The 15 Best TV Shows on Hulu Right Now
Who among us has not yet succumbed to the inescapable vortex of The Office reruns broadcasting seemingly everywhere like a warm blanket of familiarity, its workplace idiosyncrasies lulling us to a place of distant familiarity and prompting a longing to reunite with even our most annoying colleagues around the copier or coffee machine?
The three of you who responded “no,” you have our admiration. But for the rest of us, it’s time to stop daydreaming about plans for our own Michael Scott Paper Company (or more likely, some less marketable version of David Wallace’s “Suck It” device), and start exploring that big wonderful world of television shows people have encouraged us to watch, but we put off or forgot about because, hey, Pam and Jim are on the TV again!
Hulu (part of the Disney+ bundle for $12.99) has become a thriving destination not only for great original programming but also for FX series you never reach on the dial, for one reason or another. Accordingly, we searched through the streaming service’s library of titles to create a shortlist of the best TV options they’re currently offering.
1. Normal People (2020)
Sally Rooney helped adapt her own novel of the same name for this dramatic series about two classmates whose lives intersect as they grow throughout adolescence and early adulthood. The show, which is just 12 episodes long, examines the backgrounds of Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), an outspoken young woman, and her popular, athletic, sometime-boyfriend Connell (Paul Mescal) as they succumb to the pressures of academia, to their families’ expectations (and limitations), and to attraction to one another. It's a thoughtful and serious soup-to-nuts look at teenage love and self-discovery that doesn’t shy away from intimacy, physical and otherwise.
2. Dave (2020-present)
If you’re wondering if a sitcom should exist to explore the career of a white rapper making his way in a musical milieu created by black artists, rest assured that the sitcom is wondering that aloud the whole time. Focusing on the exploits of Dave Burd, better known as comedically-oriented rapper Lil Dicky, this show not only features some of the best new characters on TV but wrestles actively with the identity of those characters and the way characters like them are used as tropes in storytelling and culture while delivering some of the smartest and most inventive storytelling on TV. Skip to episode 5, “Hype Man,” for one of the most illuminating and thoughtful portraits of bipolar disorder I’ve ever seen, then scroll back to the beginning to watch this extremely talented rapper reckon with his rights, and his role, in contemporary hip-hop.
3. Little Fires Everywhere (2020)
Fresh off of two seasons of Big Little Lies, Reese Witherspoon teams up with Kerry Washington for this critically-acclaimed adaptation of the book of the same name by Celeste Ng about two mothers from different backgrounds whose lives are upended when their paths cross. The series—which exploring race, class, privilege, and preconceived ideas—dares to ask some important questions about identity, choice, opportunity, and expectation, bolstered by riveting performances by Witherspoon, Washington, and a cast of acting heavyweights.
4. What We Do In The Shadows (2019-present)
If Taika Waititi’s success has completely exploded in the past two or three years, his earlier work continues to set off reverberations that audiences are discovering now to great delight. After Waititi directed and co-wrote the 2014 horror-comedy of the same name about cohabitating, centuries-old vampires reckoning hilariously with both changing times and classic relationship foibles, his partner Jemaine Clement created this series. Cleverly, it does not revisit the same glories but instead relocates another group of bloodsuckers to New York for more, and different, shenanigans as they try to maintain their undead, sexy lifestyle while succumbing to the challenges and indignities of modern social niceties.
5. Ramy (2019-present)
Ramy star and co-creator Ramy Youssef won a Golden Globe for his performance in this show, which explores the life of a young American Muslim with an honesty and humor that few other shows (if any) ever have before. Youssef wrestles not only with his faith but cultural perceptions of Muslims, attempting to reconcile his personal and professional ambitions against the backdrop of a culture—not to mention a family and religious community—that has its own expectations of him. Safely juggling sitcom scenarios while digging into these deeper truths, Ramy delivers exactly what you want from a half-hour series while giving plenty you won’t expect.
6. PEN15 (2019-present)
Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play 13-year-old versions of themselves in this funny, heartbreakingly honest show that exposes all of the wild discoveries of becoming a teenage girl, and the frequent indignities that come with them. Not just touching on coming-of-age staples like competition, peer pressure, and young romance, the show utilizes its actresses’ real ages to examine ideas like budding sexuality, the encroaching realities of adulthood, and the challenges of maintaining meaningful friendships and family relationships as each of these young characters becomes her own person.
7. The Handmaid’s Tale (2016-present)
Taking Margaret Atwood’s eponymous novel as its spine and inspiration, this series starring Elisabeth Moss explores a dystopian alternate reality and one frighteningly recognizable where some women are enslaved to bear children after fertility rates drop in the wake of STDs and environmental pandemics. The show makes audiences feel the devastating circumstances of Moss’s June Osborne week after week as it looks incisively at the circumstances that led to this type of control, including a slippery slope of bad legislation, complacency among voters until it’s too late, and oppressive patriarchal values that metastasize into a police state for women without the means to afford, or protect, their choices and their bodies. It's Infuriating and inspiring, and unmissable.
