The proliferation of teen-targeted TV series has meant the market for cute boy crush objects has never been healthier. From The CW to Netflix, there's no shortage of work for handsome young dudes to be 'shipped, memed, and giffed on Tumblr. But what happens when a show ends, and the cute boys start turning into craggy men? This is the question explored in Hulu's new sitcom, Everyone Is Doing Great. (Spoiler alert: the title is ironic!)
For several successful seasons, Jeremy (James Lafferty) and Seth (Stephen Colletti) starred on Eternal, a dark yet emotional teen TV drama, not only earning them fame and wealth, but introducing them both to the co-stars who would also become their love interests offscreen: Jeremy married Andrea (Alexandra Park), but things didn't work out as well for Seth and Isabella (Cariba Heine). Then the show wrapped. Now five years have passed and both Seth and Jeremy are kind of lost. Seth is trying to maintain a positive attitude, prepping hard for the auditions he's able to get and staying in camera-ready shape. Jeremy doesn't have to hustle quite as hard, since Andrea has gone on to star in another show, so he fills his days with weed, half-assed workouts, online Spanish lessons, and flirtations with hot fans on social media. He and Seth are still famous enough to get recognized on the street, but their notoriety doesn't seem to be leading them into their next phase; neither of them thought this is what life would be like at age 30.
Colletti and Lafferty don't just star in the series, they also co-wrote and directed it. That it's even in front of us now is thanks to a successful IndieGoGo campaign the two mounted in 2018. Lafferty and Colletti were probably able to draw on their real-life experiences for material as grown-up teen heartthrobs: they formerly co-starred on The WB/CW's One Tree Hill. Even though both have worked fairly steadily since Hill wrapped at the improbably late date of 2012, the baggage that comes with being identified with one role is clearly a struggle, and this is the jumping-off point for Great.
The genesis of Good Will Hunting — a pair of actors who aren't booking enough work decide to write their own screenplay, and the friggin' thing ends up winning them an Oscar — must loom in the back of many actors' minds as a gambit they could also attempt; even Joey Tribbiani tried it once. But calibrating this kind of material to dramatize the absurdity inherent in the entertainment industry without drifting into the kind of self-pity that's going to turn off a normie audience is extremely tricky. Pamela Adlon was also a steadily working but not particularly famous actress when she created FX's Better Things as a starring vehicle for herself, but the viewer never got the sense that anything she endured on a set — even when it was very uncomfortable or annoying — was more of a trial than life at home with her two rotten children (the third, Duke, is sweet) and her exhausting mother. Both the Better and the Great pilots feature scenes in which a protagonist runs into a peer outside an audition and chats about the part they're both competing for: Colletti's Seth is tense, feeling belittled by his acquaintance's success, whereas Adlon's Sam and her counterpart — Constance Zimmer, as herself — just crack up fondly at how similarly they are attired, down to their eyeglass frames. Fortunately, the plot gets funnier when Seth actually gets into his audition and the director doesn't even know his biggest credit, and proceeds to order him to perform some very non-standard object work. Later, Jeremy has a sobering meeting about his finances that echoes former Reign star Adelaide Kane's viral TikTok post from earlier this summer about where TV stars' money actually goes.
There's funny stuff here involving the specific bummer of being a washed-up showbiz star at 30, and the more relatable experience of running into an ex when she's doing great and dating someone new, while you're decidedly not. And considering the fact that the series was created by its dude stars, it gives a lot of space to Andrea and Isabella, and what post-Eternals life would be like for them given their romantic relationships with Jeremy and Seth and the weirdness that would naturally arise when one ended in marriage and the other just ended. But this show is both Lafferty's and Colletti's first writing credit, and it certainly shows in both rather shaggy episodes provided to critics to screen: there's just no reason for them to be close to 40 minutes apiece without commercial breaks. A more experienced showrunner, or directors who weren't so close to the material, might have made some judicious cuts in order to give the proceedings a less lugubrious feel. I know the leads' defeats are the point, but 36-37 minutes is a very long time to spend with depressed people making terrible choices if it's supposed to be funny.
That said, there really are winning moments in each episode, and I can see this turning into something very sharp and witty if it gets a second season, especially if Lafferty and Colletti are open to giving some creative control to partners who are willing to kill a few of their darlings. Everyone Is Doing Great isn't great, yet, but it shows promise.
Everyone Is Doing Great drops on Hulu January 13th.
Writer, editor, and snack enthusiast Tara Ariano is the co-founder of Television Without Pity and Fametracker (RIP). She co-hosts the podcasts Extra Hot Great and Again With This (a compulsively detailed episode-by-episode breakdown of Beverly Hills, 90210), and has contributed to New York, the New York Times magazine, Vulture, Decider, Salon, and Slate, among many others. She lives in Austin.