Hulu’s new miniseries version of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” consists of 10 hour-long episodes. So, we should get 20 weddings and five funerals to keep pace with the original 1994 British romantic comedy, right?
That’s kind of the problem with the new series, which premieres Wednesday, July 31. Despite being created and written by the enormously talented Mindy Kaling (“The Mindy Project”) and Matt Warburton, there’s not enough going on here to sustain eight hours of viewing. The characters are charming, and occasionally amusing, and there are moments where Kaling effectively riffs on rom-com tropes, or just bear-hugs them altogether. But it’s a pretty thin soup.
This new “Four Weddings” doesn’t have any of the same characters, or the same plot, except in the sense that it has the basic storylines of a lot of romantic comedies — right person falls for wrong person, right people fall for each other at the wrong time, etc. While set in London, it also puts mostly American expatriate characters in the foreground and Brits in supporting roles. Damn, it's a been a rough few years for England. First Brexit, now Brits aren’t even allowed to star in British romantic comedies!
Nathalie Emmanuel ("Game of Thrones") plays Maya, a political consultant who is sleeping with her married congressman boss (Thomas Dewey). She heads to London for the wedding of her best friend, Ainsley (Rebecca Rittenhouse), and has a meet-cute with a handsome investment banker, Kash (Nikesh Patel), at the airport. You’ll never guess who Ainsley’s fiancé turns out to be! (Actually, you totally will. It’s Kash.)
Also in the subplot mix is Duffy (John Reynolds), a floppy-haired teacher, secretly in love with Maya, who seems to be taking the Hugh Grant role on the show, and Craig (Brandon Mychal Smith), a hotshot financier who discovers he fathered a child several years earlier.
It starts off promisingly enough, and Kaling and Warburton salt the storyline with Easter eggs and callbacks to other romantic comedies (the first episode has a twist on the notorious “Love, Actually” scene where a character expresses her feelings through a series of signs). But it feels like rom-com fan service rather than the real deal. We never feel the bond of friendship between these characters, and certainly never feel the romantic sparks when they happen.
The more the show grinds on, the more desperate the plot twists become to keep things going for eight episodes. While Netflix has revived the romantic comedy genre by looking forward with movies like “Always Be My Maybe” and “Set It Up,” Hulu’s attempt to look backwards is a transatlantic misfire.
Also on streaming: A little late for Mother’s Day, but Netflix’s new comedy-drama “Otherhood” premieres on Friday. Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette and Felicity Huffman play three moms who, after receiving nothing for Mother’s Day, go on a road trip to pay their ungrateful adult sons a visit. (I sent my mom a couple of nice books, by the way.)
“If everybody stayed exactly the same, life would be tedious and predictable, like the third season of a Netflix show.” That's an awfully meta line from the trailer for the third season of Netflix’s “Dear White People,” as creator Justin Simien keeps shaking things up at fictional Winchester University for his biting comedy-drama about race and class. The new season, which will likely be anything but tedious and predictable, premieres Friday.