BINGE OR NO? Difficult People (not quite Seinfeld but really trying)

Nobody likes them because they can't stop snarking

Difficult People is a new Hulu sitcom, which means it’s streaming, but it’s released one episode at a time like some primitive dumb broadcast TV show. (America does not tolerate less than 5.11 hours of television at a time, Hulu!)

What’s this show got going for it to make it worth the weekly wait? The twist is the main characters are a self-absorbed 30-something New York Jewish woman and her bitter 30-something self-absorbed Jewish gay best friend, who is an aspiring actor. Good thing this is such new territory that they won’t have to worry about falling into tropes and clichés!

Guess what our hero Julie does for a job? She writes television recaps!

Julie, the character, is not based on the Julie what writes recaps here, who is a much nicer person. Julie is played by Julie Klausner, a real person, who created the show. The real Julie got known for her podcasts, which is several steps up the ladder from recapping, but they made her character a recapper so we’d know what a loser she is.

Not our Julie

Not our Julie

Julie really wants to write sitcoms or perform or do anything that will make her famous, kind of like Lucy did on the Lucille Ball show, and per the trailer it looks like she’ll be meeting up with some real-life famous people playing themselves. So we have a performer playing some version of herself but less successful, something television has never dared to try before, so no pressure because it’s not like some of the most successful sitcoms ever have a similar premise.

So wait a second, recapping is her day job? She’s getting paid to write recaps? Writing recaps is supposed to lead to something other than the quiet of the grave? Why didn’t somebody tell me any of this? RICK LEWIS YOU’VE GOT SOME ‘SPLAINING TO DO!

Julie’s best and only friend is Billy, the aforementioned gay best friend because every girl has one. They actually come with your first apartment when you move to Manhattan or some areas in Brooklyn. He is played by Billy Eichner, who is probably much less whiney in real life because they had to make him whiney because he’s Jewish.

"Hey! I'm whinin' here!"

“Hey! I’m whinin’ here!”

Billy and Julie are terrible people who have no filters, and this is maybe why we are supposed to love them, or laugh at them, or care, or find them mildly annoying. I’m not sure, but that’s because I’m no doubt jealous because I will never get my own sitcom or even paid for recaps.

Early on Billy and Julie go to see a matinee of Annie, which apparently they have the money to do. (Note to self: Must ask Rick Lewis to start paying me in cash instead of My Little Pony porn.) Having the money to see a show doesn’t make them awful. That comes later. HINT: They should be sneaking in after intermission looking for empty seats like real New Yorkers!

When Billy finds out Annie will be played by an understudy, he says some bad words. A mother of children turns to him, all “Won’t you think of the children!” So he curses some more, and normally there’s nothing I hate more than moms and kids, but given this was in a child-friendly musical and her kids weren’t yelling, screaming and kicking the seats or even chewing loudly, his reaction did seem a tad asshatty, so show proved point, if point was Billy is kind of a dick.

Julie defends him by terrifying the children with tales of how terrible understudies are. Note: Real-life recappers do not terrify children unless they are our children because we never leave the house.

Later Julie goes home to her older, gay father-figure roommate, who works for PBS. Are all the men in Julie’s life homosexual? He insists she come with to some work party. Why? Doesn’t he know she will embarrass him in front of work people?

By the second episode I figured out her roommate is NOT gay and is in fact her boyfriend or sugar daddy or live in sex-partner, which explains how she can afford that apartment and to do recaps as a day job.

Billy works at a restaurant where he is a terrible waiter who is purposely mean to customers, a real stretch for him after his Parks & Recreation role. While there are many terrible waiters in New York, very few are this obviously rude as they mostly live on tips and also would be fired because there are a ten thousand other actors waiting for the job.

The show is relatively light on plot. One might say it’s about nothing, like some other sitcom that featured amazingly self-absorbed, selfish characters that happened to be culturally or actually Jewish and based on less successful versions of themselves. This is why we are despised among nations.

