Get on it.
Hulu is a day-after destination for many TV obsessives, but it’s also becoming a hive for original series and more obscure shows. That said, if you’re not looking for the latest episode of a show, it can be daunting to wade through Hulu’s vaults and find the show that speaks to you. So we’re here to guide you.
The best shows on Hulu: New hits
Adult Swim has built a fiercely loyal audience over the years by becoming a repository for dark, adult comedic cartoons. Rick and Morty represents the pinnacle of what an Adult Swim show can be. Created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, the series follows a young boy and his mad scientist grandfather through a series of interdimensional adventures that bring chaos to every living creature in the multiverse. Pitch black comedy is rarely sentimental, but Rick and Morty regularly manage to pull genuinely moving moments from even the darkest of scenarios. Season 3 is just around the corner. Thankfully for you seasons 1 and 2 are streaming in their entirety on Hulu. —J.M.B.
2) Brooklyn Nine-Nine
No matter how much star power a sitcom has, success hinges upon creating a cast that meshes well together. Brooklyn Nine-Nine gathers some of the best comedic actors in TV—Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Terry Crews, Stephanie Beatriz, Chelsea Peretti, Joe Lo Truglio, among others—and creates a hysterical working family within the context of a police station. Cops aren’t having the best moment in America right now, but the lovable crew of the 99th precinct makes you wish everyone with a badge laughed this much. —J.M.B.
Fox’s hip-hop soap opera has stormed the ratings and the pop charts thanks to its addictive blendi of hit songs and melodrama. Lucious Lyon, CEO of Empire Entertainment, has to decide the fate of his record label when a medical diagnosis makes it clear his days are numbered. With three talented sons in the running to take over Empire, things are complicated, and the return of his ex-wife Cookie ignites an already volatile situation. That’s just episode one. Starring two Academy Award-winning actors, Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, Empire is the best soap opera on TV right now. —J.M.B.
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4) Broad City
Since transitioning from a webseries to Comedy Central show in 2014, Abbi and Ilana have won our hearts and blunted minds. While the show is about the struggle to make it in New York City, the focus is really on Abbi and Ilana’s friendship, which often borders on romantic (at least in Ilana’s eyes). It also introduced “pegging” and “pussy weed” into the hive mind.—A.S.
This award-winning single camera sitcom stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross as upper-middle-class parents who begin to question if their lifestyle is getting in the way of their children’s cultural identity. Sitcoms that tackle issues can easily see their plots overwhelmed with preaching, but Black-ish handles the complicated racial world of modern America with comedic grace and occasionally righteous anger. Politically closer to All in the Family than The Cosby Show, Black-ish is thoughtful without ever forgetting to be funny. —J.M.B.
6) Fresh off the Boat
ABC’s Fresh off the Boat is based on the memoir of celebrity chef/writer/tv host. Eddie Huang, the son Taiwanese immigrants who moved from Washington, D.C., to suburban Florida when he was just 12 years old. Blending traditional sitcom tropes with a retro ‘90s setting and a family dealing with culture shock, Fresh off the Boat is as heartwarming as it is hysterical. Randall Park and Constance Wu steal the show as Eddie’s parents, setting a new standard for sitcom marriages. Thanks to Hulu’s relationship with ABC, you can watch the complete first three seasons whenever you want. —J.M.B.
7) Angie Tribeca
Steve Carell and Nancy Walls created their version of The Naked Gun with TBS show Angie Tribeca. Rashida Jones stars as the titular character, a tough-as-nails cop whose partners keep dying. It’s a spoof of cop procedurals, down to the CSI: Miami scream in the intro, but the physical humor, sight gags, whip-fast dialogue, and in-jokes about branding elevate it to something beyond mere parody. —A.S.
In an era of legitimate political unrest, at least we still have melodramatic action-packed political dramas to soothe our troubled hearts. Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Designated Survivor is a classic fish out of water tale. On the night of the State of the Union, an explosion kills the president along with almost everyone in the presidential line of succession. Thomas Kirkman, the secretary of housing and urban development, is quickly sworn in as president, but the following investigation of who caused the attack of the State of the Union puts his—and everyone else’s lives in danger. You can watch the entire first season right now on Hulu.
