Roger Ebert Home

Hello Tomorrow! Offers Creative Vision of an Alternate Reality

Remember when “The Jetsons” promised viewers flying cars, robot maids, and communities in the sky? That aesthetic of ‘50s Americana blended with sci-fi contraptions has a unique charm and fascinating storytelling potential. It’s actually a movement called “retrofuturism” that imagines visions of the 21st century as seen by people who didn’t live to see it. It’s been a major part of games like “Bioshock” and “Fallout,” and included in films like “Brazil,” “The City of Lost Children,” and “Dark City.” It’s never been employed in television as well as it is in Apple TV+’s fascinating new series “Hello Tomorrow!,” a dramedy that blends sci-fi concepts with a world that feels like it owes a debt to “Mad Men” while also saying a great deal about where we are today in 2023. A talented creative team that includes director Jonathan Entwistle (“The End of the F***ing World”) and writer Stephen Falk (“You’re the Worst”) guides a phenomenal cast across a tonal tightrope that sometimes proves too high for them, but there’s something about this show I couldn’t give up on. Call me a dreamer.

The excellent Billy Crudup builds on his success from his Emmy win for “The Morning Show” by playing Jack Billings, a man who sells timeshares on the moon. In this retro vision of the future via the past, moon travel has become a possibility, and people on Earth are looking for a way to change their lives. Imagine leaving it all behind and starting over not just in a new country but on an entirely new celestial body. Have you ever wanted to just leave everything you know? Jack sells a dream for an anxious world, one that looks like a different era in an alternate reality but reveals many of the same human insecurities as life in 2023. (The show could have dug in more in this regard as to what so many of us want to leave behind. Maybe next season.) Of course, Jack also hides a couple of major secrets, including the truth about the future he’s trying to sell. After all, tomorrow is often over-sold.

Working with Jack to sell shares in a moon community called Brightside is the chaotic Eddie (Hank Azaria), stuffy Herb (Dewshane Williams), and reliable Shirley (Haneefah Wood), who seems to be the one who grounds Jack when he reaches for the stars. When Jack discovers that his ex-wife has been in an accident involving a self-driving delivery vehicle, he returns home to reunite with his estranged son Joey (Nicholas Podany) but doesn’t reveal the lineage. Instead, he just brings Joey onto the Brightside team—success is how Jack shows love. Meanwhile, the excellent Alison Pill plays the wonderfully named Myrtle Mayburn, a housewife who burns her life down when she’s given a parachute to the moon. With the help of a quirky investigator named Lester Costopolous (Matthew Maher), Myrtle then becomes intent on destroying Brightside when they don’t fulfill on their promise. Finally, Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver goes for a bit of broad comic relief as Jack’s nosy mother.

“Hello Tomorrow!” is about desperate people looking for some reason, any reason, to hope for a better life. It’s not just the promise of life on the moon being sold to naïve customers. Herb wants to be a father; Eddie takes reckless gambling risks for a big payout; even Jack wants to unite the family he walked from again. They all have their versions of Brightside in their minds. The writing can be a bit on-the-nose as Jack talks about belief meaning more than reality in a few too many Don Draper speeches, and there are times when “Hello Tomorrow!” lacks momentum, feeling like yet another feature film idea that got turned into a TV series when the market shifted. And it’s a bit odd that the extended runtime doesn’t allow the writers to dig into these characters more. Despite Pill's typical excellence, Myrtle is one-note, and even Jack feels a bit too much like a cipher at the end of the season. Wood finds the most depth in her character, establishing a balance between living in this quirky world and being relatable at the same time.

Even with the underwritten characters, this show has enough interesting concepts and narrative twists to keep viewers engaged. It will be unfairly compared to the better “Severance” because of its home and high concept, but I hope "Hello Tomorrow!" continues to build on the many promising ideas and intriguing characters. It may not be must-watch TV quite yet, but there’s hope for tomorrow.

Whole season was screened for review. "Hello Tomorrow!" premieres on Apple TV+ on February 17th.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

Latest blog posts

Latest reviews

MoviePass, MovieCrash
Eric
Kidnapped
Atlas
The Beach Boys

Comments

comments powered by Disqus