Hulu has continually been adding more Original programs and series to its collection, so we’re taking a fresh look at the best original programming the streaming service has to offer. Previous entries are still on the list, but look for some new names and for a few of the older titles to move to honorable mentions.
There’s a lot more to Hulu than last night’s network dramas and The Handmaid’s Tale. The streaming service has been busy for several years producing an extensive range of original content, from dramas and science fiction to comedy series and even documentaries. Here is a round-up of some of the best offerings from Hulu Originals.
This list is a scientific blend of Rotten Tomatoes scores (the two percentages, noting critical and audience response), the initial buzz for new series, as well as broader public appeal, and maybe just a little of this reviewer’s opinions.
1. The Handmaid’s Tale (88%)
3 seasons, renewed
While not the highest-ranking, review-wise, the popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale keeps it top on the list as season 4 approaches. The show needs little introduction, making entertainment headlines, inspiring scores of think pieces, and becoming a cultural icon in the light of contemporary politics. Just in case: based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian drama in which a totalitarian society takes over following a Second American Civil War, and fertile women, the “Handmaids,” are forced into child-bearing slavery.
In addition to widespread acclaim and numerous awards, the series also set a new standard for original content, being the first streaming series original to win an Emmy for Outstanding Series, as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama.
In season 3 audiences got a broader look at the power of Gilead in regions outside the gates of Boston. Meanwhile, the wheels of revolution were turning, activity was brewing across the Canadian border, and the tide might just have started to shift. As international tensions grow, anticipation is high for the Handmaids’ next move in season 4. Check out our review of The Handmaid’s Tale for our take on this acclaimed series.
2. Harlots (98%)
3 seasons, renewal TBA
Despite minimal public buzz early on, this co-production between Hulu and ITV in the UK has continually carried strong ratings and viewer popularity, with a quickly grown fan base. The period drama, created by Alison Newman and Moira Buffini, is a primarily woman-driven project, written and directed by women. Inspired by The Covent Garden Ladies by Hallie Rubenhold, Harlots is a lush romp, with a setting in 18th-century England’s sex trade. The series follows Margaret Wells, a woman balancing her role as a brothel owner with raising two daughters, in an era very much driven by the patriarchy. This might be the best feminist period piece you’re not yet watching.
3. Ramy (97%/83%)
1 season, Season 2 announced for spring 2020
Comedian Ramy Youssef frequently pulls from his own life as a Millennial Muslim American in his self-created fiction series about the struggles of a first-generation Egyptian American Muslim living in New Jersey. The show focuses on struggling with a personal spiritual path and finding balance with his traditional culture in modern America. Both hilarious and insightful, Ramy is a nuanced look at family, religion, and culture, in all of its messy, complicated humanity. Check out our preview of Ramy.
4. Looking for Alaska (91%/94%)
Miniseries, 1 season
While there is unlikely to be additional seasons due to the compact nature of John Green’s original novel, Looking for Alaska is a compelling 8-episode series that is worth the watch. The long-form structure allows for a tighter connection to the original story than film adaptations, and compelling performances by the young teen actors make it raw and relevant. Looking for Alaska tells the story of Miles, a young man struggling with high school and finding a place to belong who transfers to a boarding school for a fresh start, where he develops lasting friendships and falls for titular Alaska. When sudden tragedy strikes, the young group is forced face-to-face with grief and the pains of growing up. Read our preview here.
5. Shrill (92%/79%)
1 season, renewed, Season 2 begins January 24, 2020
Shrill, inspired by Lindy West’s 2016 feminist memoir on body positivity Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, focuses on Annie (Aidy Bryant), an overweight young woman with a burgeoning new career who is ready to change something in her life—but not her body. The show’s short, sweet first season easily won over audiences and critics for its combination of comedic misadventures with heartfelt honesty, as well as a pointed commentary on beauty standards. Star Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live), who wrote and adapted the series along with West and Alexandra Rushfield, brings a star turn as one of the few plus-size leads on TV—particularly one so fully realized in her own story. Read our preview here.
