In a move that appears to be a response to Netflix and their foray into original programming, Hulu has announced three original series for this year. One of them you already know. Morgan Spurlock's A Day in the Life will return for a second season and 10 episodes in March. Filmmaker Richard Linklater has a travel documentary with tour guide Timothy "Speed" Levitch called Up to Speed. And the big announcement is Hulu's first scripted series, a "mockumentary" about a third-place political candidate called Battleground, premiering in February.
Hulu Tries To Grow More Independent Of Licensed Content
Hulu made the announcement at the end of the Television Critics Association press tour, and there's no doubt they see themselves in a competition with Netflix. Netflix appears to look at themselves as a cable channel that is free from cable and sees HBO as their chief competitor. Hulu is owned by Fox, NBC, and ABC and plays a ton of content from other networks, each distributor receiving a large amount of advertising revenue in return. So, creating programming in which they can keep all of the ad revenue makes sense.
Morgan Spurlock is a popular filmmaker who makes lighthearted, experimental documentaries, has been a go-to documentarian since Super Size Me. Richard Linklater, who has made films as diverse as Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, and A Scanner Darkly, adds prestige and credibility to Hulu's original offerings. And getting into scripted entertainment generally means Hulu is serious, because now they're in a position to develop and create content, are looking to attract talent, and make creative types consider them when pitching new shows.
Hulu will have to be a bit slower in getting top-shelf content like Netflix. While the site announced tremendous gains for 2011, they don't have Netflix money. Still, getting Spurlock and Linklater is impressive.
Introducing Hulu's New Shows
Here's a trailer for Battleground:
Created by actor J.D. Walsh, who worked on the John Kerry campaign, Battleground looks to be an alternating dramatic and funny look at Wisconsin politics. It looks pretty good, and hey, it looks like they got Ray Wise to make an appearance. That guy is everywhere!
If you are unfamiliar with Morgan Spurlock's A Day in the Life, here's the season 1 trailer:
I reviewed all 6 of the Season 1 episodes. The series could be alternately engrossing and frustrating all at once, because "a day in the life" of any one person certainly does not give us as much insight as we could have, especially when it appears to be a controlled setting. However, the series seems to do well for Hulu. Spurlock did "A Day in the Life" for hockey players later in a special "spin-off" season.
As for Up to Speed, Richard Linklater will be using Timothy "Speed" Levitch to travel around the country and probably comment on each city he visits much in the manner of the video embedded below. Levitch appeared in School of Rock and Linklater's first foray into rotoscoped animation, the critically-acclaimed Waking Life. Up to Speed will debut in the summer. Here's a look at Levitch talking about the New York City "grid plan:"
The guy's definitely a character. Look for a lot of announcements like this in 2012 as the online video world looks to position themselves to conquer TV.