over the authenticity of AMC’s Preacher, here comes another way-adult, based-on-a-comic-book property: Outcast, from Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman—and it’s so gut-wrenchingly creepy that it’ll only fuel the “Preacher shoulda been on premium cable!” fire. Outcast follows Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a man surrounded by demonic possessions since childhood, who’s drawn out of seclusion when a child on the other side of his rural West Virginia town goes full-on satanic sock puppet. The pilot suffers from unavoidable, but minor, instances of first-episode exposition clunk, but the scares and gore effects could keep even atheists up all night. Don’t watch this alone. Banshee almost did it, but Outcast should be the series to finally make Cinemax a player in the original-programming game. Did I mention … don’t watch this alone?

You May Now Kill the Bride (Saturday, June 4, Lifetime), movie: It’s all in the title when it comes to a Lifetime movie; done right, you don’t even have to watch it. Stolen From the Womb, All the Good Ones Are Married, A Nanny’s Revenge, Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life, Where’s My Baby?, Sexting in Suburbia, Dirty Teacher, Stalked by My Doctor, Wrong Swipe—all real Lifetime movies, and all sufficiently self-explanatory. On the other hand, titles like Ultimate Deception, Like Dandelion Dust and Clara’s Deadly Secret (again, all actual movies) are useless. You May Now Kill the Bride has a catchy name (win!) that doesn’t encapsulate the plot (fail!): “Nicole and Mark get engaged, but his stepsister believes she has a claim on him and is willing to do anything to be his bride.” Please, allow me, Lifetime: Twisted Stepsister. Boom. Done.

Feed the Beast (Sunday, June 5, AMC), series debut: Between previews that practically scream for a “Breaking Bad meets Restaurant: Impossible!” tagline and the mere presence of David Schwimmer, it’s not easy to root for Feed the Beast, an unfocused oddity even by AMC’s usual “whatever works besides zombies” standards. Schwimmer and Jim Sturgess star as best buds attempting to open a high-end restaurant in the Bronx—and that’s the least of their problems: Schwimmer’s Tommy is a sad-sack widower with an emotionally-traumatized son, while Sturgess’ Dion is an ex-con who owes big money to bad people. Can this sullen wine sommelier and sketchy master chef make their culinary dreams come true? Or at least not get seared and deconstructed by the mob? More pressing, will Feed the Beast survive the move to Tuesdays after tonight’s premiere?

UnREAL (Monday, June 6, Lifetime), season premiere: Marti Noxon has contributed to some classic TV series (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mad Men), and created at least one kinda-winner (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce), but UnREAL is her left-field crowning achievement. When it premiered in 2015 on Lifetime—not a go-to for smart drama; see above—UnReal seemed like a straight-forward morality play behind the scenes of a Bachelor-style reality-dating show; Constance Zimmer was the ruthless producer, butting heads with her conscience-burdened second-in-command, Shiri Appleby … but then it got dark, spinning their presumed roles in unpredictable directions. Season 1 broke new “reality TV” ground by killing off a contestant; Season 2 goes even further by casting—brace yourselves, Trumpsters!—an African-American bachelor! UnReal > The Bachelorette.

Casual (Tuesday, June 7, Hulu), season premiere: Director Jason Reitman’s Casual (referencing a dating-app preference level, not fashion sense … well, not entirely) struck another small blow for the Streaming Shows Are Cool, Too! uprising that threatens broadcast and cable’s ever-loosening hold on the original-content market when it premiered on Hulu just last October. Stars Michaela Watkins and Tommy Dewey, as a divorcee single mom and her bachelor brother living together and trying to figure out modern dating, turned what could have been a one-joke series about awkward hookups into a surprisingly sweet—and occasionally sad—comedy about not just familial dysfunction, but all of the dysfunctions. Season 2 of Casual expands from dating and sex into even more treacherous territory: making and keeping new friends at a “certain age.” Not quite as scary as Outcast … but close.

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Another Period (Comedy Central): After a meh first episode, Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome’s Downton Abbey/Kardashians parody became bolder and funnier (and dirtier) every week. It’s Wet Hot 1902 Summer.

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC): Just ended and most likely canceled, ’80s tech drama Halt and Catch Fire really did catch fire in Season 2 by focusing on its women (Kerry Bishé and Mackenzie Davis, killing it). Maybe just skip the first season.

