Hulu’s Own Press Tour Fyre Festival

Hulu press conference, TCA Winter Press Tour, Los Angeles, USA - 11 Feb 2019Greeting a group of weary reporters nearing the end of the more than two week TV Critics Association winter press tour, Hulu senior vice president of originals Craig Erwich tied it into a recent documentary hit on his network.

“Thanks for being here,” he said, “basically living through Fyre Festival 2.”

Food was nominally better in Pasadena than the famous cheese sandwiches given the hapless attendees of that doomed music fest at the center of Hulu’s “Fyre Fraud.” But it had been going on long enough to trigger some desperation.

But as the first streaming head to address the group, he had some information

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese attached (as producers) to new Hulu production of the nonfiction bestseller “Devil in the White City,” possibly meant as similarly feel-good follow-up to “Handmaid’s Tale.”

Speaking of which, pushing the third season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” to June was not meant to avoid final episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones, Erwich said in response to a question. “We wanted to give the show enough time in season three to maintain the incredibly high standards of storytelling that were set in season one and two.”

That said, he said “season three will take on a different tone. I think you’ll be interested to see a lot of resilience as one of the themes.”

Like most streaming services, Hulu looks at viewing data (even if they don’t always release numbers).

“We know that after watching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale, not everyone wants to watch another prestige drama. You’d be surprised to know that many of them jump to ‘Brooklyn 99’ or ‘Rick & Morty.’ And our job is to ensure that we have enough of those to keep them happy.”

One comedy they won’t be turning to will be a third season of Sarah Silverman’s “I Love You America,” which Hulu canceled.

While Erwich said the show grew from season one to two, “it didn’t garner a large enough audience, despite the critical acclaim, to go forward.

“We were very proud of what Sarah Silverman did,” he added. “What she set out to do was very difficult. She was trying to thread the needle and find the balance on both sides of the political conversation, which is not really something that you see a lot in that genre.”

The session also offered a brief glimpse shown of the upcoming revival of “Veronica Mars” that is in production.

“She’s not a young girl anymore,” Erwich said of its 38-year-old star Kristen Bell. “You’ll see her dealing with contemporary issues in a contemporary world.”

Full panels were given to the March 15 comedy “Shrill” starring Aidy Bryant of “Saturday Night Live” as struggling writer in Portland, Ore., with bad boyfriend. Its cast includes John Cameron Mitchell and Luka Jones, with Julia Sweeney and Daniel Stern as her parents.

For the show, from Elizabeth Banks and Lindy West, based on her book, puts weight in the spotlight and that was a plus for Bryant.

“I didn’t see a lot of fat women on television when I was growing up, and I always craved that,” she said. “So, when I read Lindy’s book, there were so many things in there that I identified with, particularly the idea that the whole world is kind of telling you you’re wrong for existing in the way that you are, even if you don’t feel that way.”

A second comedy, “Ramy,” starting April 19 on Hulu, stars young comic Ramy Youssef as a Muslim trying to make his way in New Jersey. It is in part from Jerrod Carmichael.

“I always really felt this connection to my culture, to my faith, and the tension in my life has always been how do I hold on to both things,” Youssef said. “Where does it feel like when you want to go to Mecca, and you also want to go to Burning Man. I’ve never seen that played out.”

The anthology series “The Act” begins March 20 by recounting the story of Munchausen by Proxy syndrome case previously seen in HBO’s 2017 doc “Mother Dead and Dearest.” It features Joey King as the daughter with an overprotective mother and also features Chloë Savigny and AnnaSophia Rob.

It’s the second addled, frowzy middle-aged character in a row from Patricia Arquette, who has won a Golden Globe award for her portrayal in “Escape at Dannemora.” The actress says she was always interested in the case, but added, “I am a little exhausted of playing crazy women.”

Hulu also brought the 90-year-old sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer on stage to talk about the documentary on her, “Ask Dr. Ruth,” which will begin streaming May 10. She began her session by maintaining her feistiness. “I can still throw hand grenades at journalists, if they don’t ask me good questions,” she said with a smile.

As for “Fyre Fraud,” Erwich said it wasn’t devised only to undercut the Netflix documentary on the same subject that was scheduled to be issued a few days later.

“We had had our documentary in the works for well over a year. We were aware of the other film. When the release date of that other film became clear we moved very quickly with our finished film to get out ahead of them,” he said. “We felt that, given the story, we wanted to be first and be on record with what we felt was the definitive account of it. It really wasn’t meant as a dig at anyone else, it was just important for us and to our viewers that we go first.”

Erwich said he was more excited about both films “really became a cultural event for the week or first two weeks of the year. And, I have to tell you, that was a blast.”

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