9) MasterChef and MasterChef Junior
The MasterChef series packs the two best parts of reality television—emotional resonance and everyday people being incredible—into a perfect savory series. Anchored by Gordon Ramsay, the show follows a group of home cooks through different culinary challenges until one of them is crowned the MasterChef. MasterChef Junior is everything that’s great about the original series, but with the bonus of adorable children. Nothing makes you want to pick up some knife skills like seeing an 8-year-old cut an onion like a pro. Along the way, you’ll likely pick up a few new cooking techniques and walk away knowledge of what it’s like to cry when someone nails a banana pudding during a timed challenge.
10) This Is Us
If you skipped This Is Us based solely on the melodramatic tearjerker commercials NBC ran to promote it, just know you’re missing out on an incredible drama. Sentimentality is in short supply these days, and this series offers an injection of much needed emotional catharsis. At its root, this tale of three siblings (two biological twins and their adopted brother, all of whom were born on the same day) is about the struggle to stay okay. Intertwining flashbacks to the characters’ teenage years with their adult lives, the show creates a sense of real mystery without cheesy action-packed drama. If you’re looking for an hour each week to shed a hard earned tear, This Is Us is for you.
The best shows on Hulu: Originals
Based on the ever-relevant novel by Margaret Atwood, women are stripped of all of their rights in the Republic of Gilead, a theocracy formerly known as the U.S. The few women who remain fertile in this near-future dystopia are now Handmaids forced to bear children, and it’s difficult to tell who really believes and who’s playing a part to stay alive when stepping out of line could mean death. With a stunning performance from Elisabeth Moss and an all-star cast including Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, and Alexis Bledel, the show (along with the fiery anger it sparks) will stick with you long after it ends. —Michelle Jaworski
12) Difficult People
Samantha Morton stars in Harlots as Margaret Wells, a former prostitute-turned-madam of her own brothel in 18th century London. As she struggles to better her station in life, she meets resistance from societal pressures, religious zealots, and her biggest rival—who happens to be her own former madam. With Morton playing against type, Harlots is, as Nico Lang wrote in our review, “a breath of fresh air and a bawdy delight.” —David Wharton
Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul returned to series television with this twisty thriller about a life inside a fictional cult known as Meyerism. Paul plays Eddie Lane, a Meyerist who’s now questioning his faith. That puts him at odds with both his wife (Michelle Monaghan) and the charismatic leader of the group, Calvin Roberts (Hugh Dancy). Created by playwright Jessica Goldberg, The Path is already charting a course for a third season. —D.W.
Hugh Laurie took home a pair of Golden Globes for his role as the acerbic Dr. Gregory House, and Chance slots him into a similar role as a troubled medical professional. This time he’s Eldon Chance, a San Francisco-based forensic neuropsychiatrist. He gathers every bit of expertise about both the human mind and the criminal mind after he finds himself on the bad side of a patient’s violent spouse, who also happens to be a cop. The series is based on the novel by Kem Nunn. —D.W.
For its first dance with late night, Hulu takes the Netflix-Chelsea Handler approach with weekly episodes, but that’s about where the comparisons to Handler or other late-night shows end. I Love You, America’s set feels like a throwback to a late-’90s MTV show, and Silverman has a “white guy at a desk” to throw to in case America needs comfort. That silly, “Oh you old so-and-so” vibe fits into the show’s nostalgic feel, but a joke about white guys and comfort lands at a time when it has much more weight. Perhaps Silverman will grind that down on a future show. It’s an uneven approach and Silverman explains this, a few times. But I Love You, America tries balancing personal exploration—Silverman tells the audience she’s trying to change her “cunty” behavior by being open to more viewpoints—with bubble-popping. —Audra Schroeder
17) Future Man
This science fiction-tinged comedy from Hulu arrives courtesy of executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The premise—a janitor named Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherson) is recruited by two resistance fighters from the future named Tiger and Wolf (Eliza Coupe and Derek Wilson) after beating a video game—is essentially lifted from The Last Starfighter. Future Man acknowledges this, and it offers copious nods Back to the Future and Quantum Leap. But damn if it isn’t funny. —Chris Osterndorf
It’s 1974 and 19-year-old Nebraska native Andy Klavin has come to Hollywood to chase dreams. And he’s landed closer to them than most, securing a gofer job on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show. There’s…Johnny! incorporates tons of real footage from The Tonight Show, weaving storylines in, around, and behind actual events (including an extortion plot that actually happened). It presents an unquestionably rose-colored vision of what it must have been like to work at The Tonight Show during its heyday, but that’s OK. This is a fawning fable, not latter-day deconstruction. —David Wharton
The best shows on Hulu: The classics
