Hulu’s High Fidelity has it all: great music, phenomenal acting, and truly authentic storytelling. This remarkable series was based on the beloved Stephen Frears film High Fidelity released in 2000 (and consequently the 1995 Nick Hornby novel under the same name), yet this 2020 rendition offers a fresh perspective on the renowned narrative by integrating a unique and creative appreciation of the forward-thinking world we know today. The series stars the hardworking, creative genius we all love and adore, Zoë Kravitz, and presents its viewers with an engaging, raw, and entertaining look at her character’s journey with heartbreak and self-discovery. In other words, it’s an iconic work of art, and is truthfully one of the best series I’ve seen in a very, very long time–and that’s putting it lightly.
Before I dive in, I want to be transparent with you all: I am currently a single woman in my early twenties who has just graduated college in the middle of a global pandemic, and as a result, am now living in my childhood home without a full-time job, constantly questioning the meaning of life. Clearly, I’m living the dream. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely thankful that my needs are being met in the midst of our current climate, but at times I forget how crazy it is that this is the life I—and most 2020 graduates—am living… definitely not what I had pictured as an optimistic, pre-COVID lassie a few months back.
I mention all this to highlight the fact that in our current reality, being single has never felt more single.
All this time in quarantine has given my mind too much freedom to wander, ultimately grazing over memories of past flings that have come and gone… Usually, these trips down memory lane end in pints of gelato and rewatching Notting Hill for the 700th time, but most often, it ends in the feeling that this is only happening to me. Of course this isn’t the case, but when you spend too much time listening to your own thoughts (and compare yourself to Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant more often than you should), it’s easy to convince yourself of this false reality. However, shows like High Fidelity offer solace through a shared perspective, because the very narrative of the story aligns with the truth of this lonely and ridiculous moment in time. Stumbling across this series was the blessing I didn’t know I needed. The series follows Robyn ‘Rob’ Brooks (Kravtiz), a melancholic record store owner on the brink of thirty who feels trapped in a world of love and loss. She spends the days wondering where she went wrong in her past failed relationships, leaning on her closest friends (and only coworkers) Simon Miller (David H. Holmes) and Cherise (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) for support, guidance, and the occasional night out. In each episode, Rob delivers direct-address monologues with a sense of wit and honesty, her eyes staring directly into the camera with her words touching our hearts. These intimate conversations invite us into the inner workings of her mind: unfiltered thoughts of jealousy, vulnerability, and comical self-deprecation that are all-too-familiar to most single twenty-somethings living in this decade. As we listen to her words, we simultaneously sympathize and relate with her character because her honesty mirrors the exact thoughts around heartbreak and denial that we’re often too afraid to admit to others–or ourselves.
Yet, High Fidelity goes beyond binge-worthy entertainment: it highlights impeccable artistry and inspiring craftsmanship. Seriously, this show is so well done. Its originality is evident from the start: the narrative arc of the script goes against the typical chronological three-act structure, automatically hooking viewers to the plot within the first ten minutes of the pilot episode. Episode One, titled “Top Five Heartbreaks,” shares a similar structure to the opening of the original film: faint sounds of Brooklyn set the scene as we open on a shot of Rob, puffy-eyed and red-nosed; her tears started falling before we arrived, but they show no signs of stopping anytime soon. Rob stares blankly at the camera, and brings us up to speed:
“My desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable heartbreaks in chronological order are as follows: Kevin Bannister, Kat Monroe, Simon Miller, Justin Kitt –”
But before she can complete her list with number five, we are cut out of the monologue and brought into real-time: Rob, sitting in her apartment, watching the man she loves rummage through her space to pack his things, leaving her and their relationship for good. This is a heartbreak Rob isn’t sure to recover from… Russell ‘Mac’ McCormack (played by the ever-so-handsome Kingsley Ben-Adir) is the fifth heartbreak on Rob’s list, and we watch as it unfolds before our eyes: Rob begging Mac to stay by reminding him of their cherished memories, attempting to bring him back to the moments and feelings that kept them together in the first place. These feelings of devastation, despair, and longing are so familiar to us all — they are the feelings that occur if you’re lucky enough to love someone, but not lucky enough to keep them around.
After Mac closes the door on their relationship (literally and figuratively speaking), Rob’s tears return and she reels us back to her monologue, tacking Mac on as her fifth all-time most detrimental heartbreak.
This opening scene sets the tone of the show with its cheeky authenticity and intimate vulnerability, and the remainder of the show follows Rob as she attempts to uncover why each of her relationships ended in tears and self-loathing. After the title card hits the screen with a bang, accompanied by a killer soundtrack, we open back on Rob in the same chair in her apartment a year after the Mac breakup: still single, still bitter, and still unsure about jumping back into the dating scene.