6. PEN15 (95%/84%)
1 season, renewed
PEN15 is an exciting comedy co-created and written by real-life best friends Maya Erskine(Casual, Insecure) and Anna Konkle (Rosewood, Maron). PEN15 chronicles “middle school as it happened.” From burgeoning sexuality and early romantic encounters to the challenges of changing friendships and peer pressure, PEN15 tackles each awkward bump on the road to maturity—with the added twist of the adult creators playing13-year-old versions of themselves surrounded by actual teen actors. Both endearing and cringe-worthy, PEN15 has won over audiences and critics alike. Read our preview here.
7. Veronica Mars (89%)
1 season, renewal TBA
The fourth season “reboot” of the cult mystery drama brought the popular former-teen detective back to audiences with an eight-episode new season. The show caught up with Mars returning to her seaside hometown and her roots as a private eye, digging into a series of mysterious bombings disrupting spring break. While there were mixed reactions from fans on the season’s conclusion, and it may or may not have tied up things too neatly for another season, it was a fun revisit to the series and the characters that had been so beloved on the 2004 CW drama. Read our preview here.
8. Marvel’s Runaways (86%/89%)
2 seasons, renewed, Season 3 begins December 13
Hulu Originals partnered with Marvel for this teen-oriented superhero drama in which six teenagers are brought together through the discovery of their parents’ criminal doings—and their possible supernatural powers. While sharing continuity within the larger MCU, the series primarily focuses on the lives of teens, giving series treatment to the issues of younger characters than other entries in the franchise. Season 2 took the kids deeper underground and in a new type of battle, not just with their parents and the threat of earth’s destruction, but also into the complicated relationships within one’s own family. Read our initial review here.
Marvel’s Runaways will return for a third and final Season 3:
9. Castle Rock (87%/80%)
2 seasons, renewal TBA, Season 2 began October 19
Another anthology series, Castle Rock, is one of several Stephen King properties in development with Hulu. The first season debuted in July 2018 with 10 episodes intertwining the lives of characters in the small town of Castle Rock, Maine, the setting for many of King’s novels and stories. Castle Rock weaves multiple stories in and out of the King canon, tying together his prominent themes in a new suspense/thriller. Season 2 focused on such classics as Misery, The Body (Stand By Me), and more, and managed to hold as strong a following as season 1.
10. Future Man (91%/86%)
2 seasons, renewed
Previously an honorable mention, the second season of this dark comic adventure bolstered its profile with fans, as well as its place on this list. Future Man stars Josh Hutcherson (Hunger Games) as a slacker janitor and gamer who is called upon to save the world after his futuristic video game turns very real. Co-starring Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings) and Derek Wilson (Preacher), season 2 raised the stakes for the time-traveling heroes, as they join forces to save the world—again. After the success of season 2, Future Man is coming back for a third (but final) season.
11. The Accident (new) 89%
Miniseries, 1 season, premiered November 22
When a Welsh community is rocked by an accident that kills a group of children, tensions run high in the search for justice. With questions unanswered by town leadership, one woman struggles to help hold the community together, while caring for her daughter—the one survivor of the accident. The miniseries may not become an ongoing drama, but it a great example of Hulu’s partnerships with outside distributors to bring exclusive viewing of great international television to its viewers.
For Your Consideration . . .
12. Four Weddings and a Funeral (44%/82%)
1 season, renewal TBA
Perhaps not a critic favorite, but the quirky British rom-com Four Weddings and a Funeral, based on Richard Curtis’s 1980s hit film of the same title, has an active niche audience. And for fans who fit that niche, it is a delightfully frothy romp. Stretched over a year of the titular four weddings and a funeral, a group of friends explore love, loss, successes, and struggles for identity in modern-day London. It’s a little sappy and self-referential but manages to hit the heartstrings. Launched as a miniseries and moderately self-contained, there is no word yet on another season. But one can hope. Read our preview here.
