Television has turned into the Wild West in terms of different avenues and platforms to find your entertainment. The medium is currently at a point where watching television on television is even wildly outdated. When Netflix hit the scene, it brought with it the advent of streaming content as well as bundles of original programming to come along with it. After the wild success that Netflix saw with their reinvention of the form, it only became natural for other streaming services to step up, each with their own growing libraries of enviable content. Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, SeeSo, FullScreen, and even more choices out there, basically every television show that you can think of is available at your fingertips. Through this race for streaming superiority, Hulu has done a strong job securing a position at the front of the crowd. The service has steadily added new series—both original and from other networks—with recent acquisitions like Seinfeld showing that they’re not messing around. With a bunch of new programming soon to hit the channel, here are currently The 15 Best Hulu Original Series, Ranked.
15. The Confession
The Confession is a bit of an anomaly for Hulu, which is why it’s bottoming out the list here. The series is actually more akin to a web series, with each episode from the ten-episode season clocking in between five to seven minutes. In spite of its short length, The Confession still manages to make its mark and still holds more firepower than some of the network’s acquisitions from foreign markets. The Confession stars Keifer Sutherland in a very Jack Bauer-like role alongside John Hurt, so even though this is a web series, it’s obviously not skimping in the star power. The Confession tells the isolated story of a hitman (known only as “The Confessor”) meeting with a priest in a church confessional. What follows is a gripping back-and-forth about forgiveness, the existence of God, and which of them is really the more corrupt individual. It’s also got a hell of an ending that acts as the perfect button for this succinct morality play to go out on. The only problem is that there isn’t more of this and that it feels like you’re jumping in at the end of something.
14. Shut Eye
Shut Eye doesn’t have the worst premise, which is why it’s so frustrating that it ends up amounting to such a forgettable, haphazard series. Jeffrey Donovan stars as Charlie Haverford, a magician-turned-psychic who begins experiencing pesky visions all of a sudden that start overturning his life. Shut Eye juggles the double-life aspect of the series well, but doesn’t nearly rise to the level of some more experienced shows that tackle the topic, like Breaking Bad. The series works its best when focusing on Charlie or Linda, his wife, and not the characters that orbit around them. Elements of Charlie’s home life, especially those involving his teenage son become especially grating. Donovan does a terrific job in the role, with there also being a supporting cast that consists of top talent like Isabella Rossellini, but none of them are able to spin their material into gold. Shut Eye crumbles under the weight of its many fumbling subplots, but it at least attempts to tell a grander sort of story here. Broad, messy writing ultimately robs the show of a lot of its suspense and power, but it’s likely to still cast a spell on some viewers.
13. Resident Advisers
It might only have one season of seven episodes, but Resident Advisers shows a ton of promise in that time. Set within the simple world of RAs in dorms, the series explores the irresponsible—yet sometimes surprisingly tender—exploits of the people with “the best job in the world.” Resident Advisers might not break the mold, but it boasts a strong ensemble cast that consists of the likes of Jamie Chung, Ryan Hansen, and Alison Rich. All seven episodes are also directed by Ira Ungerleider who has an enviable resume that most notably consists of Friends’ formative years as well as the more recent Angie Tribeca. Resident Advisers is an incredibly easy binge to get through on a rainy day, with its lack of further seasons being more a reflection of the popularity of the show’s cast rather than the quality of the show. There are plenty more stories that easily could populate this universe, but with college dorm comedy being relatively mined dry by now, perhaps a strong single season rather than a few watered-down ones is ultimately the better outcome here.
After The Walking Dead completely demolished the model of what was previously possible from genre content on cable television, it seemed like every network was interested in jumping in on this undead paradigm in some capacity. Hulu very wisely chose to produce a product that’s a hybrid of The Walking Dead’s apocalyptic claustrophobia as well as the clique-y social hoops that need to be jumped through in material set in high school. Even though it’s not afraid to be ambitious and invest in its characters, at its best Freakish ends up feeling like a lazy Breakfast Club rip-off meeting an early draft of The Walking Dead. Cliché plot decisions, a huge cast that is largely expendable, and an overly serious tone that doesn’t do its content any favors all hold back Freakish from being anything special. While’s it a step in the right direction for Hulu to be creating program for younger audience members and capturing some of that Freeform audience, they need to work harder on this material challenging those audience members rather than patronizing them. Nobody wants brooding young adult novel rejects.
