In January, Hulu announced that it was putting $500 million into original programming, going up against fellow web-streaming powerhouse Netflix. On Monday, we learned where some of that money is going, as Hulu announced its summer season. And to the surprise of some critics, the 10 shows — three originals and seven being shown for the first time in the U.S. — "might actually be worth watching," says Gizmodo's Mario Aguilar. Indeed, especially for an original-content rookie, Hulu is boasting "a pretty strong summer slate," says Leslie Kasperowicz at TV Blend. Here, five highlights from the online streaming giant's summer season:
1. Kevin Smith's cinematic variety show
Kicking off the season on June 4 is Spoilers, a new combination film-geek gabfest and variety show from indie director Smith, of Clerks and Chasing Amy fame. Smith will facilitate a lively discussion with "50 die-hard movie fans right after they've seen a big blockbuster movie on opening night," says Angela Watercutter at Wired. There will also be interviews, animated shorts, and gags. The fun part will be seeing "how in-depth [Smith] and his audience get if they dislike a film," says Germain Lussier at Slash Film. I can't see the new Ice Age flick, for instance, "getting a glowing review from a bunch of Smith-fan movie nerds."
2. Richard Linklater's travel show
Dazed and Confused's Linklater is debuting Up to Speed in August. Billed as a "travel show for the road less traveled," the show stars Timothy "Speed" Levitch, the fast-talking tour-bus guide from cult documentary The Cruise, who explores some of the more obscure tourist spots across the U.S., from "shoe gardens" in San Francisco to a particular subway grate in New York. Levich is, as Linklater says, "one of America's funniest freethinkers," and it will be worth tuning it just to hear him think out loud, says Ryan Lawler at TechCruch.
3. The "bro-mantic" basketball comedy We Got Next
The third original series comes from TV veterans Kenya Barris (America's Top Model) and Hale Rothstein (The Game), who have teamed up for "a raunchy, sarcastic and out-of-bounds half-hour show about a pick-up basketball team of four guys who should never have been friends in the first place." I'm not quite sure about a "bro-mantic comedy set in a basketball gym," says TechCrunch's Lawler. Well, "OK, maybe I'm kind of interested."
4. The imports from across the pond...
Hulu is bringing over four TV shows from Britain. Among the most likely to catch on? BBC Two's Rev, about a vicar (Tom Hollander) promoted from a sleepy, small-town parish to inner-city East London. There's also Derren Brown: Inside Your Mind, featuring a British magician who performs his unique brand of mind-reading on unsuspecting bystanders; Pramface, about two carefree teens who hook up at a party, then have a kid; and The Promise, a political thriller set in the Mideast. "Hulu is stepping into the unknown," Rev's Hollander tells The Wall Street Journal. Britons "respond to American shows the way Americans respond to British shows. We can understand them and yet they are totally strange."
5. ...And closer to home
The Yard, originally aired on HBO Canada, is a mockumentary-style look at two rival gangs of elementary school students, played out like "the quintessential crime-family thriller," says Tom Cheredar at VentureBeat. The Booth at the End is a psychological drama about an odd man (Xander Berkeley) who hangs out in a diner and can grant wishes, for a price. And then there's Little Mosque, a critically acclaimed comedy about a Muslim community that rents out space in a church. In other words, says TV Blend's Kasperowicz, it "looks like there's just about something for everyone."
Sources: Business Wire, Cinema Blend, Gizmodo, Slash Film, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Wall Street Journal, Wired