Amid all the buzz for “Handmaid’s Tale” coming out at the end of April, and all the titillation around “Harlots,” which debuted last week, you might have overlooked the release of a very gripping original series that just recently launched on Hulu. “National Treasure” follows Paul Finchley (Robbie Coltrane) — an aging, beloved comedian after he is arrested following a rape allegation dating back to the ’90s.
The four-part drama follows the story from arrest to verdict, and focuses both on the investigation and the effect of the case on Paul and his family.
Hulu has always had a bit of an Anglophile streak. Since its launch back in 2006, it has been a streaming source of classic titles like “Doctor Who,” “The Office,” and “Absolutely Fabulous” to more modern and obscure hits like “Miranda,” “Peep Show,” and “The IT Crowd.” And when the service first started dipping its toe into original programming, it even looked to the Brits for inspiration, either co-producing or acquiring such great series as “Misfits,” “The Wrong Mans,” and “Mooneboy.”
This deeply gripping tale is a perfect addition to their rapidly growing slate of original programming. Here are 5 reasons why it’s should be part of your weekend plans…
It’s a Gripping Story
While the premise is nothing groundbreaking, the way that it explores memory, truth, age, doubt, and how well we really know those close to us is a fascinating spin. Each of the four, hour-long episodes dives into the lives of each of the three family members at the center of story: Paul, the aging national treasure who’s been beloved by his fans for decades; loyal wife Marie (Julie Walters), who’s stood by his side for 40 years, regardless of his many infidelities; and Dee (Andrea Riseborough), their only child, who has struggled with substance abuse, and who fights to stay sober while suddenly in the spotlight.
Andrea Riseborough is a Great Export
Played expertly by Riseborough, Dee is frighteningly clever, acerbically funny, but also deeply vulnerable. Thanks to the allegations about her father, Dee is forced to re-examine her own childhood calling into question her already tenuous grip on reality.
If her face seems somehow familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen her in any number of high profile projects, include the series “Bloodline” on Netflix, in the films “Oblivion” with Tom Cruise, “Birdman” starring Michael Keaton, and “Nocturnal Animals” starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. Up next, you’ll see her in Spike’s limited series “Waco,” with Michael Shannon and Taylor Kitsch, about the infamous 1993 Branch Davidian standoff in Texas.
The Cinematography is Spectacular
What we get from the characters themselves is really only half the story. Each scene of “National Treasure” tells a richly nuanced visual story of its own. In the first episode, after Paul comes back from his first visit to the police station, Marie understandably has questions. But while Paul tries to make sense of what’s happening, the camera actually leaves their conversation and pans through their kitchen, showing the devastatingly invasive search the police did on their home.
It’s a chilling but beautifully shot scene, and a foreboding hint of what their lives are about to become.
It’s Highly Relevant (Unfortunately)
When we said “the premise is nothing groundbreaking,” that wasn’t a slight on the series, but rather a sad statement on our times — the story of a powerful and beloved figure accused of sexual misconduct and the resulting story that unfolds has not only happened repeatedly, it’s happening right now. Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly are just two of the latest to make headlines that make “National Treasure” a sadly relevant topic.
It’s a Manageable Binge
Each of the four episodes run roughly 45 minutes, which means you can watch two episodes on Saturday, two on Sunday and still have time for something a little lighter when you’re done.
“National Treasure” is currently streaming exclusively on Hulu.