Who doesn’t enjoy a weekend cuddled up on the sofa with nothing to do but blast through an entire series (or two) of some of the most engaging and entertaining TV ever made? Since it launched 11 years ago, the U.S.-based subscription video-on-demand service Hulu has been streaming (and creating) some of the most watchable shows of the day. From the weighty Handmaid’s Tale to the lightweight The Awesomes, it’s captured the market in the kind of TV shows that viewers actually want to watch. And watch we do, as the viewing figures attest. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next binge-watching experience, you’re guaranteed to find it on our round-up of the 20 best Hulu shows of all time,
Starring Hugh Laurie in all his post-House glory, Chance was a thrilling, no holds barred look into mistaken identity, corruption, and mental illness. Unfortunately, Hulu canceled the series after just 2 seasons, but it made a big enough impact during its short run to make it to number 20 on our list.
19. East Los High
Teen drama series East Los High makes it to number 19 on our list. Centered on a group of young friends as they face the challenges of being a teenager in East Los Angeles, the series proved a hit with viewers and critics alike, achieving an average audience score of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes.
18. Into the Dark
For fans of horror, Hulu’s anthology web series Into the Dark is a must-see. Its unusual format has each episode drawing inspiration from a holiday from the month of its release (with the October episode focused on Halloween, the November episode on Thanksgiving, the December on Christmas, and so on). If you’re not yet convinced of its merits, maybe Rotten Tomatoes can help. "Into the Dark is a worthy horror anthology, offering viewers a selection of frightening and witty gothic tales like a tray of cobwebbed bonbons, making for a spooky Halloween treat." Convinced? Then look out for the second season in September 2019.
An entire season of watching a couple of 7th graders dealing with the trials and tribulations of life as teenagers may sound hard going, but at the hands of show creators Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle, and Sam Zvibleman, PEN15 is a light-hearted, engaging romp that fully deserves the second series Hulu has already commissioned.
16. The Awesomes
Created by Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker, The Awesomes is an animated show for adults that follows the story of Prock, the son of the legendary superhero, Mr. Awesome. Following Mr. Awesome’s retirement, Prock is tasked with assembling a team of misfits to restore his father’s former superhero task force to its best. After three seasons, Hulu canceled The Awesomes due to low ratings. We clearly didn’t know a good thing when we had it, as repeat viewings will attest.
15. The Bisexual
One- part comedy, one- part drama, all- part’s amazing- The Bisexual is an intelligent and sensitively rendered depiction of modern-day relationships that features wonderful performances from its two leads (Maxine Peake and Desiree Akhavan), a compassionate, witty script and an emotional honesty in both that makes for a rare treat.
14. Future Man
If you like comedy, there’s a very good chance you’ll like Future Man. Starring Josh Hutcherson as a research facility janitor who gets the shock of his life when two characters from the fictional video game Biotic Wars free themselves from the confines of the game and recruit him to help prevent the real Biotic Wars from starting. The dumb humor of the show keeps things light and breezy enough that it doesn’t get dragged down by its sci-fi elements, while the interplay between the charismatic leads is a joy to watch.
Deadbeat may have been prematurely canceled after just 2 seasons, but while it lasted, it was compulsory-viewing. The show follows Kevin Paralogue, a goodhearted but perennially underachieving medium for hire who helps ghosts find peace by solving their unresolved problems. Tyler Labine (Kevin) and Brandon T. Jackson (Kevin’s best friend and drug dealer, Roofie) both turn in fine performances, as do their supporting cast members Lucy DeVito, Cat Deely, Karl Penn, and Kurt Braunohler. For fans of light, silly entertainment, Deadbeat is the perfect indulgence.
12. The Mindy Project
Granted, The Mindy Project didn’t start on Hulu, but seeing as it did end up there, we’re going to say it still counts for our purpose anyway. The series made a star of its titular character, Mindy Kaling, and for good reason: as both the creator and star of the show, Kaling proved herself a quick wit, as capable of writing a killer punchline as she was of delivering one. Undercut by a warmth and joviality that can sometimes be missing in similar shows, The Mindy Project makes a well-deserved entry to our list at number 12.
Led by the question “Every teenager thinks their parents are evil. What if you found out they actually were?” Runaways is the engaging story of a group of teenagers who have about as much in common as fire and water- which makes uniting against a common enemy (their parents, in case you hadn’t released) challenging for them, but hugely entertaining for us. If you haven’t already, make sure to catch up on the first 2 seasons before the third hits our screens in December 2019.
This British- American crossover series shows that while the two countries may be divided by a common language, they can still make some pretty decent TV when they get together. Set in Victorian London, the series follows the lives of a group of sex workers hellbent on improving their fortunes and taking down the men that prey on them. With corsets, orgies, death, mayhem and a very fine performance from Samantha Morton, you’ll storm through the entire three seasons before you’ve realized.