But this all changes as she receives a phone call from her brother Cameron (Rainbow Sun Francks) and his wife, Nikki (Nadine Malouf). Their brief and comical conversation sparks Rob into action, finally accepting the fact that she’s been moping about Mac for far too long, which inevitably leads her to her first date with…drumroll please…Clyde: an adorable, loving, charming, and sexy man, played by none other than the legend himself, Jake Lacy (known for his roles in The Office, How To Be Single, and Carol).
At this point, we’re four minutes into the first episode and are already falling head over heels in love with Clyde and his sweet, lovely face, swimming further and further into his kind and heartfelt eyes… okay, fine. Maybe I’m a little obsessed with Jake Lacy, but come on, who isn’t??? If you aren’t yet, you will be by the time you tune into this show, believe me. His character is a complete delight, and their first night together leads to sweet and amiable conversations about Fleetwood Mac over a few shared glasses of whiskey (total dream date, I know). The chemistry between these two is inevitable, even if Rob is hesitant to jump back into the dating scene.
So, by now you’re all caught up on the introduction of the show and you’re undoubtedly hooked, right?? You, like me, have been searching for a show that is funny, entertaining, filled with an amazing soundtrack and cast, and will leave you wanting more, yes? And now that you’ve found it, you’ll spend tonight binge watching each episode, correct? Well, in the event that you can’t fit all 10 episodes into tonight’s sitting, let me tide you over with a quick rundown of my personal appreciation for the show’s cultural subtext and wonderful inclusivity. Buckle up.
First and foremost, this show was developed by two talented women (Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka) and had multiple episodes written and produced by female creatives. Although this series is based off of Hornby’s novel and Frears’ film, Hulu’s adaptation has made incredible moves to transform the characters and story of these aforementioned works to resonate with audiences today—all of which was made possible through the collaborative work of the women and men behind the camera, as well as the cast in front of it. For those of you that don’t know, the original novel (and its 2000’s film adaptation) starred a predominantly white, male, and straight cast of characters—all of which were wonderful and beloved in their own respect, and for good reason. Yet, this 2020 streaming version of Hornby’s story has evolved into a very real, valued, and authentic version of the world we see today: brilliant groups of women and men of color (with characters who identify along the spectrum of sexuality), all of which are working class heroes living within the confounds of the everchanging, gentrified landscape of developing neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York. Come on. How cool is that?
I can’t get over how beautiful this show is, and how it treats reality with the heartfelt respect it deserves. High Fidelity is relatable and loved because it reflects who we are. This is you, me, our neighbors, our friends. Most notably, this is us—the single people in our twenties who are simultaneously inspired and exhausted by love—and as we tune into these ten episodes, we are watching our lives unfold before our eyes. These beautiful characters have an undying passion for the art that they adore; they appreciate the dedication and creativity of the musicians that came before them because they recognize that their bravery and self love helped to pave the way for widespread cultural acceptance, understanding, and connection. Yet, these characters all recognize that individually they still have some work to do: while Rob attempts to make sense of the past, Cherise is trying to lock down her career, Simon is faced with the fear of risk and change, Cameron is fraught with the idea of parenthood, and Clyde is lost in the chase of unrequited love. As they share their insecurities and fears, audiences of all ages and walks of life collectively feel heard, understood, and less alone in our own personal battles of fear, longing, and connection.
All this to say, High Fidelity is a game changer and deserves the highest praise for its work and success… now more than ever. It pains me to say that on August 5th, the news broke that Hulu would not be launching a second season of the show. This came as a shock to me and all other fans and critics alike (it had an 86% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, for crying out loud). I’m not sure of the details pertaining to this decision, but I am sure of one thing: the show must go on. I’m hoping and praying that another network will be able to revive this series for all of the reasons mentioned above. This show is not only admired, but it is also necessary. Viewers want to see people and stories that look and sound like them. We want the industry to value these visionary productions and their modern (and realistic) characters and cast, and we’re tired of networks failing to do so. Hulu’s High Fidelity makes an impact beyond the screen: it breeds acceptance, relatability, connection, and inclusivity. It highlights extremely talented, multifaceted creatives and gives a voice to individuals that aren’t predominantly heard. It evokes a sense of nostalgia with the flavor of present-day circumstance. Beyond all that, it’s damn good. And it deserves more time. So much more time.
I have hope that someone somewhere is plotting their plan of action to continue this series, but in the meantime, I’ll rest in the fact that season one provided us all with a beautiful tapestry of love, hard work, and dedication. It is filled with the energy, passion, laughter, tears, and entertainment we all deserve, and I am so glad that these ten episodes exist in this moment. To each member of the cast, I thank you for your authentic performance, and for bringing our own personal stories to life. To each crew member, I salute you for your craftsmanship, creativity, and endless dedication to the trade. And to Jake Lacy, I want to personally thank you for capturing my heart with each dimpled smile you flash at the camera. You sir, are my hero, and I would be honored to have you on the list of my own desert-island, top five, most memorable heartbreaks of all time.