Hulu shows off new series – why one of them needs to be a hit

Speaking at the tail end of a two-week summer gathering of television critics in Beverly Hills Tuesday, Hulu senior VP of content Andy Forssell conceded his company stands out as a little bit of an “odd animal” at the event.

“We’re not a TV network and we’re not a studio. We’re a distributor … But we share a lot of DNA with you,” he told the dwindled gathering of about 70 exhausted TV bloggers and newspaper writers.

Also read: Hulu enters the international co-production business, with the BBC’s The Thick of It

Indeed, just like Hulu’s broadcast-network corporate cousins, ABC (s DIS), Fox (s NEWS) and NBC (s CMSCA) — which earlier rolled out their series talent and producers in daylong sessions at the Television Critics Association press tour — Hulu needs a hit.

The company has not released an updated subscriber number for its premium Hulu Plus platform since announcing that it surpassed the 2 million level in the first quarter.

Of course, if you live up north in Los Gatos, Calif., and your name is Netflix (s NFLX), that kind of caginess might trigger investor revolt. Last week, for example, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings matter-of-factly hinted that Olympics viewing might — might — impact third-quarter subscriber growth, and Netlix stock spiraled.

Also read: Larry King returns – New show kicks off on Hulu Tuesday

A joint venture between News Corp., Disney and Comcast/NBCUniversal, Hulu doesn’t have the misfortune of having its subscriber data held to the fire of mandated quarterly earnings reports.

Nonetheless, the service is hoping one — or a few — of the original productions and exclusive foreign acquisitions it presented Tuesday becomes the kind watercooler hit that drives subscription growth.

Here’s who Hulu rolled out for TV scribes:

>> Timothy “Speed” Levitch, the quirky star of quirky neat-places-to-visit show Up to Speed. A history-buff guide on a double-decker bus tour in New York City, Levitch became something of a local legend and was shuttled off onto the road of internet video stardom when Gen X indie film darling Richard Linklater “discovered” him. Linklater wasn’t on hand Tuesday, but producers Dana O’Keefe and Alex Lipshultz appeared alongside Levitch to make sure he didn’t go off the rails. O’Keefe described the show — which debuts on Hulu and Hulu Plus August 9 — as a “travel and history show for people who don’t like travel and history shows.”

>> TV interview legend Larry King, whose new zeitgeist-focused show debuted in mid-July. King resisted writers’ attempts to take shots at his ratings-challenged former employer, CNN, which presented hours earlier on the same stage. He also said there’s been no drop-off in his ability to draw celebrity guest to his interview chair, even though he now does his thing on the internet, and he’s coming off a two-year retirement. “If we call, the call gets taken,” he said.

>> Writer Armando Iannucci, whose British political satire series, The Thick of It, is now co-produced by Hulu. Series stars James Smith and Joanna Scanlan also appeared on the brief Q&A panel. The series launches on Hulu July 29.

>> Tom Hollander and James Wood, creators of the British comedy series Rev, another BBC show, which mixes religion and comedy. Both men were petrified of offending the easily offended TCA gathering, self-correcting each “Oh my god” with “I mean, ‘Oh my gosh.'”

>> Gideon Raff, writer-director of Israel’s award-winning drama series Prisoners of War, which debuted on Hulu July 14, also appeared, alongside show stars Mili Avigal and Ishai Golan.

>> Hulu also announced Tuesday that it has picked up season four of British science fiction series Misfits, as well as season two of psychological thriller The Booth at the End.