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Hulu’s library of original series may not match the likes of Netflix, but the streaming platform has been making a name for itself with a recent flurry of great Hulu Originals. Psychological horror anthologies like Castle Rock and Into the Dark will get the blood flowing, while The Handmaid’s Tale delivers a nightmarish alternate reality that seems more realistic every day. Here are the best Hulu original series to add to your queue.
The best Hulu original series
3 seasons | Renewed (Season 4 starts production in 2020)
The Handmaid’s Tale dovetailed from Margaret Atwood’s foundational book after its first season. It took viewers out of Gilead, instead revolving around Offred taking back her real name, June, and attempting to escape with the help of Nick. While the first two episodes are a little too enthusiastic in their depiction of women being tortured or punished, the gratuity eases up after that, and the season comes into focus more when it starts exploring the journeys of other female characters. Ultimately, season 2 retains some of the previous season’s tone, while narrowly avoiding becoming a parody of itself. —Audra Schroeder
2) Castle Rock
2 seasons | Ongoing
Castle Rock co-creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason play the location up as a town “that has been visited by nightmares for centuries,” and that’s definitely touched on in the pilot episode. The prison looms over Castle Rock and draws Henry Deaver (Moonlight’s Andre Holland) back from Texas, where he’s been representing death-row inmates. He meets Bill Skarsgård’s pale, unnamed prisoner, who has been discovered in Shawshank’s bowels, and takes him on as a client. Adapted from a Stephen King novel, Castle Rock does rely more on the supernatural and ephemeral than straightforward horror, though there are stretches where you’re just waiting for the jump-scare. —A.S.
3) The Path
3 seasons | Ended
Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul returned to series television with this twisty thriller about 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). When we last left the Meyerist Movement, followers of “the Light,” climbers of “the Ladder” (the show manages to use a lot of other metaphors which aren’t “the path”), they were being split down the middle. A power struggle between prodigal son Lane and Roberts was brewing. Season 3 of The Path continues to put this power struggle at the forefront, but not without taking some unexpected turns along the way. It’s the sharpest season to date.—Chris Osterndorf
3 seasons | Ended
Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner (Billy on the Street) star as a pair of disenchanted New York comedians struggling to make it big without strangling anyone in the process. The pair’s shenanigans put them in the path of a rogue’s gallery of hilarious guest stars, including Martin Short, Kate McKinnon, Amy Sedaris, Nathan Lane, and Tina Fey. The show returned for a third and final season in August, with Lucy Liu joining the cast as a successful but “morally corrupt” book editor. —Chris Leo Palermino
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10 episodes (miniseries)
Featuring strong performances by Jeff Daniels, Peter Sarsgaard, and Tahar Rahim, Hulu’s “9/11 origin story” miniseries The Looming Tower is a solid espionage thriller given extra weight by the fact that it’s exploring what led to one of the darkest days in American history. Most of us have grown up watching this sort of story unfold on both the small and large screen, but every moment of The Looming Tower unfolds beneath that sense of terrible foreknowledge, turning every viewer into a Cassandra and making every missed opportunity to avert Al Qaeda’s plans that much more brutal. —David Wharton
6) Future Man
2 seasons | Season 3 status unclear (renewed April 2019, but no updates since)
This science fiction-tinged comedy 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 to Back to the Future and Quantum Leap. But damn if it isn’t funny. —C.O.
2 seasons | Ongoing (Season 2 finale scheduled March 6, 2020)
Into the Dark is another horror anthology show, less American Horror Story and more Black Mirror. Each self-contained episode revolves around a holiday, and the plan is to release one per month for a year. They play more like movies, judging from the pacing and 90-minute runtimes of the two episodes Hulu made available for review. While the first episode, “The Body,” fails to strike a darkly funny tone with groan-inducing jokes and pop culture reference, “Flesh & Blood” provides a tight, tense, and fun Thanksgiving story about a family dealing with loss. I’m looking forward to whatever Blumhouse brings viewers for Christmas. —Eddie Strait
4 seasons | Ended
In the Hulu original series Casual, Michaela Watkins stars as Valerie, a recent divorcee trying to reenter the dating pool while raising her teenage daughter, Laura (Tara Lynne Barr). She gets plenty of advice—not all of it good—from her bachelor brother, Alex (Tommy Dewey), who lets Valerie and Laura move in with him while they try to adjust to their new status quo. It’s a dark show, particularly the third season. Simply put, if you’re the type of person to crack jokes at a wake, this is the show for you. —D.W.
