A New “Battleground” in Media: A Review of Hulu’s First Original Series
The world of media is changing, and the debut of the original series “Battleground” is evidence of that change. The series is not a midseason debut from one of the major networks, or even one of cable networks like Starz or FX. Instead “Battleground” makes its home on the Internet streaming service Hulu. Original programming is not particularly new but no series has come with the hype or has debuted exclusively on a service with the status of Hulu. Amidst all the hype, the question remains does “Battleground” succeed as a show? Will its characters and stories connect with an audience in a way to make them tune in week after week?
The mockumentary format of the series is one made familiar to us by the long running “The Office” and critically acclaimed “Modern Family”. Here the story follows the campaign of Senator, who literally takes a backseat in the pilot episode to her young campaign team focusing on Chris “Tak” Davis, Campaign Strategist, Kara “KJ” Jamison, head of media operations, speech writer Cole Graner and new volunteer Ben Werner. The cast on works well together with Jay Hayden’s charming “Tak” and Ben Samuels’ turn as the nervous bumbling volunteer “Ben” the standouts of the episode.
The pilot does well in setting us up in the world of the campaign, the team is portrayed as the scrappy underdogs with a laid back work ethic and broken air conditioner thermostat. The story of the pilot is smart, Tak and the team must find a way to outwit their opponent in an effort to secure funding to keep their campaign going. If there is one criticism it is that the script plays it a bit too straightforward with the details of the plan, removing some of the element of surprise as it plays out. This is surprising in a show where many elements of exposition are played with great subtlety. An interesting twist is the almost cyclical story as we are given glimpses into the future of the campaign and the staff, which almost begs the audience to stay tuned to find out how they get there and how the result of the election. The show provides us with some very understated but funny moments of humor and there is a general air of self awareness, complete with sideway glances at the camera and a reference to its being “some internet thing or something”.
Overall “Battlefield” is a solid start to mainstream original programming over the Internet. It is a charming, witty world inhabited by a group of very likable characters. There is a lot of potential in this show and due to the fact that the executives at Hulu are taking a significantly different approach to the development of this series than the usual television or studio executives, the opportunity is there for this show to go places that others of its kind are not able to. With the debut of “Battlefield” and Netflix’s “Lilyhammer” Internet exclusive programming may be finally ready for the mainstream.