Hulu scores Beatles documentary from Ron Howard, renews 'The Path,' 'Mindy Project'

The last 12 months or so have given Hulu plenty to brag about. 

In that time, the streaming service has launched its first recurring drama, "The Path," and a high-profile event series, "11.22.63.";  has scored its first Golden Globe nod for the dysfunctional family comedy "Casual" and positive reviews for "Difficult People" from Executive Producer Amy Poehler; has become the exclusive online home of "Seinfeld"; and has announced a straight-to-series order for an adaptation of "The Handmaid's Tale" starring Elisabeth Moss

Hulu's well-earned confidence was on display Wednesday in an upfront presentation at the Madison Square Garden Theater, where the service announced renewals of several original series and teased upcoming collaborations with Ron Howard, Hugh Laurie and the concert promoters Live Nation. 

Appearing onstage, Mindy Kaling announced that her sitcom, "The Mindy Project," would be returning for a fifth season. The series moved to Hulu last year after three seasons on Fox.

Kaling joked about the creative freedom afforded by "the streaming life," where she's free to use colorful language and show her character squirting breast milk. 

Freshman drama "The Path," which stars Aaron Paul of "Breaking Bad" as a skeptical member of a Scientology-like cult, also scored a renewal.

Fans of political humor can rejoice knowing that Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the crass cigar-chomping character voiced by Robert Smigel, will return to Hulu with a second election special. A preview showed Triumph on the campaign trail lavishing his usual assortment of withering takedowns (i.e. asking Texas Sen. Ted Cruz when Geppetto made him a real boy).

Following the footsteps of its rival, Netflix, Hulu will also be pushing into documentaries. The service announced it has secured streaming rights to "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week," a feature documentary directed by Ron Howard. The film, set to debut in theaters and on Hulu this fall, will chart the band's early years and will be the first title released under Hulu's new documentary banner.

Other projects on the horizon include "Chance," which is based on the novel by Kem Nunn and stars Hugh Laurie as a San Francisco neuropsychiatrist who attempts to save a troubled patient played by Gretchen Mol from her abusive husband. The series also boasts Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson ("Room") as an executive producer and director on several episodes.

"It is on its surface a thriller in the classic noir tradition of Hammett and Chandler, Hitchcock and Wilder," Laurie said onstage Wednesday. "But underneath, there is a story that just hums with passion, love, violence, fear and joy." 

Hulu also previewed "Shut Eye," a dark comedy about storefront psychics and organized crime in Los Angeles starring Jeffrey Donovan ("Burn Notice") and Kadee Strickland ("Private Practice").

The presentation was hosted by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of "Broad City" (which airs on Comedy Central but streams on Hulu),  and showcased returning, well-received comedies "Casual" and "Difficult People." 

Onstage with Poehler, and his co-star Julie Klausner, "Difficult People's" Billy Eichner made a joking reference to Larry Wilmore's controversial speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner this last weekend. 

"The N-word at this upfront is Netflix," he joked.

Maybe, but Hulu is clearly coming into its own.

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