Maggie on Hulu Is a Romantic-Comedy Throwback in the Worst Way: TV Review07/05/2022
It can feel at times as though the logical endpoint of the streaming revolution is a restaging of the TV landscape of, say, 1990, just atomized across vastly more players. It’s inevitable: With so much content, certain traditional, and perhaps little-missed, forms can’t help returning. You have, in shows like “The Dropout” and “WeCrashed,” highbrow (and well-made!) versions of ripped-from-the-headlines miniseries that used to draw ratings on networks; some of Netflix’s sub-”Stranger Things” genre content would feel right at home in a syndication block with “Xena” and “Hercules.” And now, with “Maggie,” its new series about a psychic looking for love from “Life in Pieces” vets Justin Adler and Maggie Mull, Hulu revives the tradition of the TGIF sitcom — for grownups, sort of.
Rebecca Rittenhouse, of “The Mindy Project,” plays Maggie, whose “That’s So Raven”-esque visions of the future provide her insight and curse her with social turbulence. She tries to avoid letting her friends in on the future — lest, for instance, a couple she knows call her from their bedroom for advice on the most propitious time to conceive a child. “We’re horny, but we’re scared!,” one says; I imagine you can hear the manic pitch with which this line is delivered, straining for a punchline that can’t land. The main action of the show is Maggie’s dislocation from herself after a vision of her own fulfilled, happy romantic future fails to come true, but the road to happiness seems to lead through painfully hacky material.
Rittenhouse endlessly plays straight woman; the tone is set, in the first episode, when her psychic mentor (Ray Ford) eats too much probiotic yogurt and, in an alarmed tone as his gastrointestinal system pumps, tells her, “The future is coming! A little future may already be here.” Maggie’s friends are fairly anonymous sketches who fail to come to life; similarly, her father (Chris Elliott, strangely underplaying the role) seems to be sleepwalking through her life. Perhaps that’s a credible choice: Maggie’s mother, played by Kerri Kenney, seems to be in her own show, one that doesn’t just evoke a hacky sitcom of the early 1990s but might literally have aired then. In one scene, this character, dressed for gardening, confronts a Black woman in her front yard, demanding, “Are you yelling at my daughter on my property? Because I just dug a hole big enough for a body.” This is played for laughs, although it’s certainly unclear at whose expense, or from which potential audience.
“Maggie,” in the main, seems similarly out of place. Its themes of dating and friendship among adults in a sort of prolonged adolescence resonate with Hulu shows from “Dollface,” “High Fidelity,” and “How I Met Your Father” to “The Mindy Project” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” both of which featured Rittenhouse performances. But here, there’s neither the ironic backspin that can elevate a terrible joke nor an earnest commitment to really be about what the show purports to be about. It feels meant to have been slotted in between two superior sitcoms in hopes that past viewers might not bother changing the dial; in a world where we get to choose what we watch, it’s hard to understand the purpose of a show as aimless as “Maggie.”
“Maggie” launches on Hulu on Wednesday, July 6.
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