‘Hello Tomorrow’ review: Billy Crudup Apple show falls short

The solar system is the frontier in “Hello Tomorrow!”, Apple TV+’s 10-part series about a team of traveling salesmen who run a timeshare on the moon. Too bad the storytelling in this highly stylized half-hour dramedy doesn’t aim as high as the ambitious characters.

Billy Crudup stars as silver-tongued salesman Jack Billings. His pitch: Leave your problems here on earth. For $150 a month and zero down, Brightside Lunar Residences promises an otherworldly paradise for you and your core family. What’s not to love?

Jack’s magnetic personality and inspirational seminars on the promise of lunar life hide at least two deep secrets he has here on Earth, one of which has to do with the family he left behind.

His loyal crew are the closest thing he has to relatives. They include the pragmatic and capable Shirley (Haneefah Wood), sketchy sales veteran and gambler Eddie (Hank Azaria) and naive Herb (Dewshane Williams). Their goal is to convince middle-class Americans that life on the moon is not just for the elite. The rich have already colonized the moon with their fancy vacation homes; now is the time for hardworking people to buy into the space age dream.

The tight-knit team works well together until new recruit Joey (Nicholas Podany) throws a wrench in their symbiotic relationship, causing the friends to splinter and Jack to rethink his life choices. Crudup’s portrayal of a sketchy pitchman with emotional conflicts is worth watching, even if it occasionally echoes Cory Ellison from “The Morning Show.” He is a master shiller and his co-stars are equally convincing in their respective roles.

Salesmen portrayed by Billy Crudup, left, Nicholas Podany and Haneefah Wood inhabit a retro-futuristic Earth in the new Apple TV+ dramedy “Hello Tomorrow!”

(Apple TV+)

But the real star of the show is the retro-futuristic setting these characters inhabit. It’s a playful take on nuclear-age optimism, where robot waitresses serve coffee and idle. Clumsy analog-age devices perform space-age miracles (a paperboy delivers papers through a pneumatic tube, a typewriter transcribes verbal sales pitches). Big finned cars resembling 1950s classics soar over smooth roads, as do prams over perfectly clean pavements in perfectly manicured suburbs. Tracthus comes in various pastel shades of yellow and blue, while powder green kitchens are packed with the latest time-saving devices. Wardrobe choices include boxy suits and swing dresses, and products similar to Aqua Net and Brylcreem are the hair products of choice.

It’s a whimsical place where “Mad Men” and “The Jetsons” collide.

There’s so much eye candy in this highly stylized world that it’s easy to initially forgive the thin plot. But three episodes into “Hello Tomorrow!”, which is now available on the streamer, the show still can’t decide whether it’s a comedy or a drama. Although a scheme at the heart of the Brightside Lunar Residences threatens to reveal itself at any moment, Jack’s juggling act to maintain the facade doesn’t feel all that urgent. He hides several lies, as do many of the people in this automated utopia, but the necessary tension and conflict to drive their stories home is tempered by a weak narrative. Momentum is a problem and there are still seven weekly installments of the show to come.

The series, created by Amit Bhalla and Lucas Jansen, plays with modern themes. Billionaires building their own rockets to go to space just for fun have become a real estate opportunity. Perhaps the greatest fantasy here is a society imbued with midcentury ideals, where racism and Jim Crow laws do not exist. Everyone seems equally sold on the potential of a better life – just write on the dotted line.

“Hello tomorrow!”

Where: Apple TV+

When: Anytime

Rating: TV-14 (may not be suitable for children under 14)

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