In at number nine is the horror series, Freakish. The show follows a group of high school students as they work together to protect themselves from the “freakish” breed of zombies created from the fallout of a chemical plant explosion. Fresh, witty and available in easily digestible half-hour episodes, Freakish may not have been the most original show ever released, but it makes for a great binge-watching experience, none the less.
“He may be a contentious figure, but few would deny that when James Franco is at his best, he’s dynamite to watch. In this time-travelling series based on Stephen Kings novel of the same name, Franco plays Jake Epping, a newly divorced teacher who’s offered the chance to step back in time to avert the assassination of John F Kennedy; a noble plan that goes drastically wrong when he finds himself attached to his new life in the past. With an attention to detail that makes the early ’60s come alive, all the way down to the beehive hairstyles and chalky lipstick, this is a must-watch for anyone who’s ever wondered, “what if…”
7. Castle Rock
Stephan King has really corned the market in inspiring quality TV, as our next entry shows. The psychological horror anthology series starring André Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgård, Jane Levy, and Sissy Spacek in its first season, flits constantly between the dark and the light, leaving viewers perplexed, intrigued, and always eager for more. Luckily, we won’t have to wait too long to get it.. season 2 is due to premiere later this year, with an all-new lineup that includes Lizzy Caplan, Paul Sparks, Yusra Warsama, Barkhad Abdi, Elsie Fisher, and Matthew Alan.
6. The Looming Tower
Based on the book of the same name by Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower depicts the rising threat of Al-Qaeda during the late 1990s as it follows the counter-terrorism divisions of the FBI and CIA, two units ostensibly working for the same goal but divided by bitter rivalry. The ten-episode run starring (among others) Jeff Daniels, Tahar Rahim, Wrenn Schmidt, and Bill Camp, met with a positive response from critics, who praised the powerful storylines and excellent acting. If you’re looking for something with enough heft to counter the lightweight floss dominating the screens at the moment, here you have it.
5. The Path
Jessica Goldberg’s drama was a masterclass in exploring the fine line between a cult and a religion, and the sometimes tenuous boundaries that separate the two. With fine performance from Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancy and Michelle Monaghan, the show was warmly received by critics during its 3 season run, with Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter noting “There's a lot to like about The Path, from the strong visual sense of place that director Mike Cahill established in the first two episodes to its theoretical take on faith, and of course the exquisite acting and deft writing”.
4. Difficult People
Created by and starring Julie Klausner, Difficult People was one show that never shied away from digging around in topics others might consider taboo. Take its frequent takedowns of Woody Allen, for example, a man that still commands great respect in the industry despite the allegations of child abuse that hang over him. In one memorable episode, Julie learns she’s to audition for a film director “who is arguably offensive to women.” After guessing Eli Roth, the casting director corrects her with “Close — Jewish also, but his violence against women is more dialogue-based and exists more in his characters’ antiquated attitudes towards them.” Two guesses what her next answer was…
3. The First
With a stellar ensemble cast that included the likes of Sean Penn, Natascha McElhone, LisaGay Hamilton, Hannah Ware, and Keiko Agena, The First was a guaranteed success. Or so we thought. Hulu disagreed, and cancellated the show after just one season. Still, it was an awesome ride while it lasted. Following the first human mission to Mars, Beau Willimon’s drama was ambitious, original, and compelling, with first-rate performances from the entire cast.
Bold, unconventional, and deliciously original, Casual misses out on the top spot by a whisker. The series revolves around Alex (Tommy Dewey) and Valerie (Michaela Watkins), a pair of siblings that grow a little to close for comfort, drift apart, and then have to work to find a happy balance in between. The series, which ran for four series between 2015 and 2018, was warmly received by critics, with Rotten Tomatoes summing up the overall consensus with "Jason Reitman's Casual is a funny -- albeit very specific -- look at modern dating, sharpened by edgy dialogue and self-assured performances.”
1. The Handmaid’s Tale
As one of the most thought-provoking and critically acclaimed shows of all time, what else could be at the top of our list than the Handmaiden’s Tale? Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, the show is set in a dystopian world in which the patriarchy has taken full control. Birth rates have plummeted so low, the few fertile women left have been assigned as “handmaidens’ to bear children for the new breed of aristocracy. June Osbourne (Elizabeth Moss) is one such handmaiden, but unlike some of her counterparts, she refuses to bow to the new social order, and is determined that one day, she will be free. Since its launch in 2017, the show has become Hulu’s most critically successful original series of all time, winning 8 Primetime Emmy Awards for its first season alone, as well as a Golden Globe for Best Television Series and a Golden Globe for Best Actress for Elizabeth Moss. If you’re going to pick only one series to binge-watch this weekend, make it this one.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn