Last Updated: January 14th
Until the last few years, Hulu was only known as the best place to find current shows from elsewhere on television. But now, with more and more acclaimed series under its belt, Hulu has proved it can compete with the other streaming services’ original programming. If you’re trying to figure out exactly which original show to watch next on Hulu, here’s a great place to start with a look at the 15 best Hulu original series right now.
1. The Handmaid’s Tale
2 seasons, 20 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
Based on the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, Handmaid’s Tale is set in a dystopian future run by a fundamentalist government renamed Gilead. The fertility rate has bottomed out, women have been deprived of their rights, and the men have turned them into reproductive vessels. This future, however, is so recently removed from the present that the misery of the women — forced to be submissive through electroshock and other forms of torture — is compounded by haunting memories of their most recent past. Top-lined by the exceptional performance of Elizabeth Moss, the series also boasts strong supporting turns from Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, Joseph Fiennes, and Alexis Bledel, whose character attempts to rebel against the autocratic government and suffers excruciating consequences. It’s a harrowing series, often so bleak that it’s difficult to watch, but in our current political climate, the themes of The Handmaid’s Tale resonate loudly, and the second season is even darker and more powerful.
2. Castle Rock
1 season, 10 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Stephen King experienced a bit of a renaissance this year, at least on TV, but out of all of the adaptations from different streaming platforms, Hulu’s Castle Rock felt like the most realized, and most terrifying, of the lot. The show, which stars Sissy Spacek, Andre Holland, and Bill Skarsgard, follows the story of Henry (Holland) a death row attorney summoned home after a young man is found imprisoned beneath Shawshank prison. Henry’s got a murky past too, one that involves the unsolved murder of his father –- an event he has no memory of — and the strange happenings around town intensify as The Kid (Skarsgard) is set free and must figure out how he’s connected to Henry, his family, and the history of the town. It’s equal parts brilliant and terrifying, all you could ask for in a King adaptation.
4 seasons, 44 episodes | IMDb: 7.6/10
Michaela Watkins stars as Valerie, a forty-something Mom whose husband just left her for a grad student in one of his classes (it’s a cliche for a reason). She and her daughter move in with her layabout brother, Alex (Tommy Dewey), an independently wealthy co-creator of a dating website. Alex is caddish but intensely likable, especially once viewers realize that his womanizing is a pretense, that he’s simply too afraid to reveal his true self for fear of rejection. Like Transparent, with which Casual shares some DNA, there’s an organic, improvised feel to the series, which alternates between funny and heartbreaking as it seeks to find the humor in the devastation of loss and the awkward challenges of finding someone new. It’s a tremendously good show that only gets better in its later seasons.
4. Difficult People
3 seasons, 28 episodes | IMDb: 6.8/10
Difficult People is not for everyone. Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner, who co-wrote and star in the series, play best friends and aspiring comedians. The series, however, is not about their careers; in fact, it’s not about much of anything, like a more misanthropic Seinfeld. Difficult People is primarily about Billy and Julie being assholes and making fun of other people, often to their faces. They’re incredibly unlikable: selfish, cranky, narcissistic, catty and cruel. It’s as hilarious as it is mean-spirited, but the humor is esoteric and requires an audience as steeped in pop culture as the characters. It rewards those who keep up with the gossip blogs. It’s also relentlessly funny, but like Curb Your Enthusiasm, the humor is often uncomfortable. Billy and Julie, in fact, are more hostile to both the other characters on the show and its audience than Larry David is. It’s a fun watch but it’s toxic enough that it should be consumed in short doses.
5. The Looming Tower
1 season, 10 episodes | IMDb: 8/10
This historical drama starring Jeff Daniels and Peter Sarsgaard charts the build-up to 9/11 as seen through the eyes of agents in both the FBI and CIA. Daniels plays John O’Neill, the chief of the New York FBI’s Counterterrorism Center in the 1990s, who is convinced that a terrorist attack on the U.S. is imminent. He butts heads with Martin Schmidt (Sarsgaard), the CIA head of counterterrorism, who believes his agency is better equipped to deal with the threat of Al Qaeda and keeps valuable intel from the FBI. The action in this comes from watching Daniels and Sarsgaard, two incredibly talented actors, go head-to-head, chewing up every scene they’re in and obviously having fun doing it.
2 seasons, 23 episodes | IMDb: 7.3/10
Adapted by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage from Adrian Alphona and Brian K. Vaughan’s Marvel comic, Runaways is a slick, briskly paced teen soap featuring high school students discovering and coming to terms with their burgeoning superpowers. Runaways finds that happy space between the heaviness of Marvel’s Netflix dramas and the more lightweight nature of their network series (Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter). It’s a potent combination of compelling mystery and coming of age tale. The teen characters here are fantastic as they grapple with their own powers while investigating the dark history of their parents. Runaways takes a lot of cues from Schwartz and Savage’s The O.C. and Gossip Girl, respectively, although the series is not half as interesting when it’s exploring the conspiracy surrounding the parent characters, who are essentially the series’ supervillains. That storytelling deficit, however, is more than made up for by the existence of a dinosaur!