UnReal (Lifetime): And another female-led powerhouse: UnReal’s behind-the-sordid-scenes drama about a Bachelor-esque “reality” show was brutal, discomfiting and, for all we know, completely accurate. Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer FTW.

Wayward Pines (Fox): It was obvious that M. Night Shyamalan’s Wayward Pines meant “limited series” business when it killed off two big-name cast members (no spoilers!) early on. A taut, weird sci-fi conspiracy yarn.

Maron (IFC): No hype, just Marc Maron being Maron in Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Next Generation.

Dark Matter (Syfy): The setup of really, really, really ridiculously good-looking amnesiac fugitives in space didn’t seem sustainable, but Dark Matter rolled out the back-stories (and ass-kicking action) more intelligently than expected.

Killjoys (Syfy): Ditto on the looks and action here, though Killjoys was a bit more complex (read: confusing) and even more low-budget than Dark Matter (which seems impossible). Still, Hannah John-Kamen is the sci-fi heroine to top this summer.

True Detective (HBO): Quit your whining and just watch all eight episodes in a row.

The Brink (HBO): It was sold as a Jack Black comedy, but The Brink (a modern-day Dr. Strangelove via Homeland) belongs to Tim Robbins as the tenacious secretary of state, and Maribeth Monroe as his impossibly loyal assistant.

Mr. Robot (USA): Rami Malek’s mumbling, monologue-ing hoodie-rat hacker isn’t a logical TV hero—which makes Mr. Robot’s Fight Club-meets-The Matrix-meets-Dilbert existence encouraging (especially on a network like USA). Another binge-watch candidate.

Humans (AMC): The biggest surprise from this British import about synthetic “humans” living/serving amongst us? Joe (Tom Goodman-Hill) waited four whole episodes before bedding his nanny-bot (Gemma Chan). Humans was creepy, but with a heart—rare combo.

Extant (CBS): Halle Berry’s alien-takeover thriller is still insane—but at least it’s evolved into decent sci-fi, and new Season 2 co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan handily replaced what’s-his-name. Bonus: David Morrissey acting even harder than he did on The Walking Dead!

The Spoils Before Dying (IFC): Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell) and his lost crime-noir masterpiece somehow made jazz tolerable. That’s an accomplishment.

Rectify (Sundance): So rich, so moving, so … slow. Ray McKinnon’s Southern-gothic character study isn’t for everyone, but the quality of the performances (not limited to main stars Aden Young and Abigail Spencer) are undeniable.

The Strain (FX): Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire-invasion thriller kicked into high gear in Season 2, thanks partially to letting Kevin Durand’s badass Fet inject some comic relief into the occasionally too-damned-serious affair. Pretty vamps are so over.

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (FX): Denis Leary’s comic love letter to rock wasn’t groundbreaking by any stretch, but it was loud and fun. That’s rock ’n’ roll, right?

BoJack Horseman (Netflix): You will feel all the feels of a cartoon horse (Will Arnett).

Ray Donovan (Showtime): As if Jon Voight weren’t enough, Liev Schreiber’s titular thug-to-the-stars Ray had to fight for screen-chewing time with new Season 3 guest Ian McShane—and he held his own.

Stitchers (ABC Family): Impossibly pretty 20-something scientists “stitch” into the memories of the recently deceased in CSI: Dead Brains. Sure, it sounds similar to iZombie, but Stitchers was even stoopider—and yet oddly entertaining.

The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail (Comedy Central): Backstage is sometimes funnier than what’s onstage at the comic-book-store stand-up show; comedians, actors and sometimes even porn stars drop in randomly, adding to the anarchic atmosphere of The Meltdown. So all stand-up shows aren’t like this?

Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell (Adult Swim): Season 2 of hell as a workplace comedy … not a workplace reality show.

Married (FX): The second season of Nat Faxon and Judy Greer’s domestic comedy may have found a groove, if not viewers. Married is pretty much canceled; proceed at your leisure.

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim): It’s probably best that Community is now dead as a TV show, because Rick and Morty is a far better use of Dan Harmon’s time. There’s not a more off-the-charts science-geeky show out there—sorry, Cosmos—and the funny is relentless.

Wet Hot American Summer (Netflix): First Day of Camp bested the 2001 movie by streamlining the gags and going for ridiculous broke. So how do I get a gig at Rock & Roll World Magazine?