8 episodes (miniseries)
Stephen King adaptations have long been a hit-or-miss proposition, but Hulu mostly got it right with this miniseries based on his 2011 time travel novel. James Franco stars as an English teacher who travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Once settled in the past, however, things become a lot more complicated—and not just when it comes to saving the president. —Michelle Jaworski
3 seasons | Ongoing
Based on the comic series of the same name, Marvel’s Runaways follows six super-powered high school students who decide to get the childhood gang back together. Given the friends’ abilities, their reunion quickly evolves into a team effort to thwart a villainous team known as the Pride. There’s just one complication: The Pride comprises the students’ parents. As these teens fight to conquer evil, they must also grapple with the fact that the people closest to them are actually insidious strangers. —Bryan Rolli
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2 seasons | Ended
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 Hulu original series is based on the novel by Kem Nunn. —D.W.
2 seasons | Ended
Not to be confused with the 2006 mockumentary horror film, this Behind the Mask documentary examines a group of sports heroes who never seem to get their due: the mascots. Behind the Mask introduces viewers to seven different sports mascots, operating at all levels of the field, from enthusiastic high school amateurs, all the way up to the major leagues. Following the mascots’ lives both in and out of their colorful costumes, the show earned Hulu a nomination at the Sports Emmy Awards in 2014. —D.W.
13) I Love You, America
1 season | Canceled
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. —A.S.
1 season | Renewed for season 2 as UK3 Apple podcast (released December 2017 through June 2018)
Filmed in a mockumentary style reminiscent of The Office or Parks & Recreation, Battleground is a workplace comedy set within the cutthroat world of politics. Created by actor J.D. Walsh, Battleground follows a group of campaign staffers trying to help a dark horse Democratic candidate win a U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin. One of Hulu’s first original scripted series, Battleground tends to be overshadowed by more recent projects, but it’s funny, smart, and charming. —D.W.
2 seasons | Pending
Adapted from a piece on the popular social storytelling platform Wattpad, Light as a Feather traces the fate of five teenage girls who play a deadly version of the titular game in a graveyard one Halloween night. Liana Liberato (Trust, If I Stay), Ajiona Alexus (13 Reasons Why, Empire), Brianne Tju (Scream: The TV Series), and Peyton List (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days) star as the four central friends, while Haley Ramm (Disconnect) plays the strange outsider who joins them on that fateful night in the cemetery. The original story, by Zoe Aarsen, found a million readers online in less than six months and remains in Wattpad’s top 25 for paranormal fiction. —C.O.
Hulu original series: Co-productions
1 season | Canceled
If you start watching The First expecting it to be “Sean Penn in space,” you’ll surely be left disappointed. Hulu’s latest prestige drama stars Penn as a veteran astronaut leading a crew on a mission to Mars with both their lives and the future of space exploration at stake. The first season mostly stays earthbound as it focuses on the political, personal, and scientific stakes of sending the first human crew to Mars. Conceived by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon and featuring an A-list star and stunning visuals, The First has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, it all amounts to a show that often drags and leads to a kind of clichéd melodrama that has a lot of ideas but isn’t always successful at executing them. —M.J.
3 seasons | Pending
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.” —D.W.
More Hulu original series
Wu-Tang: An American Saga (1 season | Pending, Season 2 planned for 2020)
Reprisal (1 season | Pending)
The Act (1 season | Pending)
East Los High (4 seasons | Ended)
Freakish (2 seasons | Ended)
Shut Eye (2 seasons | Ended)
Veronica Mars (4 seasons | Pending)
Catch-22 (1 season | Pending)
Hard Sun (1 season | Pending)
Dollface (1 season | Pending)
Quick Draw (2 seasons | Ended)
Deadbeat (3 seasons | Ended)
The Hotwives (2 seasons | Ended)
All Night (1 season | Pending)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1 season | Pending)
The Bisexual (1 season | Pending)
Pen15 (1 season | Renewed)
Shrill (1 season | Renewed)
The Awesomes (3 seasons | Ended)
The Doozers (2 seasons | Ended)
The Bravest Knight (1 season | Pending)
A Day in the Life (2 seasons | Ended)
Up to Speed (1 season | Ended)
RocketJump: The Show (1 season | Ended)
Triumph’s Election Watch 2016 (1 season | Ended)
Spoilers with Kevin Smith (2 seasons | Ended)
The Morning After (3 seasons | Ended)
Co-productions & continuations
The Thick of It series 4 (1 season | Ended)
Mother Up! (1 season | Ended)
The Wrong Mans (2 seasons | Ended)
Hard Sun (1 season | Ended)
The Mindy Project (Seasons 4-6) (3 seasons | Ended)
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