What’s Streaming on Hulu? ‘The First’ Premiere, ‘I Love You, America,’ & ‘UnReal’
Series Premiere, Friday, Sept. 14
Sean Penn reaches for the stars on his TV series debut, aptly titled The First. In this ambitious drama about the maiden manned voyage to Mars, the two-time Oscar winner plays Tom Hagerty, a distinguished astronaut recently fired from the project, which is headed up by obsessive entrepreneur Laz Ingram (Designated Survivor’s Natascha McElhone) under a contract with NASA.
As the series opens, the launch is continuing without its star crew member, and we’re plunged into the tense final moments of preparation at the New Orleans–area site. The astronauts do one last systems check, strap themselves in and count down — three…two…one — to blast off for the two-and-a-half-year mission to our neighboring planet. The atmosphere is filled with exhilaration, pride of accomplishment, great anticipation and, as always, a keen awareness of the life-and-death risks that lie ahead. “There’s something relentless in the human spirit about venturing toward the horizon, whether that’s reaching another planet, crossing an ocean or climbing a mountain,” says executive producer Beau Willimon (House of Cards). “The First is about that need and that journey expressed through our characters.”
Like Space X’s Elon Musk, Ingram is CEO of a company called Vista and a visionary “who has great passion to achieve her goal,” says Willimon. “I wanted to shake up the status quo of male entrepreneurs that has dominated the space industry and invent someone wholly our own.”
The result is a smart, complicated woman who lacks outward warmth. “Laz has her position because of her intelligence and ideas, not because of any relation with a man,” McElhone confirms, adding that she found The First “deeply seductive” because “no character is all bad or all good. They have incredible ambitions and are uncompromising in what they want to achieve. In Laz’s case, she is willing to do whatever it takes, and that may make her unpopular.” Particularly because she’s an engineer whose laser focus is on technical problem solving—not interacting with other people.
To give her project added validity and a friendly face, she leaned on the much beloved Commander Hagerty. “Tom is one of those people who was put on this planet for a specific purpose, and his purpose is to get farther from Earth than any human being has ever before,” Willimon says. Though he’d been bounced from the program following an ill-advised decision, Ingram needs him to help handle the aftermath of an unexpected event that threatens Vista’s future.
Getting him back on board won’t be easy. Hagerty’s estranged daughter (Anna Jacoby-Heron), a drug addict, reenters his life, pledging a new start. “That is something he’ll have to juggle,” Willimon adds. “What are Tom’s obligations to his life on Earth versus his obligations to fulfill his destiny? That’s a profound struggle.”
The second star astronaut in Vista’s universe is experienced commander Kayla Price (LisaGay Hamilton, House of Cards). “Even in 2030, it’s a rarity for a woman of color who’s married to another woman to reach such heights,” says Hamilton. Price has been training astronauts, but there is still a looming question for her: Where will she fit if and when Hagerty decides
At its heart, The First is a 180-degree turn from Willimon’s last hit, House of Cards, Netflix’s cynical political thriller about the backstabbing Underwoods. “I’m interested in telling a story where you see the fullness of human potential beyond reasons that seem self-serving,” he says. “These people are trying to do something extraordinary.”-Ileane Rudolph
Other Outer Space Adventures Streaming Now
Five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams plays a linguist enlisted by the U.S. Army to try to communicate with aliens who have landed on Earth. Are they friend or foe, asks this 2016 drama, and why are they here?
The critically acclaimed 2004–09 sci-fi series followed a small band of surviving humans and their complicated relationship with the Cylon android race that is out to kill them.
Seasons 1–4 available
Passage To Mars
Devon Island in the Arctic is known as “Mars on Earth” because of its harsh environment. In this 2016 documentary, a NASA crew tests a vehicle there to see if it’s Red Planet–ready.
Get your fix of “Potent Potables” (and other favorite categories) on demand! Hulu is now streaming 60 select episodes of the popular quiz show — including the College Championship and Kids Week from 2013, plus other installments featuring long-running winner Ken Jennings (with host Alex Trebek).
I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman
“Mister Rogers for adults.” That’s how Sarah Silverman describes her weekly interview series. On each half-hour episode, the comedian chats with people from all walks of life (a conservative family from Louisiana, a Jesuit priest, etc.), sends correspondents to different parts of the country and uses humor to help illustrate what unites us rather than divides us. The program — nominated for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards — returns with a batch of 11 new episodes September 6, so catch up with the first 10 now. Season 1 available
The raw drama about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of a Bachelor-esque reality show moved from Lifetime to Hulu for its fourth and final season. Watch from the beginning to
see how producer Rachel (Shiri Appleby) evolves into a master puppeteer under her scheming boss Quinn (Constance Zimmer).
Seasons 1–4 available
Helpful Hulu Tips
With several thousand TV shows and movies, plus a growing number of excellent original series such as pre-9/11 drama The Looming Tower and the harrowing The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu offers an incredible selection for as low as $7.99 a month. Here’s how to get the most out of your subscription.
1. Tailor your ad experience. Under the Account tab, select “Personalize Ad Experience.” After you take a short quiz, you’ll start receiving ads more suited to your tastes. (Don’t want to see any ads? For $4 extra per month, you can opt for Hulu’s No Commercials plan.)
2. Manage mature content. Original shows like Harlots (with Jessica Brown Findlay) are great… but not for children. Set small ones up with a Kids profile (click on “+Add Profile” and select the Kids option) so they will only be able to watch family-friendly content.
3. Keep track of what’s expiring. Hulu makes it easy to keep up with what’s leaving. Add your favorite titles to your Watchlist (it’s located on your profile), and the service will notify you if they are scheduled to leave soon — so you’ll have time to binge first!
4. Save while you’re away. You shouldn’t have to pay when you’re not able to watch! Before heading out on vacation, place your subscription on hold. Just go to your Account settings and click “Hold Your Subscription.”
5. Make it easy to read. Closed captioning and subtitles can be configured to your needs. Click on the Gear icon to turn them on and off and also adjust the font, color and size, so you don’t miss a word. —John Hogan