"The Wrong Mans", a very modest co-production from Hulu and BBC Worldwide North America, is exactly the kind of original easy-to-watch series that fits so well on the Hulu and HuluPlus platforms. It's a comedy/thriller hybrid that wouldn't work so well on a television network (though I assume it will eventually turn up on BBC America) but is ideal for casual online viewing.
The series was created by and is co-written by James Corden and Mathew Baynton, who also star. The effortlessly charming and funny Corden, who won a Tony Award two years ago for his starring role in the comedy "One Man, Two Guvnors," is best known as a supporting player on the BBC rom-com "Gavin & Stacey." Baynton had a much smaller role in "Gavin & Stacey" but arguably has the bigger role here as Sam, an office worker who leads a relatively boring life until he takes a walk down a snowy road and unwittingly causes a terrible accident when a car swerves to avoid missing him. Once the police arrive and rush the injured driver off to the hospital, Sam hears the sound of a cell phone ringing. The phone, presumably the property of the man who had been driving the car, is lying on the side of the road.
Sam answers it and is instantly unnerved by the caller. "If you're not here by 5 o'clock we'll kill your wife," a menacing voice says. Sam, of course, is not married. Choosing at first not to get involved, Sam heads off to work with the phone in hand, where the disturbing calls continue to come in. Eventually he confides in his pal Phil (Corden), one of his more hapless colleagues, who insists that they must return the phone to the driver of the demolished car. Predictably, everything goes radically wrong once they seek him out in a local hospital, placing them smack in the middle of dangerous criminal activity.
There are no big laughs in the first episode of "The Wrong Mans," but there is plenty of disarming comic chemistry between Baynton and Corden, and that's really what it all comes down to in a series like this one. The very modest production values bring a realistic atmosphere to the series that might escape it were it made as a big-budget television series or, worse, a major motion picture.
Each episode of "The Wrong Mans" is approximately 25 minutes long (including those increasingly irritating and maddeningly repetitive commercials that continue to compromise the Hulu and HuluPlus viewing experience). The first two episodes of its first (and hopefully not last) six-episode season became available on Hulu on November 11. All six episodes are available on HuluPlus.
I wish I could be as complimentary about "Mother Up!", the latest original production to join Hulu's growing roster of animated series. There might be something here for the Adult Swim audience, but I can't imagine who else would find this comedy about a ridiculously self-absorbed former music industry executive named Rudi who loses her job (after she is caught on film happily shooting darts at little children in South America with one of her label's artists) and her husband (to a "24-year-old bag of syphilis") and leaves Manhattan to raise her two little children in the suburbs. She's awful to everyone she meets, in rude ways that aren't particularly funny or clever, and she's so clueless and incompetent with her children that she might be considered abusive. Negligent would be too kind a word.
Eva Longoria is the executive producer of this sorry show and provides the voice of Rudi. In some ways the character she plays is reminiscent of her role on "Desperate Housewives," where she played a former model who somewhat reluctantly gave up her jet-set lifestyle to marry, settle down in the suburbs and have children. Longoria (and the "Housewives" writers) gave Gabby a big enough heart to balance her often selfish and silly antics. No such consideration was given to Rudi, though I'm not sure she would be any more interesting even if she had a few good qualities.
I wasn't all that impressed with "The Awesomes", an animated series co-created by and starring Seth Meyers about a rag-tag team of superheroes that debuted August 1 on Hulu. My take: It's one of those projects that aren't nearly as funny as its creators likely think it is. (Maybe I've just been so spoiled by the sensational FX series "Archer" that I find it hard to sit through animated efforts with adult sensibilities that aren't as smart or sophisticated.) But I'd rather watch another season of "The Awesomes" than another episode of "Mother Up!" Looks like I'll get the chance sometime in 2014. Hulu has renewed it for an additional 10 episodes. Apparently "The Awesomes" is one of the online TV service's most-watched shows.