No show in modern broadcast history has done more to elevate crappy selfish people than Seinfeld, and for that, we owe NBC a debt of gratitude. The famous “show about nothing” has stood the test of time, remaining brutally funny nearly 20 years after its last episode aired. Seinfeld’s singular focus on the awful, awkward reality of everyday interactions gives it a timeless quality sitcoms rarely get to experience. Hulu is the only place you can watch Seinfeld online. Whether you seek to the be the master of your domain or find out what pisses off the Soup Nazi, Seinfeld is there to serve up absurd laughs 21 minutes at a time. —John-Michael Bond
20) Twin Peaks
With Showtime’s revival of the cult classic, now is as good a time as any to revisit the David Lynch and Mark Frost-created show, or jump into the fire for the first time. When Twin Peaks debuted on ABC in 1990, it quickly developed a fanbase enthralled by dream worlds, red rooms, murder, and owls that were not what they seemed. Though ratings couldn’t save it, Twin Peaks challenged what a TV drama could be ensured that 25 years after it went off the air, fans are still obsessed. —Audra Schroeder
21) The X-Files
For a brief, wonderful time, you could stream The X-Files on Netflix in glorious HD, free of commercials. Now your only option is Hulu, but at least the episodes are still in HD. Following the adventures of two FBI agents as they hunt for proof of the supernatural, The X-Files built a massive fanbase over the course of its nine seasons. True believer Fox Mulder and his skeptic partner Dana Scully dig through cases of alien conspiracies, mutant freaks, serial killers, ghosts, and even the odd musical number on their quest to discover the truth. While the last two seasons are a bit hit or miss, the legacy of The X-Files mythology can be felt in like-minded hits like LOST, Heroes, and American Horror Story. —J.M.B.
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It’s impossible to overemphasize how groundbreaking Buffy the Vampire Slayer was when it hit TV screens in 1997. Before Buffy, no TV show had successfully pulled off a combination teenage melodrama and legitimate horror, but Josh Whedon and crew rose the challenge. At times feeling a bit like Degrassi: The Vampire Generation, Buffy examines real-world teen issues between the bloodletting, using healthy doses of humor to keep the darkness at bay. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, David Boreanaz, Anthony Head, and the rest of its remarkable cast create believable characters in an extraordinary world. From experimental musical episodes to pitch black stories about teens dealing with the death of parents, Buffy is one of the rare gems of the ’90s.
When Cheers finally went off the air on May 20, 1994, 80.4 million people tuned in to say goodbye. Over 11 seasons the show built a loyal following, thanks to a relatable cast of drunks, intellectuals, goons, and sweethearts. No sitcom in history has featured a cast quite like this, a group of regulars at a local bar who are all running from something. Over the years the characters grew, but the show stuck to its heart: Good-natured joking between friends. It’s little wonder the show helped launch the careers of stars like Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kelsey Grammer, Woody Harrelson, and Kirstie Alley. Each episode endears you more deeply to the cast as they navigate debts, death, scams, broken hearts, and romantic entanglements. There’s a sweetness to Cheers that feels like a beer on an empty stomach, leaving you feeling warm even after just one.
Matt Groening’s surreal sci-fi comedy about life in the future may never reach the cultural importance of his original hit, The Simpsons, but at least you can rest easy knowing each of its seven seasons is essential viewing. Not bad for a show that’s primarily about a 20th-century pizza boy trying to find his way in the future after being accidentally frozen. Futurama survived cancellation to see a second life on Comedy Central after its original run was rediscovered via Cartoon Network reruns. Futurama works as both classic science-fiction storytelling and a comedic goldmine. Plot threads get set up in the first episode that take years to resolve, but even if you watch the show out of order, the strength of the jokes keeps you laughing even if you’re missing an inside joke.
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25) The Golden Girls
Sitcoms tend to focus on beautiful young people or middle-age adults dealing with family issues. The Golden Girls bucked tradition by centering on four older women in their ‘50s and ‘60s—four extremely horny women in their ‘50s and ‘60s to be exact. The Golden Girls had a brash realness about it, addressing topics ranging from impotence to AIDS with hysterical grace. Betty White, Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty, and Bea Arthur are brilliant actresses, able to swing from oneliners to heart-rending pain within the same scene.
Science fiction and horror are playgrounds for different ideas to flourish, and The Twilight Zone pushed each genre to their limits. This anthology’s 156 episodes of standalone stories spin tales of evil dolls, mischievous aliens, cunning demons, language errors, and more into nightmarish 25-minute morsels. Modern viewers might worry about the special effects holding up, but the storytelling sells even the silliest moments. Sometimes the monsters are a little rubbery, but if Talking Tina doesn’t give you nightmares, you’re a braver soul than me.