Many of these series have been over for a bit, but, honestly, we couldn’t entirely take them off the top recommendations list, as they are still choice selections in Hulu’s collections.
Difficult People (95%/80%)
3 seasons, ended
Difficult People isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a dark comedy starring series creator Julie Klausner, along with Billy Eichner, which follows the pair as struggling and bitter comedians in New York. Their frequently clueless and antisocial behavior consistently lands them in one awkward situation after another in each 30-minute episode. Despite the often offensive or cringe-worthy antics, the series is smart and built a solid following (not hurt by the influence of executive producer Amy Poehler).
4 seasons, ended
Casual focuses on the antics and bonding between two adult siblings who face the challenges of the dating world side by side after newly divorced Valerie moves in with her bachelor brother Alex, along with Valerie’s teenage daughter. All three are navigating the waters of casual dating while on the road to personal growth. The show earned regular rave reviews and was considered a turning point in the quality and expansion of Hulu’s original content.
The Path (79%/83%)
3 seasons, ended
Don’t let the Rotten Tomatoes score fool you. Despite some mixed reviews, this mysterious drama has not been short of viewers or fans. The Path centers on a family in the center of a controversial cult, dealing with the struggle between power, belief, and personal relationships. Starring Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Michelle Monaghan (True Detective), and Hugh Dancy (Hannibal), the series starts insular, dealing with a personal crisis of faith, but grows and expands over the three seasons.
The Act (91%/90%)
1 season (anthology), renewal TBA
Announced as a seasonal anthology, The Act dramatically retells stranger-than-fiction true crime stories. The first season focused on the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard, following years of psychologically and physically abusing her daughter, Gypsy Blanchard. While the show garnered strong critical praise, it also raised concerns among the real-life participants in the case regarding portrayals and legal rights to the story. As of now, the fate of the series’ continuation—and whether a future season will focus on this same case or something new—is unknown.
Read more about the show here: https://www.groundedreason.com/hulu-debuts-the-act-on-march-10/
There are so many other great shows to explore on Hulu, here are a few others that might not be “Hulu Originals” in, well, origin, but are worth an “Honorable Mention.”
The Wrong Mans (91%/91%) is a two-season British comedy from BBC Television, in which a county council employee and his mate become entangled in a deadly criminal conspiracy. Created by James Corden and Mathew Baynton, the series combines the intricacies of a crime drama with the tropes of a sitcom, all driven by a simple case of mistaken identity.
National Treasure (91%/95%) first aired in the United Kingdom, but the streaming service has exclusive distribution rights. The series is a four-part drama inspired by a real-life police operation that uncovered cases of abuse by several veteran TV performers. Starring Robbie Coltraine, the four-part television drama is engaging, timely, and received universal acclaim when it aired in 2016.
11.22.63 (80%/88%) is a science fiction miniseries thriller based on Stephen King’s novel about an ordinary English teacher sent back in time to stop the JFK assassination. Mysterious setbacks and supernatural happenings keep the series engaging through all eight episodes, and the compelling storytelling is not surprising given the pedigree involved. The series stars James Franco and Chris Cooper.
The Mindy Project became a Hulu Original when Fox aimed to cancel the popular rom-com after 3 seasons. Hulu picked up the property and continued following the antics of Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and her friends for an additional 3 seasons.
Also worth checking out is Hulu’s steadily growing collection of original documentaries and documentary series, covering such range of topics as the failed Dana Carvey show, the creation of Batman, history of Barbie, skateboarding magazine Big Brother, and the lives of sports mascots. Plus, March of the Penguins 2: The Next Step.
How to get Hulu
New to Hulu? Subscribing is easy. Start with a free trial month, and then choose from several plans:
- $5.99/month with limited commercials
- $11.99/month commercial free
- $39.99/month commercial-free + live TV of up to 50 channels, as well as on-demand feature.
Hulu is available on Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire, Xbox, and mobile devices. See our review of Hulu for a full list of features.
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