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‘Hello Tomorrow!’ review: Billy Crudup sells us to the moon and back

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Apple TV shoots for the moon with its new dramedy Hello Tomorrow! However, instead of landing on the moon or even among the stars, the series tumbles back to Earth with a deeply depressing story at odds with the show’s jumbled tone.

The moonshot, in this case, is quite literal, as Hello Tomorrow! follows a group of salesmen selling lunar timeshares in a retro-futuristic world. They’re led by Jack Billings (Billy Crudup), a regional manager for Brightside Lunar Residences whose pitches are infused with near-religious zeal. For him, living on the moon isn’t just a simple relocation. It’s a chance at a new start, a dream for people to hold onto when their lives on Earth take a turn for the miserable. Yet despite all his talk of giving you a brighter tomorrow today, we quickly learn that Jack and the homes he’s hawking are not at all what they seem.

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Jack’s lies make Hello Tomorrow! a sad — and confusing — watch.

Two men and a woman stand by a car hood eating burgers and fries.

Billy Crudup, Nicholas Podany, and Haneefah Wood in “Hello Tomorrow!”
Credit: Apple TV+

Hello Tomorrow! mines its conflict from the many falsehoods Jack peddles. Those lies don’t just stop at what he tells his customers. They extend to his Brightside coworkers: savvy accounts manager Shirley (Haneefah Wood), curmudgeonly gambling addict Eddie (Hank Azaria), and ambitious go-getter Herb (Dewshane Williams). These three all believe in Jack and the homes they’re selling, so much so they’re even considering moving up to the moon themselves. Watching Jack spin plates to keep his partners in the dark winds up a frustrating experience.

But none of that frustration compares to the bone-deep sadness resulting from Jack’s decision to bring his estranged son Joey (Nicholas Podany) on as a salesman without telling the young man that he’s his father. This massive lie — and the growing relationship between Jack and Joey — is the driving plotline of Hello Tomorrow! But it’s uncomfortable in a way that I’m never sure is quite intentional. As Jack molds an unsuspecting Joey into a smooth-talking mini-me, there’s a sense of both sorrow and irritation. On the one hand, this is an upsetting (and misguided) attempt by a father to reconnect with his son. On the other, as with any case of the “liar revealed” trope(Opens in a new tab), you can’t help but yell at Jack to just tell Joey the truth. Ultimately, how you receive this story — and Hello Tomorrow! as a whole — will likely depend on how you react to its enigmatic central figure of Jack.

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Jack is a walking contradiction, a snake oil salesman who seems to genuinely believe that his snake oil (or lack thereof) will make people’s lives better. And therein lies the confusion. Does Jack actually think misleading his customers will help them? Or does he only put on his “we’re selling people dreams” shtick in order to make a quick buck?

To his credit, Crudup delivers a great performance, at once wily and woeful, slippery and sympathetic. Still, I can’t help but view Jack as more of a space-age Charles Ponzi than a tragic salesman like Willy Loman. His actions, while (perhaps) well-intentioned, exploit his often desperate customers like housewife Myrtle Mayburn (Alison Pill), stringing them along with a promise of a life they might not ever have.

When it doesn’t focus on Jack, Hello, Tomorrow! flounders.

Two men and a woman stand in a hotel lobby.

Dewshane Williams, Hank Azaria, and Haneefah Wood in “Hello Tomorrow!”
Credit: Apple TV+

While I have conflicted thoughts about Jack, at least he makes for an uncomfortably compelling focal point. I can’t say the same about others’ storylines.

Eddie’s confrontations with shady debt collectors feel like they belong in an entirely different show, as do Herb and his wife Betty’s (Susan Heyward) marital troubles. The former jumps from slapstick to surprisingly violent territory for an otherwise bloodless show, while the latter is strangely quirky and revolves around yet another bizarre lie. Luckily, Shirley proves a reliable through-line for the show, while Myrtle and commerce agent Lester Costopoulos’s (Matthew Maher) attempts to discover the truth about Brightside make for an endearing subplot.

Hello Tomorrow!‘s retro-futuristic design is also a high point, featuring spectacular hovercars, holograms, and even whole motels operated by robots. There is a sinister quality to this ever-present technology: Early on, a self-driving mail delivery truck knocks a woman out while trying to avoid a dog. Unfortunately, Hello Tomorrow! never delves deep into this darkness. Nor does it live up to the premise of communities on the moon, something that is dangled in front of Jack’s customers and viewers alike.

For a show whose protagonist often talks of the power of dreams and a brighter future, Hello Tomorrow! sure likes to temper its own audience’s expectations.

There is definitely potential here, thanks to fun performances across the board and stunningly realized visuals. But after watching the entire first season, the story left me feeling emptier than one of Jack’s promises, and my feet remained squarely on Earth.

The first three episodes of Hello Tomorrow! hit Apple TV+ Friday Feb. 17, with new episodes weekly.(Opens in a new tab)

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