Each of these major streaming networks have tried to rope in white whales of sorts, whether it be creators or actors, to populate their networks. Hulu succeeded in grabbing Hugh Laurie’s follow-up vehicle to House, and while Chance certainly lacks the versatility and staying power of the former, it still offers up a moody series where Laurie is mostly rising to the occasion in his role of Dr. Eldon Chance, a renowned neuropsychiatrist. Based on the series of Chance novels by Kem Nunn, Chance revolves around Chance getting steadily pulled into the duplicitous, dangerous life of one of his patients (played carefully by Gretchen Mol) that puts him face-to-face with police corruption and a myriad of other obstacles that run the risk of exposing his own secrets.
The series is sure to get under some viewers’ skin more than others, but Hulu has given a vote of confidence to the show by granting it a two-season order right from the jump. So even if numbers or discussion over the first season are low, it looks like the network isn’t too worried about people taking their time and figuring out if they want to give the show a chance.
10. East Los High
East Los High is Hulu’s longest running original series, totaling 60 episodes spread out across four seasons, raking up five Emmy nominations in the process, and yet so many viewers are completely unaware that this show even exists. Netflix, Amazon, and all of these streaming services have their neglected step-child of a series, with East Los High qualifying as Hulu’s. Almost seen as Hulu’s take on Degrassi, Carlos Portugal’s grounded series brilliantly taps into the Latino experience, bringing a number of typically unrepresented viewers along to the network in the process. The show utilizes an all Latino cast and is predominantly filmed authentically in its East Los Angeles setting. The series excels at depicting realistic problem that teenagers and highschoolers deal with, with the series’ tendency to get raw and honest being its strongest trait. It also helped prove that Hulu could be used to help sound the voice of a group that’s not getting heard anywhere else on television.
9. The Awesomes
It’s hard to believe that back in the late ’90s and early 2000s that taking on a superhero film was actually a bit of a risk. Now the genre is one of the most lucrative in the film industry, with the subject matter naturally being turned to in other mediums as well. Accordingly, the premise of a bunch of rougharound the edges superheroes is hardly original at this point, yet Seth Meyers, the show’s creator along with Mike Shoemaker, comes from a heavy sketch background that he’s still able to subvert expectations in worthwhile ways. The Awesomes never feels like mandatory programming though, with it very much blending into the background of other recent superhero skewering fodder. All the less, an impressive voice cast (that features a lot of Saturday Night Live crossover talent) and three seasons worth of content that does manage to mature over the years. Still, there’s not a lot of Hotwire cosplay going on at Comic-Con these days.
Deadbeat is an odd little delight of a show that nearly entirely costs off of the charisma of Tyler Labine, an actor who’s been in a slew of canceled fringe shows with this one really allowing him to shine. While Deadbeat finds a very comfortable rhythm with its slacker-turned-supernatural medium sort of humor, there’s no denying that this show is also just an amalgamation of other vehicles, particularly Dead Like Me. Over the course of three seasons Deadbeat does slowly find its own voice with there being a genuine connection formed with Labine’s Kevin “Pac” Pacalioglu, too. On top of all of this, some impressive effects work for the ghosts, a murderer’s row of high caliber guest stars from the comedy world, and the way that the series builds its own mythos about ghosts and the afterlife all help this show elevate to something a little higher. Labine is someone who always deserves to be working and it features by far the best paranormal poker matches ever committed to film.
7. Quick Draw
One of the earlier examples of original programming from Hulu, Quick Draw actually has a pretty inspired premise in place. The series is set in the lavish era of the Wild West, with the sort of production values and settings that would later become beloved on Westworld. Coming from comedian John Lehr, who also stars in the series as John Henry Hoyle (the only Harvard graduate to find himself in the position of sheriff), Quick Draw sees the underprepared Hoyle stepping in to police a town that is quickly making a habit of sending their last handful of sheriffs home in coffins. Quick Draw effectively communicates a fish out of water story with a hard genre embracing look into Westerns. The finished product may feel clumsy at times, but the show still has two seasons of content to try and win you over. Even when it’s stumbling, it’s at least enjoyable to watch something so different that has a firm point of view in check. It might not have left much of a legacy, but as one of Hulu’s first original programs, it did help illustrate what was possible on the channel.
6. The Hotwives
Parody television has reached an all-time high, with sometimes all it requiring to have a hit show is the ability to mimic another show. Dannah Phirman and Danielle Schneider gleefully expose the world of Real Housewives reality program, with their broadened version here very much coming out of a love for the “genre.” It’s clear that both Phirman and Schneider have consumed countless hours of Real Housewives and other related programs and it’s why this material ends up resonating so well. Set in Orlando during its first season and then Las Vegas during its sophomore year, Hotwives assembles a strong list of comedic females to fill out the cast, with each of them rising to the opportunity to be as unhinged as possible. Kristen Schaal in the Orlando season does an especially great job. Hotwives might be ultra-light content that might not have the deepest message, but as far as laughs per minute go, it’s hard to top this show. Even more so if you also happen to have the white wine flowing.
