On paper, they make a good pair: Hulu, the innovator in video distribution, together with Morgan Spurlock, the innovator in docu-style programming.
That’s why it’s so disappointing that the filmmaker just doesn’t deliver on his latest production, “A Day in the Life,” which happens to be Hulu’s first original series.
A half-hour examination of 24 hours in the life of famous figures, the show has a title that leads one to believe it’s going to be classic Spurlock: a fresh look at a subject by way of a clever premise. That’s what he did so brilliantly by gorging himself with McDonalds to explore the perils of fast food in his documentary “Super Size Me.” Or when he explored two different cultures by having individuals from different walks of life switch lives in the FX series “30 Days.”
But “Life” is just lifeless. The idea of Spurlock getting 24 hours with a compelling personality brings to mind the promise of extraordinary access and intimacy. But judging from the opening episode with Virgin mogul Richard Branson, Spurlock doesn’t even come close.
It’s not like Branson isn’t just begging for deeper treatment, something that digs behind the omnipresent facade of the bright-toothed pitchman. Is he just a figurehead or does he truly have control of his sprawling empire? What’s his personal life like? Is that blonde shag a wig??
But “Life” telegraphs in its opening seconds it has no ambitions beyond being anything but the kind of breezy propaganda that Branson might as well have on heavy rotation in the lobby of his headquarters. He’s seen in the back of his car explaining via voiceover that he had spent the previous day trying to rustle up $3-4 billion for a major transaction and topped that off with a dinner at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth and President Obama.
Why couldn’t have Spurlock’s cameras shown up that day!?
Instead we have the non-privilege of watching Branson smile his way through a day-long press junket of sorts in Chicago where he’s on tap to tout Virgin Airways new flight routes. As he charms publicists and journalists ad infinitum he turns to the camera and says, “After a while, you’re going to be fed up with the interviews. You’re just going to see the same thing time and again.”
If Branson understands the boredom being foisted upon Hulu viewers, why didn’t Spurlock? One can only hope “Life” has more in store in subsequent episodes which feature everyone from musician will.i.am to ballerina Misty Copeland.