Hello Tomorrow!: Season 1

Hello Tomorrow!
Hello Tomorrow!
Genre: Sci-Fi Drama
Service: Apple TV+
Release Year: 2023
Watch: Apple TV+

There is something singularly off-putting about Hello Tomorrow! that I can’t quite put my finger on. I think it’s the tone. Which is somewhere between incredibly cynical and weirdly sour. Or maybe it’s the oddball retro-future, alt-universe thing that feels incredibly insular and cardboard-ish. But, honestly, I think the worst and most soul-grinding thing is the acting. They were obviously going for that hyper-intense, stilted 1950s, over-the-top thing. Which — when applied to what had to be a relatively expensive “prestige” series — comes off as super-annoying and made me want to hide under a blanket with embarrassment for everyone involved.

I think this show is supposed to take place in an alternative universe. That’s the only way I can explain what the hell is going on. It’s apparently 1950s America, but there are janky robots everywhere and the giant Pontiacs and whatnot hover instead of driving on wheels. The show honestly kind of picks and chooses technologies that exist or don’t exist in this universe and does a lot of retro product design to make them happen. Which I appreciate from a creativity standpoint, but certainly adds to a bunch of the incongruous plot points throughout the series. Like they seem to have some pretty advanced stuff (robotics, video calls, rockets), but are missing some other very basic things that would have probably ruined some of the narrative points if they existed. So they pick their spots in ways that make tension convenient, if not very realistic.

In this retro-future world lives salesman, Jack Billings (Billy Crudup). Because of course his name is Jack. He’s essentially a traveling salesman who sells town houses on the moon. Or whatever they’re supposed to be. It’s never made particularly clear why people would want to move to the moon in this universe. Like there isn’t imminent nuclear war or climate change or anything particularly bad happening on Earth that would drive people off world. In fact, the planet seems downright middle-class pleasant by all accounts. For 1950s America there doesn’t seem to be any social strife, pending wars or even racism. It’s kind of a technicolor utopia from all accounts. So why would anyone want to give that all up and move to the moon? Honestly, the show never really tells us the answer to this. Which in and of itself is a huge miss.

Jack leads a very small team of sales associates, all of whom vie for customers and commissions on sales. For some reason that is also completely unclear, they work out of a sort-of conference room in a mid-century-looking motel in a generic midwestern town. This also makes absolutely no sense. Especially since they supposedly move around the country trying to sell to individuals wherever they can before pulling up stakes. Me thinks it’s a convenient production money-saver rather than a choice the creators would have made if they had their druthers. And while we see some other sets during the season’s run, we come back to this motel over and over, creating that very we’re-on-a-set feeling that pervades and makes the whole thing feel kind of sad and small. Well, as we kind of get from the very beginning, Jack is pulling a con. There are no moon houses. There are no rockets to the moon — or at least ones they own. In fact, there is no real estate company at all. Jack is the company, and the company is Jack. It’s a scam only he is in on. Even after he brings his long-lost son, Joey (Nicholas Podany), in on the business. A son who has no idea Jack is his father. And happens to live in the town in which this crew has settled for an unusual amount of time. Which is also maybe where Jack’s family lives, and where the fake head of the fake company, Buck (Frankie Faison), happens to live in an assisted living / psychiatric hospital. Which, again, makes no fucking sense. Unless, of course, the United States in this alt universe is only like 50 miles square. Which, to be fair, it could be. We’d never know because we’re trapped in this dumbass town with little to no idea what the hell is going on in the larger world. If, in fact, there is one. Who would know?

All of the nonsensical narrative machinations aside, let’s get to the tone. The incredibly uneven tone. Some actors here are playing reeeeeeaaaal big. Hank Azaria is playing this like a Coen Brothers farce. Dewshane Williams and Alison Pill are playing it like a Coen Brothers absurdist comedy. And the rest of the cast is playing it as a mix of a 1950s sitcom and a family drama. It’s tonally all over the place. And none of it is good. Azaria’s character, as the desperate sales associate / gambling idiot / love interest of a woman (Haneefah Wood) who on no planet ever would be interested in him, is especially egregious. I’ve never once wanted or needed a character to die more than him. Unfortunately he survives the season. Minus a hand and a ton of dignity, but still alive. The whole lot of them seem to be acting in a different show than one another. Or like they shot some scenes out of order with one show in mind and then switched, but never kind of smoothed over the inconsistencies. The result is a terribly dour show — especially one that purports to be a “comedy” of some sort. It’s entirely not funny. Everyone in the show is pretty much a degenerate. The only “funny” stuff written into the scripts is visual gags of malfunctioning tech — which usually end in people getting injured, humiliated and/or maimed. The whole thing is just depressing. From the sets, to the acting, to the plot. It’s all just not fun. At all. It’s a really, really odd television show that I have no idea how it got made.