5. The Wrong Mans
Imagine Chinatown or The Conversation, but transformed into a sprawling British comedy. Before James Corden was sitting at a late-night desk and giving both carpooling and karaoke the biggest rejuvenation that they’ve seen in years, he was half of the creative team on the expertly plotted, brilliantly written The Wrong Mans. Created by Corden and his co-star, Matthew Baynton, The Wrong Mans sees Hulu teaming up with the BBC Two for this extremely satisfying co-production. Almost feeling reminiscent of Gervais and Merchant’s The Office, this series depicts blue collar everymen, Sam Pinkett and Phil Bourne, whose lives are completely turned upside down by the simple, innocent action of answering a ringing phone at the site of a car crash. The Wrong Mans was created because Corden and Baynton were anxious to combine a sitcom with the chaos and pacing of a white-knuckle action film and the series more than succeeds in its mission. The series might only be a condensed two seasons, but they perfectly tell a surprising narrative that gets crazier with each new turn. The Wrong Mans will have you laugh harder than most of the shows listed here, while also challenging you like few others, too.
It’s sort of a no brainer that taking powerhouses of creativity like Stephen King and J.J. Abrams and pairing them together is going to result in fireworks. Furthermore, this isn’t just any Stephen King adaptation, but rather one of his strongest novels in years, 11.22.63. The text tells the incredible story of a man who has gone back in time to complete the selfless mission of preventing the assassination of JFK. Do you really need to hear more than that? James Franco plays, Jake Epping, the story’s uprooted hero that quickly begins to learn that if you try to change the past then the past isn’t going to be afraid to push back. Abrams and company made the brilliant decision to contextualize this project as an economical miniseries rather than a lengthy series that risks petering out. Top notch production design, committed performances, and one of the most suspenseful, addictive stories you’ll come across all lead 11.22.63 to being one of the slickest productions that Hulu has to offer. Now when’s the next Stephen King adaptation happening?
Casual, the Michaela Watkins starring series, often feels like Hulu’s answer to Amazon’s Transparent. In the end, this show happens to be more reminiscent of something like Six Feet Under in terms of depicting a generational family and their many flawed idiosyncrasies. Aided by having the directing and producing power of Jason Reitman behind it, Casual taps into his comfortable niche of dissecting modern dating through differing generations. Casual uses acerbic, witty dialogue and genuine performances from its cast to balance the series’ tricky tone. In spite of the show being a comedy, it’s gotten progressively morose through its run with topics like cancer, death, and depression all rearing their heads. Casual highlights the honest, flawed journey of a woman trying to re-figure out herself and her love life, and with a third season on the way, this journey is far from slowing down. Casual very much feels like it has its finger on the pulse and there’s something exciting about such an honest, contemporary show about “love.”
2. The Path
The Path represents the very best kind of cerebral programming that isn’t afraid to put its viewers through the same sort of gauntlet that its characters are going through. The Path looks at the cult-like group of Meyerists, juxtaposing those who live their lives according to “The Light” and those that are part of the outside secular world. The show becomes an enrapturing think piece on the nature of belief and how religion can be just as harmful of a force as it can be a helpful one. The series never outright gives you answers, making you intelligently work the truth out for yourself. In addition to its deep, psychological subject matter, the series tremendously benefits from the cast being spearheaded by Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancy, and Michelle Monaghan, all of which absolutely kill it here. Watching these strong performers ricochet off of each other is never not entertaining. The show is only two seasons in, but is showing no signs of slowing down with the exploits of these Meyerists only becoming more destructive. Something’s got to give and you’re going to want to be watching when it happens.
1. Difficult People
Hiding around all of the time traveling assassination stories, brainwashing cult yarns, and misconstrued conspiracy theory shows, sometimes nothing is better than just watching two incredibly bitter people bitch at the world. Difficult People is set within Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner’s uniquely jaded perspectives as they navigate through evergreen topics like dating, work, and success in New York City. While it might not sound like incredibly original material, Klausner (who also writes the show) has a very specific viewpoint of New York that goes hand-in-hand with her layered plotting that dovetails together. It’s hard not to think about Seinfeld with this show sometimes. It’s just a bonus that some of the best performers in the modern comedy world get a chance to shine here, too. Difficult People is just simple, funny television that goes down easy. There are currently two seasons, with more on the way, but Difficult People is the sort of show that you can watch on repeat as you get progressively numb to Julie and Billy’s misguided actions.
But what do you think? Do you have a better order in mind? Or maybe you’ve got Hulu Japan and you’re a fan of their original series Crow’s Feet that’s not available over here? Or maybe you’re just a Netflix person. The space below is your place to be heard.