Hulu’s ‘Maggie’: TV Review

Hulu’s ‘Maggie’: TV Review

You might assume a gift for seeing into the future would make dating simpler: You could avoid the time suck and heartache of investing in flirtations destined to go nowhere, or double down during rough patches with full confidence your efforts will pay off. According to Maggie, you’d be wrong. Hulu’s half-hour centers on a chipper but emotionally reserved 30-something psychic (Rebecca Rittenhouse), whose glimpses of a potential future with a cute guy named Ben (David Del Rio) only complicate her love life — especially once Ben moves into the other half of her duplex with his high school sweetheart, Jessie (Chloe Bridges).

It doesn’t take a fortune-teller to imagine the hijinks that that ensue, though Maggie‘s amiable tone lands closer to likable than irresistible. To put it in terms its looking-for-love heroine might understand: This series is a nice summer fling, not a once-in-a-lifetime love.

Maggie

The Bottom Line

Not a once-in-a-lifetime love, but a pleasant weekend fling.

Airdate: Wednesday, July 6 (Hulu)
Cast: Rebecca Rittenhouse, Nichole Sakura, David Del Rio, Leonardo Nam, Angelique Cabral, Ray Ford, Chloe Bridges, Kerri Kenney, Chris Elliott
Creators: Maggie Mull, Justin Adler


Despite its magic-tinged premise, Maggie leans less toward Harry Potter or The Time Traveler’s Wife than Friends if Phoebe’s psychic powers were confirmed. Or perhaps a more accurate comparison would be to How I Met Your Mother, with Maggie’s visions taking the place of Future Ted’s sage narration. As with that series, its protagonist’s romantic fate serves as the framework for a sunny hangout comedy that deals with the challenges of young(ish) adulthood broadly, emphasizing the zigzag journey over the destination — while still taking pains to remind us that we are headed toward a specific, grand, happily-ever-after destination, so don’t you worry.

And much like in How I Met Your Mother, the romance angle can be both a draw and a drag. Rittenhouse and Del Rio share an agreeable chemistry that makes it easy to picture the two of them together for the long haul, albeit one lacking the urgent sexual tension that would turn their will-they-won’t-they into a truly dreamy affair. More amusing is the unshakable devotion between Ben’s uptight sister Amy (Angelique Cabral) and her more laid-back partner, Dave (Leonardo Nam), who have been inseparable ever since they literally crashed into each other at Burning Man, and who are so enamored of each other they can’t even work on their wedding vows without reducing themselves to sobs.

On the other hand, it can be difficult to ignore the creakiness of the plot machinations keeping Maggie and Ben apart. They do a particular disservice to Jessie, relegated to the role of a human obstacle whose anodyne appeal is compared, at one point, to ketchup. Perhaps the writers (led by creators Maggie Mull and Justin Adler) are wary of making the audience fall too much in love with her, lest we take her side when Maggie tries to take her man, or perhaps they just weren’t interested in fleshing out a character they don’t plan to keep around for too many future seasons.

Indeed, Maggie proves most interesting when it’s not focused on love at all, or at least not the romantic kind. Its richest and most rewarding relationship is the one between Maggie and her childhood BFF, Lou. In part, it’s because Nichole Sakura (Superstore) is blessed with the vivid presence and precise comic timing to make her character come into focus several episodes before anyone else’s does; Lou is the only one who feels fully formed from the jump, and the premiere clicks into place only with her introduction.

But it’s also because their friendship feels lived-in, in a way so few of the others do. It’s not only that Maggie and Lou go way back to high school, as we see in an installment that flashes back to the girls’ senior prom. It’s that neither seems more herself than when they’re together. In one scene, they put expired Bugles on their fingertips to clack together like claws. It’s silly and totally pointless from a plot perspective, and it’s the funniest and most genuine-feeling moment in the entire season.

As for Maggie‘s most unusual twist: While the series includes a handful of storylines about the hows and whys of Maggie’s powers, or about her place within a larger community of psychics — which includes her diet-obsessed mentor, Angel (Ray Ford), and her teenage would-be mentee, Abby (Arica Himmel) — her abilities largely serve as a cutesy twist on more grounded and familiar storylines about the anxieties of young adulthood. Her visions, which are accurate but frequently incomplete, confuse as much as they clarify. She might get a peek of herself cooing over a baby but no context on whose baby it might be, and then spend the rest of the episode frantically trying to see more of the future so she can find out. 

From time to time, Maggie bemoans how out-of-place her gifts make her feel, and not without justification: Dates dismiss her gift as a delusion, acquaintances grow irritated with her well-intentioned advice, and her loving friends can go only so far in understanding her unique experiences. But Maggie’s journey is ultimately one of discovering that she’s more like the rest of us than she knows. As anyone who’s ever entered a clearly doomed relationship or fallen in love at first sight can attest, prescience has its limits as a shield from vulnerability or uncertainty or even heartbreak. The only way out of your 30s is through — even for psychics who know exactly what’s coming next.


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