Hulu may not be an original-series powerhouse on the same level as Netflix or Amazon, but in the past few years, it's managed to rack up a respectable little stable of shows you won't find anywhere else.
Hulu's programming tends to be a little on the experimental side, marrying big-name actors with offbeat source material. While the results aren't always perfect, you won't find anything else quite like them, whether you're in the mood for true crime, supernatural horror or sitcoms that feel just a little too out-there for network TV.
We've combed through the service's library to find the best Hulu original shows, and they're well worth a look.
Based on the best-selling Stephen King novel, 11.22.63 is a time-travel thriller that stars James Franco as Jake Epping. In typical King fashion, Jake is an English teacher from Maine who discovers a way to travel back in time to 1960. There, he becomes obsessed with stopping the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. Like most King adaptations, 11.22.63 is smart and intense, and plays with viewers' perceptions of right and wrong.
True-crime fans will probably dig The Act, which retells the real-life story of Gypsy Blanchard and her overbearing mother, Dee Dee. Gypsy (Joey King) is a cancer patient who uses a wheelchair and is dependent on Dee Dee (Patricia Arquette) for anything approximating a normal childhood. However, as Gypsy grows up, she starts to realize that she isn't sick at all and that Dee Dee has been manipulating her to think otherwise.
The story of the dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship and its grisly aftermath is a little exploitative — the real-life Gypsy has threatened legal action — but it's easy to binge, thanks to standout performances from both lead actresses.
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Television has never been shy about adapting Stephen King stories, from the postapocalyptic epic The Stand to the psychic mystery of The Dead Zone. Castle Rock tries something new with the prolific author's well-worn formulas. Rather than adapt a single King story, Castle Rock weaves King's entire mythos together, using his recurring fictional town of Central Rock, Maine, as a hub. As attorney Henry Matthew Deaver (André Holland) investigates a series of strange occurrences in his unusual hometown, he starts to encounter familiar characters from King's other stories, as well as other spooky mainstays, from unexplained deaths to alternate realities.
A fun romantic comedy tempered by a healthy dose of cynicism, Casual is a sitcom that explores the pitfalls and triumphs of modern dating. Valerie (Michaela Watkins) has just divorced her husband and now lives with her brother, Alex (Tommy Dewey). As it happens, Alex is the inventor of a popular dating app, which puts Valerie in a unique position to get her love life back on track — or to mess it up even further.
Controversial tweets, outrageous restaurant schemes, ruined Jewish holidays — these are just some of the trials and tribulations faced by Julie Kessler (Julie Klausner) and Billy Epstein (Billy Eichner) in Difficult People. Best friends and misanthropes, Julie and Billy are mildly fictionalized versions of the actors who play them, trying to get their comedy careers off the ground in New York City. As with Seinfeld or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you can't help but root for the unpleasant protagonists.
The Handmaid's Tale
In 1985, Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel seemed much less plausible than it does today. Hulu's new adaptation of Atwood's work follows the same storyline as the book. In the near future, the United States becomes a theocracy in which fertile women have no rights and no role, save for childbirth. Elisabeth Moss plays Offred, a handmaid who must bear a child for the aloof Commander (Joseph Fiennes), who may not be what he seems.
Based on Hallie Rubenhold's nonfiction book "The Covent Garden Ladies," Harlots is a period drama about — you guessed it — prostitutes in Georgian England. Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) is a brothel owner looking to move up in the world and provide a better life for her daughters in the process. Along the way, she crosses swords with clergymen, policemen and criminals. If saucy British period melodrama is your thing, Harlots is an easy sell.
The Mindy Project
Hulu can bring beloved shows back from the brink of cancellation, as it did for The Mindy Project. Mindy Kaling stars as Mindy Lahiri, a gynecologist with a variety of wacky co-workers. It's part Friends, part Scrubs and part The Office, but if you like Kaling's blunt style of humor, you'll probably like the show's original Fox run and its Hulu continuation. The show's passionate fans were happy to see it return, at least.
Taking aim at Scientology and similar cultish movements, The Path is a thriller that pulls no punches in its criticism of religions that go too far. Aaron Paul stars as Eddie Lane, a follower of the fictional utopian movement called Meyerism. When Eddie begins to suspect that Meyerism is a cult, and that the isolated compound where its followers live is a trap, he must decide whether his faith or his suspicions are stronger.
The Thick of It
The Thick of It first aired on BBC Four, but Hulu co-produced its fourth and final season, helping it go out on a high note. In this British political comedy, a variety of politicians try to navigate the complicated worlds of governance, media and public relations. There's no single protagonist, although Peter Capaldi as the foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker is a delight in every episode. Fun fact: It's the template for HBO's Veep, which was created by the same team.