8. Difficult People (2015-2017)
Julie Klausner created this amazing series that exists for people who hate, well, pretty much everyone, except for that one best friend who also hates everyone. Klausner stars alongside Billy Eichner as two struggling comedians who wrestle with their many failures by inflicting their bitterness, hilariously, upon anyone within earshot. A perfect show for people who can’t get out of their own way, and for those who like watching hot messes, Difficult People is acerbic, bitter and brilliant.
9. Key & Peele (2012-2015)
Before Jordan Peele became a shepherd and truth-teller in horror and science-fiction storytelling, he and the great Keegan-Michael Key developed this series for Comedy Central, picking up the baton from Chappelle’s Show to create comedy from a uniquely multi-ethnic perspective. Where Chappelle was ruthless and unflinching in his indictments of behavior associated with people from all different backgrounds, Key and Peele nestled into the nuances and contradictions of those scenarios in a different, humanistic way along with some brilliantly off-the-wall set-ups that remains as identifiable, iconic, and hilarious today as ever.
10. Archer (2009-present)
FX’s (and later FXX’s) animated series Archer offers a delightful, raunchy deconstruction of James Bond and spy movies, anchored by the womanizing title character and the dysfunctional fellow agents, family members, and support teammates who revolve around him. The show has already catapulted a series of catchphrases into pop culture (“phrasing!”) but what’s remarkable about its longevity is how the characters have changed and grown in spite of the action-packed, puerile hijinks.
11. Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)
Originally conceived as a workplace sitcom cut from the mold of The Office, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur’s series about a small-town parks and recreation department deputy director (played by Amy Poehler) quickly evolved into a groundbreaking, inspirational show about an ambitious young woman and her efforts to make a difference and implement change opposite the forces of bureaucracy, cynicism, and corruption. The ensemble congeals into a magical showcase of differing, complementary personalities, from the humorless, change-averse Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) to the superficial, pop culture-obsessed Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), led and unified by Poehler’s Leslie Knope, a character who’s not always right but, more importantly, is always trying to make a difference.
12. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (2005-present)
In the arena of “shows featuring reprehensible characters we somehow love,” Seinfeld walked so Rob McElhenney’s long-running show could run. Dennis, Sweet Dee, Mac, Charlie, and Frank seemingly exist to take the worst possible lesson from a given situation (Bar gets robbed? Buy a gun!), but the show’s ability to refine and develop these characters (Mac, an overcompensating himbo, discovers and slowly comes to accept his homosexuality) is matched only by the lengths to which the writers will go to degrade and humiliate them for their awfulness, while projecting random meta-textual ideas on the actors (McElhenney gains tons of weight one season, then strips down to rippling muscles, for no particular reason than it’s what actors do). It’s the best show on TV you will love featuring people you will hate.
13. Scrubs (2001-2010)
Bill Lawrence’s series about medical interns offers one of TV comedy’s greatest sneak attacks transforming the business of personality management and patient-of-the-week plot structures into a quietly sensitive and sweet look at entering adulthood, forging lasting romantic relationships, and maintaining special, important friendships. As the series develops with a wink, it unveils new dimensions about the world around us and spotlights the experiences and choices that are most important to our growth, best of all when we’re laughing too hard to notice.
14. The Office (2001-2003)
Tired of watching those episodes with Andy as the boss? Or when Brian The Sound Guy started talking to Pam? Take a break and check out the original series that inspired not just so many elements of the U.S. adaptation of The Office, but a worldwide franchise in German, French, Swedish, Czech, and more. Suffice it to say that Ricky Gervais’s show touched upon some universal truths about office dynamics; but if you’re not sure you have the stamina to revisit the saga of Jim and Pam over again from the beginning (in this case, Tim and Dawn), take heart knowing that this groundbreaking show amounts to only 15 episodes, including three specials.
15. Seinfeld (1989-1998)
If Friends is the crowd-pleasing Beatles of modern sitcoms, then Seinfeld is its boundary-pushing Rolling Stones counterpart. Created by star Jerry Seinfeld and future Curb Your Enthusiasm creator and star Larry David, the show develops one brilliantly off-the-wall scenario after another for its four main characters—at least one of whom you can relate to (probably a little too comfortably to admit) making them all loveable without bothering much to try and make them likable. An endless revolving door of colorful supporting characters, often played by up-and-coming and future A-listers, gives the show new luster as you can spot them sneaking through episodes on their way to stardom.
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