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By Kevin Nelson · November 15, 2021
The name Hulu was inspired by the combination of two words in Mandarin that mean gourd and interactive recording. Former CEO Jason Kilar has said the name “had this great sort of symbolism as the holder of precious things, which is the holder of premium content.”
Like the meaning behind the name, Hulu has become a multifaceted streaming service. With content from network and cable channels, it came along in the wake of Netflix’s transition into streaming in an attempt to revolutionize the way people access home entertainment. Cable cutters everywhere began to cut costs by getting rid of their cable services.
In 2011, Hulu began to create its own content. Since then, Hulu offers a diverse selection of genres that reflects the talent they champion. Let’s take a look at some of Hulu’s best holdings.
Although Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale was originally published in 1985, when the series was released in 2017 it seemed that the dystopian future she imagined was becoming a reality. All art reflects the time period in which it was created, even if subconsciously.
If you look at the pilot written by Ilene Chaiken, it’s easy to see how she translates this tension on the page. After the intense cold open where June, Luke, and their child Hannah flee for the border, we are met with the cold world of Gilead. June’s voiceover describes her room and why it’s so sparse. The Guardians of the Faith removed anything that handmaids can use to escape — and the only way to escape is suicide. It’s a bleak welcome and both scenes deal with the overall goal of June and the other Handmaids for the season — to escape Gilead by any means.
She mentions that her name is June and that her real name has been forbidden. There’s an action line that notes the switch, and from that moment on the character we were introduced to as June is now Offred. If you’re looking to switch names in a reveal or otherwise, this is a great example to turn to.Download the Pilot script
Based on the novel by author Sally Rooney, Normal People is about two very intelligent people on the cusp of graduating secondary school and moving on to university life. They’re a couple navigating several layers of social disparities.
For one, Marianne is rich and Connell is not. His mom works as the house cleaner for her family, so there’s already a power imbalance. To make things more complex, their power dynamic is opposite at school. Connell is popular while Marianne is seen as an outcast. He can’t even bring himself to defend her when she’s being bullied and keeps the relationship under wraps because he’s ashamed.
These sorts of dynamics within a relationship are ripe for drama, bringing a coming-of-age story about two teens as they enter adulthood and all the insecurities and complexity that comes with it into focus with an unwavering glare.Download the Pilot script
When Steve Martin and Martin Short team up, you know it’s going to be good. They exude raw comedic energy unlike any since Laurel and Hardy. I’ll let you decide which one is Oliver Hardy. Only Murders in the Building somewhat subverts the audience’s expectation that they’re in for a laugh fest. Creators Steve Martin and John Hoffman frame the comedians’ penchant for the ridiculous within the structure of a true crime investigation.
It’s a satire of the true crime podcast craze that this writer is fully guilty of loving. The episodes are reminiscent of the episodic narrative of most true crime series, with the characters recording sections of their podcast as intros to the episodes. The mystery twists and turns throughout the season until finally reaching that breath-catching reveal.Download the Pilot script
Written by The RZA & Alex Tse, Wu-Tang: An American Saga is the slightly fictionalized story of Wu-Tang’s formation and their road to superstardom. In the very first scene of the pilot, we see Dennis (Ghostface Killah) caught between two worlds: the streets and his responsibility as an older brother in a household where both guardians are mostly absent. The reader is aware of the threat lingering outside as he takes care of his brothers, who suffer from muscular dystrophy.
The shooter is presumed to be another staple of Wu-Tang, Sha (Raekwon). The two would go on to be the most consistent collaborators on solo efforts. This deadly feud between neighboring projects is the launching point, promising plenty of drama as the characters overcome their differences to create one of the greatest rap groups of all time.Download the Pilot script
Written by Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle, and Sam Zvibleman, the first scene of Pen15 establishes the time period of the show as the early to mid-nineties, not by indicating it in the scene headings or by superimposing but through the use of details. My Little Pony, a trapper keeper, Brad Renfro, JTT, and Troll Dolls all harken back to a lost age where phone calls can be interrupted by someone logging onto the internet to help establish the location and time period.
The writers help establish the relationship of their main characters with a simple inventive action that tells you everything — by drawing it in the yearbook. No need to go into the backstory or slow the reader/viewer down with exposition.
On page five, as the characters are about to embark on a journey to the first day of seventh grade, the writers do a great job of staging the wave of emotions sweeping over them, using capitalized text from their mental state while waiting to deliver any physical actions as the punchline. As we move from adrenaline and excitement to anxiety, the punchline becomes their sweaty armpits, and furrowed brow as AGITATION GROWS. As a reader, the visual cues make you check your own upper lip.Download the Pilot script
Protagonist Ramy contends with his religiously devout family traditions and the atheistic carefree American culture of his generation — trying to find ways to balance, honor, and embrace both aspects of his identity. He does it through the lens of wicked criticism rooted in his own experiences. He knows what it’s like to have a hole in his sock when attending a mosque.
When writers access their own insecurities as inspiration for their work, it becomes grounded and authentic. Sometimes the best approach to a difficult subject in your life is through comedy. Laughter often gets us through tough times and can offer a fresh perspective on the world. What Ramy does so well is balance the heartfelt tender moments with situations that provoke laughter, then wonder if it’s wrong that you laughed.
Inherent humor is often found in the shadow of our own seriousness.Download the Pilot script
Originally airing on Fox for three seasons, the series was canceled in 2015 and was picked up by Hulu nine days later. The show’s creator and star, Mindy Kaling, had been writing and performing comedy throughout college, having interned at Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
In 2004, Kaling was hired by producer Greg Daniels after he read a spec script she wrote as a writer/performer for the American adaptation of The Office. At the age of 24, she was the only woman amongst a staff of eight writers. Once The Office concluded in 2011, it was time for Kaling to shine on her own.
If you want to write comedic sitcoms, read her pilot. Every scene is hilarious and not a moment is wasted to deliver a really funny bit. It showcases her ability to be consistent so that it seems like the script itself has a laugh track.Download the Pilot script
Hulu continues to expand its dominance as the premium cable distributor as it recently added ViacomCBS networks with the Hulu + Live TV package, which includes BET, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and more. They continue to produce and distribute some great series and movies that showcase diverse voices with unique perspectives.
With Hulu, it’s all about perspective.