Up Here is a romantic comedy musical that largely fails in all three main sub-genres. The romance is cliched, the comedy is misplaced, and the music is uninspiring. All that being said, the series is bonkers enough to feel still entertaining, if only in a guilty pleasure kind of way.
We review the 2023 Hulu series Up Here Season 1, which does not contain spoilers.
If you are going to make a musical TV series, you might as well employ the cream of the crop from the industry while you are at it. Hulu’s original series Up Here utilizes some of the most successful creatives in the business from the last ten years. You have Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Frozen and WandaVision) serving as co-creators and on songwriting duties; they also happen to be the creators of the original musical on that this romantic comedy is based. Then there is writer Steven Levenson (tick, tick… BOOM!) and director Thomas Kail (Hamilton) rounding out the team. It’s an embarrassment of riches, yet 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 rom-com tells the story of writer Lindsay (Mae Whitman) and banker Miguel (Carlos Valdes), two ordinary individuals who meet and seemingly fall in love in New York City at the end of the nineties. What links these two lovers is the quirky concept that they are both followed around, all day, every day, by fully-formed manifestations of the voices in their heads. Lindsay has her parents and a childhood friend doling out self-doubt and criticism. While Miguel is hounded by his trio of inner voices, which occasionally inspire adoration and empowerment and feed his worries and insecurities at the same time.
As Lindsay and Miguel work on improving their careers and love lives in the Big Apple, the couple goes through many ups and downs. Lindsay feels like she must impress her parents and become a successful writer in the big city, while Miguel wants to become rich and powerful to spite those that have wronged him in his past. Both individuals have their hopes and fears, which constantly get in the way of their relationship, stopping them from gaining true happiness and reaching their full potential.
It’s pretty the cliched romance, following the usual well-worn beats of the genre. Frustratingly, every single episode uses the same tired format. The couple faces obstacles that get in the way of their relationship. They fight to get together, then they break up, they struggle to get back together again, and then lo and behold, they break up again. This gets somewhat repetitive and painfully formulaic over the show’s excessive eight-episode run.
Is Up Here on Hulu good?
Up Here is a standard rom-com featuring your typical, quirky tunes. There is nothing original or innovative in the writing department or from the musical aspects of this series. The ‘will-they, won’t-they’ storyline has been done a hundred times before, all to a much higher degree, and I’m sure you’ll have 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, somehow getting in the way of the show’s overarching narrative instead of adding to the story. They are clearly there to serve a purpose, to give the series an edge, or to fill out that hefty run time, but they feel desperately unoriginal overall. The dance numbers are surprisingly unremarkable too, and low budget in appearance, while the nineties setting is entirely wasted, feeling more like a financial decision rather than a stylistic choice.
The series isn’t a complete misfire, though; Up Here is wild and ballsy enough to keep viewers entertained, a show that fully commits to its weirder aspects and quirky comedic manner. It might win over a small, possibly cult fan base with its self-aware, winking tone, and the cutesy romance at the heart of this narrative is worth sticking with, if entirely predictable. The show starts well and ends fittingly; it’s a complete mess in the middle. I can’t understand why this wasn’t pitched as a movie instead. With a little 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.