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True Detective (Sunday, June 21, HBO), season premiere: How do you top Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson from True Detective’s killer debut season? Double-down on the star power: Besides Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn, Season 2 also features Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch as co-leads, and the supporting-cast bench isn’t lacking, either. Vaughn is a mob boss looking to go legit; Farrell is a troubled—to put it mildly (he makes McConaughey’s Rust Cohle look like a Walmart greeter)—detective who owes him; Kitsch is a highway patrolman with a past; and McAdams is a hard-as-nails cop written to single-handedly obliterate Season 1’s Weak Female Problem. Season 2 also ditches its predecessor’s supernatural hoodoo and time-jumping plot in favor of a linear, hard-boiled California crime story that doesn’t seem to be leading to Season 1’s “happy” ending. To paraphrase Spinal Tap: How much more bleak could this be? The answer is none. None more bleak. But sooo damned pulp-good.

The Brink (Sunday, June 21, HBO), series debut: After True Detective, some comic relief is needed—so how about the threat of World War III? The Brink stars Jack Black as a low-level State Department hack in Pakistan who is out to score weed with his driver (Aasif Mandvi) when protests break out, and a none-too-stable general (Iqbal Theba) threatens to go nuclear. Back at the White House, the womanizing, boozehound secretary of state (Tim Robbins, stealing the show) attempts to talk the secretary of defense (Geoff Pierson) and the president (Esai Morales) out of striking pre-emptively—as a bomber pilot (Pablo Schreiber, better known as Pornstache from Orange Is the New Black) is already en route. As a Veep-meets-Dr. Strangelove geopolitical comedy, The Brink smartly keeps Black’s we’ve-seen-it idiot from dominating the show, but your faith in government … well, probably won’t change at all.

Ballers (Sunday, June 21, HBO), series debut: Dwayne Johnson has become such a larger-than-life action star that “The Rock” qualifier is irrelevant; casting him as a painkiller-popping ex-NFL star trying to scrape together a post-football life almost feels like a Saturday Night Live sketch. Sure, he’s as charming as ever as Spencer Strasmore, a retired Miami Dolphin transitioning into becoming a financial manager for his fellow money-burning retirees and clueless rookies (or “monetizing friendships,” as his boss, played by Rob Corddry, says)—but a sympathetic underdog? Not happening. Ballers critiques the chew-’em-up-spit-’em-out culture of pro sports almost as much as it revels in the glamour, but Johnson is just too big—in every sense—for his role. Maybe HBO should have called Kenny Powers of Eastbound and Down out of retirement.

UnReal (Mondays, Lifetime), new series: Marti Noxon has contributed to some classic TV series (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mad Men) and created at least one winner (2014’s Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce), but her new UnReal probably won’t be listed among them—but not for a lack of trying. A drama set behind the scenes of a reality-dating show, UnReal pits a ruthless showrunner who’s not above manipulating anything on the screen for ratings (Constance Zimmer, in her usual ballbuster Constance Zimmer role) against a producer with at least a twinge of conscience and TV-PTSD issues galore (Shiri Appleby). Thing is, no one here is remotely likable (very Showtime, but not very Lifetime), but at least there’s a winking acknowledgement that this brand of “reality” is complete bullshit.

Another Period (Tuesday, June 23, Comedy Central), series debut: The Bellacourt sisters (Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome) were the Kardashians of the early 1900s, concerned only with being rich, famous and relatively disease-free. Leggero and Lindhome are two of the funniest comic actors around, and the rest of the cast (including Michael Ian Black, Paget Brewster, Brett Gelman, Christina Hendricks, David Koechner, Jason Ritter and David Wain) is equally impressive. But Another Period is more silly than stellar, like a leftover episode of Drunk History (same director, coincidentally) that wasn’t done cooking yet. It’s nice summer filler behind Inside Amy Schumer, but it likely won’t last any longer than that. Leggero deserves her Big Break—has Season 3 of True Detective been cast yet?

Mr. Robot (Wednesday, June 24, USA), series debut: Vigilante hacker by night/corporate IT drone by day Elliot (Rami Malek) is recruited by the mysterious “Mr. Robot” (Christian Slater), the leader of an “underground hacker group,”  to e-destroy the company that employs Elliot. If you misread the title and were momentarily excited about a series based on the 1983 Styx hit “Mr. Roboto,” apologies.

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