An illustration for an article about "High Fidelity" and its cancellation.
Hulu's lack of diversity has become more apparent with the cancelation of "High Fidelity." (Illustration by Melchisedech Quagrainie, Colombia College Chicago)

Hulu’s ‘High Fidelity’ Is a Show That Deserved Better

The show was canceled after its first season. Right after, Hulu greenlit a controversial show about a student/teacher relationship. Is this a good look when the platform is lacking programs starring women of color?

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An illustration for an article about "High Fidelity" and its cancellation.

The show was canceled after its first season. Right after, Hulu greenlit a controversial show about a student/teacher relationship. Is this a good look when the platform is lacking programs starring women of color?

High Fidelity” is based on a book written by Nick Hornby. Originally published back in 1996, it was adapted to the silver screen in 2000 and featured John Cusack and Jack Black, among others. Both the book and 2000 film follow Rob Gordon, a record store owner who, after his most recent breakup, makes a list of his top five all-time heartbreaks.

A few years ago, Sarah Kucserka and Veronica West took the reins of this story and made it their own while also appealing to a whole new generation of viewers. Rob Gordon became Robin “Rob” Brooks (Zoë Kravitz), a Black, bisexual woman in her late 20s living in present-day New York who runs a classic and badly-rated-on-Yelp record store. Initially, the story was to be told on Disney+, but it was later decided that Hulu would be a better home for “High Fidelity.”

Kucserka told Backstage in an interview that she and West “had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment where we realized that we weren’t writing the kinds of shows that excited us, and we weren’t telling the stories that we wanted to be telling.” So, they asked themselves what exactly that was and in came “High Fidelity.” Their love for the original novel and movie flourished into this new project where the gender of the main character was bent, and they were able to spotlight Black women in a world where young Black women need it more than ever.

Unfortunately, Hulu doesn’t seem to think so. After one season, they decided to cancel the show.

“High Fidelity” was a pleasant surprise to many. It had a fantastic soundtrack and told an interesting story that practically everyone could relate to: the madness that comes with a recent heartbreak. Kravitz does an impeccable job of transmitting that feeling along with her character’s friends: Cherise (Da’vine Joy Randolph) and Simon (David H. Holmes). Simon is part of Rob’s heartbreak list but is also in the midst of pursuing a barista working in a tacky café. Cherise knows she wants to be a singer but getting there is where the unknown lies for her. Thankfully, though, her best friend owns a record shop and she benefits from “working” whatever hours she wants while listening to her favorite tracks.

Sounds pretty great, right? Diversity, an interesting plot, relatability and a whole cast of great characters. Not every show has that these days. Hulu had a done deal with this show, but they pushed it under the bus by canceling it. Even Kravitz had some words for them.

A few days after the news, she posted a few pictures of the actors behind the scenes and captioned them with her own goodbye to the story and her character. In an article in Variety, they highlighted a comment actress Tessa Thompson made and Kravitz’s response to it. “I will miss you alllllllll so much,” Thompson commented. To which Kravitz responded: “It’s cool. At least Hulu has a ton of other shows starring women of color we can watch. Oh wait.”

It’s clear that the actors aren’t the only ones noticing Hulu’s lack of diversity. In fact, the next show they are premiering on their platform is called “A Teacher.” It’s a miniseries starring Kate Mara and up-and-coming actor Nick Robinson, where the two engage in an inappropriate student/teacher relationship. From the trailer, it’s clear there’s a whole lot of drama, but definitely not a whole lot of diversity.

I don’t believe the show is trying to promote this kind of relationship, but it’s hard not to romanticize things that we encounter in media — unless it’s done right. A good example is Sam Levinson’s “Euphoria.” A major theme, though there are many others, is drug abuse. Levinson, the writer and creator of the show, does an excellent job at giving viewers an honest and raw view of addiction. Whether or not “A Teacher” will be able to achieve this with the subject matter of their show (premiering Nov. 10), we’ll have to wait and see.

In a Vulture article about the show, a commentator responded with: “Stop idealizing this kind of narrative. The list of shows and movies ‘exploring’ this relationship is far too extensive. It’s statutory rape.” And they have a point, don’t they? The show is not out yet, but I’ll be surprised if it happens to, somehow, address these objections.

Whether one was canceled to premiere the other, we’ll never know. But Hulu has definitely lost this round by canceling “High Fidelity.” A second season would have given room for a whole new level of character development, while also allowing viewers to live vicariously through the protagonists, especially since it seems this pandemic is not letting up. “High Fidelity” shows the ugliest parts of ourselves. What Rob is going through takes up her entire mental space and it hurts the relationships she has been able to maintain and cherish. But, by the end, she realizes that.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen until the very end of the season. It was the perfect segue for the beginning of a new arc: Rob meaning to do better by taking care of her friends, Simon entering his first gay relationship and Cherise finding her voice in the music world. Secondary characters also have their own lives move on from Rob, but surely writers had plans to bring them all back together.

So, yes, “High Fidelity” deserved better. Not only because it had a great storyline and dealt with relatable issues, but it employed people of color and provided representation for those who are in most need of it. Here’s to hoping Hulu opens their eyes and goes back to shows about less objectionable topics, and starts adding more diversity to their platform.

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