‘Hello Tomorrow!’ shoots for the moon but craters
The solar system is the limit in “Hello Tomorrow!,” Apple TV+’s 10-part series about a team of traveling salespeople who peddle time-shares on the moon. Too bad the storytelling in this highly stylized, half-hour dramedy doesn’t aim as high as its ambitious characters.
Billy Crudup stars as silver-tongued salesman Jack Billings. His pitch: Leave your troubles here on Earth. For $150 a month and zero down, Brightside Lunar Residences promises otherworldly paradise for you and your nuclear family. What’s not to love?
Jack’s magnetic personality and inspirational seminars about the promise of lunar living hide at least two deep secrets he harbors here on Earth, and one of them has to do with the family he left behind.
His loyal crew are the closest thing he has to kin. They include the pragmatic and capable Shirley (Haneefah Wood), sketchy sales veteran and gambler Eddie (Hank Azaria) and naive Herb (Dewshane Williams). Their goal is to convince middle-class Americans that lunar living is not just for the elite. The rich have already colonized the moon with their fancy vacation homes; now it’s time for hardworking folks to buy into the space-age dream.
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The tight team works well together until new recruit Joey (Nicholas Podany) throws a wrench in their symbiotic relationship, causing the friends to splinter and Jack to reassess his life choices. Crudup’s portrayal of a sketchy pitchman with emotional conflict is worth witnessing, even if it does occasionally echo Cory Ellison of “The Morning Show.” He is a master shiller, and his cast mates are equally convincing in their respective roles.
But the real star of the show is the retro-futurist setting these characters inhabit. It’s a playful take on atomic-age optimism, where robot waitresses serve up coffee and idle chitchat. Clunky, analog-age devices perform space-age miracles (a paper boy delivers papers through a pneumatic tube, a typewriter transcribes spoken sales pitches). Large finned automobiles that resemble 1950s classics hover over smooth roads, as do baby carriages across perfectly clean sidewalks in perfectly manicured suburbs. Tract homes come in various pastel shades of yellow and blue, while powder-green kitchens are chock-full of the latest time-saving devices. Wardrobe choices include boxy suits and swing dresses, and products akin to Aqua Net and Brylcreem are the hair products of choice.
It’s a whimsical place where “Mad Men” and “The Jetsons” collide.
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There’s so much eye candy in this highly stylized world that it’s easy to initially forgive the thin plot. But three episodes in to “Hello Tomorrow!,” which are now available on the streamer, the series still can’t decide whether it’s a comedy or drama. Though a scheme at the heart of Brightside Lunar Residences threatens to reveal itself at any moment, Jack’s juggling act to maintain the façade doesn’t feel all that urgent. He conceals multiple lies, as do many of the folks in this automated utopia, but the necessary tension and conflict to drive their stories home is muted by a weak narrative. Momentum is an issue, and there are still seven more weekly installments of the show to come.
The series, created by Amit Bhalla and Lucas Jansen, does play with modern themes. Billionaires building their own rockets to head to space just for fun has turned into a real estate opportunity. Perhaps the biggest fantasy here is a society imbued with midcentury ideals, where racism and Jim Crow laws don’t exist. Everyone seems equally sold on the potential of a better life — just sign on the dotted line.
Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14)
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