Bring Back 'High Fidelity': Why Hulu Made a Terrible Mistake in Cancelling the TV Remake
I am a big TV-watcher. Even before lockdown(s), my routine was work, or write, or whatever it is I do until about 11pm and then sit down to an episode or two to my current silver screen affair. Apart from Twin Peaks, my only requirements for choosing a TV show are: the main characters have to be womxn, and the events must take place in a big city. Find this strange? Don't worry about it, it's just preference; I relate to the female experience and I live in a small town, it makes sense I should want escapism in that form. Think Fleabag, Insecure, Broad City. I eat them up and revel in the adventures and misdemeanors of my protagonists. But never have I experienced such a bond with a TV show as I did when I watched High Fidelity on Hulu.
As it premiered last Valentines Day, Hulu unleashed a gender-swapped TV remake of the 2000 rom-com of the same name. While many similarities remained between them - the plot outline, the costumes, the soundtrack - the creators of the remake had the brilliant idea to actually make the show enjoyable. The movie - a testament to how sexist the early noughties were despite efforts to bury this fact - follows Rob, a totally unlikeable music bro who owns a Brooklyn-based record store, whose heart has been (understandably?) broken by a women to whom he shows no respect. With a predominantly uninspired white-guy soundtrack (think The Velvet Underground, The Kinks, Love), the movie falls flat of romance, charm and the musical sensibility the whole plot relies on. The TV show, on the other hand, masterfully takes inspiration from the few charming bits of the film, and compiles a stylish, witty, excellently soundtracked composition.
First of all, Zoe Kravitz's Rob is a much better written character. She's charming but complicated and very much ordinary in parts, which makes for an excellently realistic female character. In a Fleagbag-esque style, there are fourth-wall breaks, reeling viewers in with Rob's ultra-coolness, and allowing us to be pretty unforgiving when we realise she hasn't told us stuff, girl-to-girl. Her musical knowledge is enviable, her lifestyle drips with coolness, she looks like Zoe Kravitz, but she's a normal person. It also has this fantastic meta element that makes the music fanatics in the show (and watching the show, like me) feel like this stuff is actually important. Kravitz is obviously the daughter of music legend Lenny Kravitz, which makes it feel like we're part of the inside circle when Zoe's character Rob discusses the genius of Quincy Jones (pictured below with his buddy Lenny).
In terms of diversity, High Fidelity was one of the most important commercial TV shows in the last five years. A majority black cast, the show did this masterful thing where the black experience was expressed, but it was in no way isolating (like Girls can often be for anyone who isn't white), and it was mainstream media. Now, this shouldn't be ground-breaking stuff, but the sad fact is that it kind of...is? So often media created by People of Colour is marketed as solely consumable for black folx because the white production companies are afraid it'll alienate people who aren't of colour. High Fidelity filled the racial gap created by white media, and now white media (Hulu) says it wants to continue the damaging binary. With two incredibly talented black women in the lead roles (Kravitz and Da'vine Joy Randolph) , it's difficult to ignore the damaging implications of cancelling the show.
I hear Hulu reps crying from their cushy Manhattan offices that ratings just were to low to keep producing the show, and to them I say: this show is so niche, bro. Think about the target audiences and the style: you've realistically made a show directed at cool kids who are fans of the alternative music scene. When you exclude the masses of male music snobs (who's scripture is the 2000 movie version mentioned above for obvious reasons and refuse to believe a woman could play their hero Rob) and older music bro homophobes you've got a very specific viewership. So all I'm saying is, Mr Hulu, you should've been prepared.
So, in conclusion, this is my plea to bring back one of the best shows of 2020. An excellent and diverse soundtrack, insightful discourse of the music scene today, funny ironic jibes at how obnoxious music fanatics can be (yes, incl. me), a recognition that sexuality is a spectrum, and two incredible black women at the forefront, High Fidelity deserves a future.