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I tend to assume that any show Hulu tries to sell me on by calling it a “Hulu Exclusive” must be about as good as a direct-to-video movie from the ‘90s. But Spy, a British comedy Hulu imported to the United States, is actually a lot of fun.
Sad-sack divorcee Tim (Darren Boyd) accidentally lands a job as a secret agent with MI5, the United Kingdom’s internal counter-intelligence and security agency, but must keep his sexy new job a secret from his ex-wife and their pretentious, and truly evil, young son. Yes, yes, the premise is a little like Chuck, but trust me, while Chuck is a sort of run-of-the-mill TV-style uncool guy, Tim embodies wincing, awkward uncoolness in a way that could only run on British television. He can’t even get into his own son’s book club. As with many a British sitcom before it, Spy is making its way to American shores, this time as an ABC pilot starring Rob Corddry. The show has so much to love about it, it’s easy to imagine that, with the right cast, the show could be a hit in the United States.
Most spy shows only include characters from the secret agent’s “normal” life to give the bad guys someone to kidnap. But on Spy, Tim’s family is central to every episode — particularly Tim’s obnoxious 10-year-old son Marcus (Jude Wright), who criticizes his father on everything from his cooking to his grammar, all while wearing a tiny suit and tie and making allusions to the battle of Thermopylae. Marcus is so pretentious that when he throws a dinner party with his crush and another pint-sized couple, they all end up bickering as though they’re in a miniature Woody Allen movie. I have no idea how the American series will find another kid as pitch-perfect as Jude Wright, but I’m excited to see Corddry as the kind of dad who will sabotage his kid’s grades in one episode, and use surveillance gear to help him win a school election in another.
Tim battles against ex-wife Judith and her boyfriend Philip for custody of Marcus (awful though he may be). Along the way, the various therapists assigned to their case put the two through every imaginable form of humiliation. The latest even pays Judith to sleep with him, Indecent Proposal-style. Dolly Wells plays a wonderfully uptight Judith; I could see Kristen Wiig drolly telling her case worker to “stop smelling my hair.”
Tim’s office life isn’t much better than his home life. In Season 2, his super-spy love interest Caitlin is stolen from him by a CIA operative. His boss, The Examiner, is a totally insane egomaniac, as likely to stick you with a throwing star as he is to give you a “gift” of an enemy operative to interrogate. As Tim gazes longingly at Caitlin chatting with her boyfriend, The Examiner asks, “Are you picturing them in the shower?” Hopefully, the American version will maintain that kind of non-sequitur inappropriateness. Caitlin needs to be recast with someone as funny as No Heroics alum Rebekah Staton (possibly Maya Rudolph, Becki Newton or, if she would ever do it, Janeane Garofalo). Who else could you picture infiltrating an anarchist chatroom with sexy messages? As for The Examiner? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s no reason that Robert Lindsay couldn’t reprise his role.
Spy is a great candidate for an American reboot, but in order to capture the fun of the original, they have to keep the weird, non-saccharine humor from the original. Corddry at least seems like the right man for the job.