Julie is edgy. We know this because she tweets a joke about Blue Ivy, which would have been funny the first time we heard it or maybe was supposed to be terrible, but the lead-in built it up way too much, and then it got repeated a couple of times, and it didn’t keep well. Another line said more than twice was Billy’s “like my dick with women.” The show’s philosophy is if you think it’s funny once, wait till we say it ten times!

Here is some other stuff from the first episode:

Billy has just been dumped by Josh. We finally see Josh when he shows up at the PBS party. Turns out he is one cutie-patootie, but Billy loses interest because Josh is now wearing a yarmulke and Billy is a self-hating Jew—for real, not just a Jewish person who doesn’t support everything the Likud does. This seemed like a false note because Josh is hot with or without the yarmulke, and Billy is not the deepest guy in the world.

Julie has a psychotherapist mother played by Andrea Martin, who is much better than this or any other show deserves.

"I deserve better! I played a Ferengi on Deep Space 9, dammit!"

“I deserve better! I played a Ferengi on Deep Space 9, dammit!”

Mom can’t just order off the menu in a restaurant because this show believes in hitting every single stereotype, one or more times per episode, and everyone knows psychotherapists can’t order without demanding the menu change.

The sassy black woman (because SAG required they have one) is played by Gabby Sidibe. (I’m not joking.)

Also plot: Julie and Billy come up with an idea for bottling library cooler water and actually get a meeting with an executive at Water-in-a-Box. This is promising. It’s the kind of business someone might start in Portlandia or Seinfeld’s Kramer might dream up. The executive, whom they wind up insulting even though they should be groveling, turns out to be married to the woman with the kids at the theater, and they all show up at the PBS party because there really are fewer than a hundred people in New York City. (That part is true.)

The episode ends with Julie pissing herself as she, Billy, and her totally straight older boyfriend wait for a cab. Because who hasn’t peed her party dress while waiting for a taxi?

The second episode involves a threesome with Julie, her totally straight older boyfriend, and some dude who ignored her in high school. A distracted Billy is having an impromptu driving lesson and hits a bicycling David Byrne, then drives over his bicycle and runs away. Julie and boyfriend have to bail him out, so they leave the sleeping dude alone in their apartment and he robs the place. This surprises them because maybe it didn’t happen the last time they invited a stranger to watch them have sexytimes and then left him alone in the apartment.

The episode features jokes about Jews not knowing how to use power tools. It ends with Julie and Billy recapping their lives at a storytelling venue called The Caterpillar (for legal reasons) because storytelling is how we squeeze meaning out of our otherwise futile existence. The audience actually likes them and applauds, which causes them to lose interest in storytelling because they know they are awful and can’t respect anyone who likes them.

Also the show has some connection with Amy Poehler and the Upright Citizens’ Brigade, so expect to see more cameos like the one with Rachel Draitch playing a chemo patient that Billy is being terrible to. Maybe there’ll be a different guest star whom Billy is rude to every week. That and Andrea Martin might make this almost worth watching if you have to watch something.

So if you’ve got Hulu, you may now watch the first three episodes at no extra charge.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

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  • Julie

    So, I had seen trailers for this series before, but had no clue it starred “Julie the TV Recapper.” Go figure! On one hand, this makes me want to see it, because I’m vain. :). On the other hand, I’m a bit hesitant to watch / read things about characters named Julie, because the last time a friend recommended a book to me with a Julie in it the character was brutally murdered and disembowled on page 25. (Do you think my friend was trying to tell me something?) I suspect things will work out a bit better for Julie TV Recapper, mainly because recappers don’t make for very dynamic murder victims, probably due to the whole “never leaving the house” thing ….

  • Historicat

    TV recapping is hard work. I tried it once – and I do mean once. I’m hoping that Rick didn’t get my submission when he bought the place from Rebecca; that thing needs to remain in the dark past, never to be seen again.I think having a character who does a podcast might have potential – there’s that whole “talking” thing they do as part of their jobs. Someone should get on that.