27) Family Matters
For the better part of a decade, Family Matters was part of the American Friday night landscape. Originally airing on the legendary TGIF block, home of classic family hits like Boy Meets World and Full House, the show centers on Chicago police officer Carl Winslow and his family. With his three kids, wife, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew living under one roof, Carl has his hands full, even before Steve Urkel becomes a factor. Urkel was the show’s breakout character, a pop-culture phenomenon that slowly takes over the show by the end of season 9 but begins as an oddly triumphant take on an awkward nerd. Family Matters is a show that can tell serious stories about racist police officers but also pull off “Urkle invents a machine that turns him into a heartthrob” episodes. The swing back and forth would be jarring if the characters weren’t so darn likable.
The best shows on Hulu: Off the beaten path
UnREAL’s creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro worked as a producer on The Bachelor, and the soul-deadening manipulations of the job became the foundation for this Lifetime show about the crew of a fictional dating show called Everlasting. Rachel (Shiri Appleby) is the sociopathic string-pulling producer, her boss Quinn (Constance Zimmer) the one who knows how to push her to the edge. UnREAL is a show about facades, but also the psychology women use on one another. —A.S.
29) One Punch Man
What started as a Japanese webcomic has become a sleeper series. One Punch Man focuses on Saitama, an ordinary man with extraordinary strength. In fact, one punch takes out his enemies, a power he often seems indifferent to. There are different classes of heroes, and each episode, Saitama takes on a different foe. There’s also a subtle, dry sense of humor in the series: Saitama’s fights aren’t really all that epic, and the other “superheroes” are kinda assholes. —A.S.
30) The Mighty Boosh
This BBC show tells the story of Howard Moon and Vince Noir, two zookeepers whose mundane job often spits them into alternate universes and outlandish musical numbers. While talking animals and mutant creatures like Old Gregg fill out the “Zooniverse,” The Mighty Boosh is really about the friendship between odd couple Howard and Vince. —A.S.
Before Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright collaborated on Spaced, a Channel 4 show about two Londoners (Pegg and Jessica Stevenson) who pose as a couple to snag an apartment. That guise is a channel into explorations of geek and pop culture, which would make their way into many Wright projects to come. It also managed to make paintball funny. This is the anti-Friends. —A.S.
32) Night Gallery
After The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling hosted this anthology series, in which he introduces tales of the bizarre in front of creepy paintings in his “night gallery.” The show was heavier on horror than The Twilight Zone, and featured appearances from Joan Crawford and Phyllis Diller, as well as the TV directorial debut of some guy named Steven Spielberg. —A.S.
33) Cowboy Bebop
Even if you don’t like anime, give Cowboy Bebop a shot. At just 26 episodes, this neo-noir/space opera is the perfect binge-watching experience. Set to a brilliant jazz score, Cowboy Bebop follows a group of intergalactic bounty hunters as they capture criminals and deal with the existential loneliness their life brings with it. Do you like fight scenes? Cathartic twists? Super intelligent Corgis? Cowboy Bebop has all that and more. Give it one episode, and you’ll see why Cowboy Bebop is regularly called one of the best anime of all time. —J.M.B.
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34) You’re the Worst
There are countless shows trying to mine the modern relationship for storylines, but Stephen Falk’s You’re the Worst goes beyond the tired will they/won’t they. The show’s main protagonists, Gretchen and Jimmy, aren’t necessarily a couple you’re rooting for: They’re both relationship-phobic and self-absorbed. But once their fears and neuroses are stripped away, something genuine emerges, and the show, in season 2 especially, paints issues like depression with true colors. —A.S.
38) Coming to the Stage
Comedy Dynamics’ original series puts a spotlight on emerging comedians, so you don’t have to scroll through a bunch of standup specials to find your new favorite. —A.S.
35) The Shield
It’s easy to write The Shield off as just another cop show at first glance, but a closer examination reveals a hidden genre masterpiece that’s far darker than its standard peers. How much darker? Hulu categorizes it under Horror and Suspense. Starring Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins, The Shield follows an experimental anti-gang strike force unit in the LAPD. Drunk with power, the team runs the streets, collaborating with criminals to keep the peace and pad their own pockets. Horrifically violent and tragic, it’s little wonder Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter got his start on the show.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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