Review: Hulu's Difficult People

Perhaps my deep love and enjoyment of Hulu’s original series Difficult People stems from the fact I, too, am a difficult person. Or, for argument’s sake, we could also say that it’s simply a phenomenal show.

Hulu’s first original series were significant hits and misses, from the critically acclaimed The Path to the relatively unknown Deadbeat. While Netflix was churning out original series after original series, only recently stopping to consider renewal for those with lasting popularity (hear that, Girlboss), Hulu attempted to only fund those shows that gained an audience through interesting storytelling and enjoyable, if often cynical, main characters. Difficult People is certainly the latter.

The show’s third season premiered its first three episodes on August 8 and reaffirmed why the show’s irreverent humor and impeccable casting make you back to time and again. For those who perhaps haven’t seen the show in some time, the series follows Julie Kessler and Bill Epstein (played beautifully by Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner) as they attempt to land acting and comedy gigs amidst their day-to-day lives in New York City. Ultimately, the show’s humor stems from the fact both Julie and Billy are horrible people; narcissistic, selfish and crass individuals who admittedly can’t tolerate almost anyone besides each other. Where some shows (please see my review of Netflix’s Friends from College) cannot play this horribleness off with any success, Difficult People embraces their character’s lack of depth rather than simply using the shallow narcissism to half-heartedly give characters some semblance of a personality.

Much like the arrested development of characters in series such as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or, of course, Arrested Development, Julie and Billy, as well as their supporting cast of characters, from the “woke” transgendered waitress Lola (Shakina Nayfack) to Julie’s quasi-effeminate, PBS-employed boyfriend Arthur (James Urbaniak), remain reliable and steady from the pilot episode, “Library Water,” to “Cindarestylox,” the newest available episode in season three. Perhaps the only change, and a welcome change at that, is the show’s humorous engagement with contemporary identity politics and plain old fashioned politics. “Strike Rat” exposes the feminist push back against Woody Allen’s ongoing projects, “Rabbitversary” explores the on-demand culture of phone apps and other services akin to Uber and “Cinderestylox” tackles the epidemic of men telling women to “smile”—with a throwaway bit on subway “manspreading.”

With a wide variety of cameos and guest appearances (season three’s first five episodes tout the likes of Rosie O’Donnell and John Cho), Difficult People continues to prove itself time and again against the saturated landscape of on-demand-produced original series.

Pro tip: When watching “Cinderestylox,” keep an eye out for the over the shoulder shot of Billy Epstein’s headshot. It clearly says “Billy Eichner,” his real name rather than his character’s.

Difficult People is now streaming on Hulu.

Ashley Szanter is the associate editor of Salt Lake magazine and co-hosts the UniversiTV podcast.

Ashley Szanter
Ashley Szanter
Ashley Szanter is a contributing writer for Salt Lake magazine as well as a freelance writer and editor. She loves writing about everything Utah, but has a special interest in Northern Utah (here's looking at you, Ogden and Logan).

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