It’s a cliché in romantic comedies that single women fear growing old and becoming a “crazy cat lady.”
Hulu’s “Dollface” pushes the idea into surreal territory. After Jules (Kat Dennings) is unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend of five years, she’s picked up by a bus that will take her back to singlesville. The bus driver is a cat lady. Like, an actual cat lady, with a cat’s face and everything.
Such are the extremes that “Dollface,” created by Jordan Weiss and premiering Friday on the streaming site, goes to find its laughs. That bus is full of other crying single women, suddenly being shuttled back to their pre-relationship lives. At least, the cat lady says, they’re better off than so-called "guys" girls. She points out the window at a gaggle of women in football jerseys wandering aimlessly in the desert. “Anybody want to get wings?” one asks plaintively.
While relationships drive much of comedy, “Dollface” takes place in the space after relationships. Like a lot of people in love, Jules fell so deep into her relationship that she lost touch with her old friends. Now, unexpectedly on her own, she’s awkwardly trying to reconnect with that old life, that old Jules.
“Dollface” finds a lot of comedy in that re-entry, as her former best friends, micromanaging Madison (Brenda Song) and free spirit Stella (Shay Mitchell) reluctantly welcome Jules back into the fold. Jules gets a job at a Goop-like lifestyle brand called Woom, where she makes a new friend, the clingy Izzy (Esther Povitzy).
The tone of the show shifts wildly between a wry hangout comedy in the vein of “New Girl" to a wild farce, sometimes within the same scene. The shift doesn’t always serve the show well. When Stella and Madison argue about what’s best for Jules over lunch, the table suddenly splits in half, revealing a yawning chasm beneath. Cute idea, but it was honestly funnier just seeing the characters trade frosty putdowns.
Dennings, fresh off the long-running CBS hit “2 Broke Girls,” appealingly underplays Jules, giving space for the three actresses around her to give much bigger performances. Povitzy, in particular, is very funny as Izzy, who at times comes across like a space alien trying to assimilate into millennial girl culture.
“Dollface” isn’t as insightful or sharp as some of Hulu’s other comedies about women, such as “Shrill” or “PEN15,” and there are times when it’s too self-consciously weird, trying to stand out from the pack. But underlying the nuttiness is a pretty honest show about the give-and-take of friendships and the work that needs to be put into keeping them healthy.
That cat lady knows what she’s talking about.
Also on streaming: The big streaming news this week is the launch of Disney+, which includes a ton of movies and TV shows from Disney’s past along with a bunch of new series. At $6.99 per month, it’s yet another monthly bill to add onto Amazon Prime and Netflix, but if you’ve got a “Star Wars” or Pixar fan in the house, it may be tough to resist.
Traditionally, Friday has been the day that Netflix premieres new seasons of its series. But, perhaps seeing how HBO and Showtime have made Sunday night their big night for programming, the third season of “The Crown” is premiering this Sunday.
The other big shift in the series is in the casting. Out are Claire Foy and Matt Smith as the young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, in are Olivia Colman (recent Oscar winner for “The Favourite”) and Tobias Menzies as middle-aged monarchs adapting the Royal Family to the turbulence of the 1960s.