Up here is a romantic comedy musical that largely fails in all three main sub-genres. The romance is cliché, the comedy is off the mark, and the music is uninspiring. All of that said, the series is just crazy enough to feel entertaining, if only in a guilty pleasure sort of way.
We review season 1 of the 2023 Hulu series Up Here, which is spoiler-free.
If you’re going to make a musical TV series, you might as well employ the cream of the industry while doing it. from hulu original series Up here uses some of the most successful creatives in the business of the last ten years. Have Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Roberto Lopez (Frozen and Wanda Vision) serving as co-creators and on songwriting duties; they also happen to be the creators of the original musical on which this romantic comedy is based. then there is the writer steven levenson (tick, tick… BOOM!) and manager Thomas Kai (hamilton) completing the team. It’s an embarrassment of riches, but even with all this phenomenal talent behind it, the series is surprisingly disappointing, and more to the point, mediocre.
Up Here Season 1 Review and Plot Summary
This musical romantic comedy tells the story of the writer Lindsay (Mae Whitman) and banker Miguel (Carlos Valdes), two ordinary individuals who meet and apparently fall in love in New York City in the late 1990s. What unites these two lovers is the peculiar concept that they are both followed, all day, every day, by fully formed manifestations of the voices in their heads. Lindsay has her parents and a childhood friend dishing out doubts and criticism. While Miguel is plagued by his trio of inner voices, they occasionally inspire adoration and empowerment and feed his worries and insecurities at the same time.
As Lindsay and Miguel work to improve their careers and love lives in the Big Apple, the couple goes through many ups and downs. Lindsay feels that she must impress her parents and become a successful writer in the big city, while Miguel wants to become rich and powerful to get revenge on those who have wronged him in his past. Both individuals have their hopes and fears, which constantly get in the way of their relationship, preventing them from realizing true happiness and reaching their full potential.
It’s quite the cliché romance, following the usual rhythms of the genre. Frustratingly, every episode uses the same tired format. The couple faces obstacles that stand in the way of their relationship. They fight to be together, then they break up, they fight to get back together, and then lo and behold, they break up again. This gets somewhat repetitive and painfully formulaic about the show’s over-running eight episodes.
Is Up Here on Hulu any good?
Up here it’s a standard rom-com featuring your typical wacky tunes. There is nothing original or innovative in the writing department or musical aspects of this series. The ‘will they, won’t they’ story has been done hundreds of times before, all to a much greater degree, and I’m sure you’ve heard these very similar-sounding cheesy songs countless times before as well. Think of a simplified version of the tick, tick… BOOM! soundtrack.
Considering the talent involved, the songs are quite distracting and somehow get in the way of the overall narrative of the show instead of adding to the story. They’re clearly there to serve a purpose, to give the series an edge, or to fill out that considerable runtime, but overall they feel hopelessly unoriginal. The dance numbers are also surprisingly nondescript and low-budget in appearance, while the 90s setting is completely wasted, feeling more like a financial decision than a stylistic choice.
However, the series is not a complete flop; Up here is wild and bold enough to keep viewers entertained, a show fully committing to its weirder aspects and quirky comedic manner. It could win over a small, possibly cult-like fanbase with its self-aware tone and wink, and the campy romance at the heart of this narrative is worth sticking with, if it’s entirely predictable. The show starts off well and ends appropriately; it’s a complete mess in the middle. I can’t figure out why this wasn’t released as a movie instead. With a bit of editing, this would have worked perfectly as a standalone film.
What did you think of Up Here Season 1 on Hulu? Comment below.