A 10-part series loosely based on the 1994 romcom plays more like an easily digestible greatest hits collection of Working Titles back catalogue
In these reboot/remake/remix-heavy times, theres something bizarre and inevitable about Mindy Kaling reworking Four Weddings and a Funeral as a 10-part series for Hulu. Its as MadLibs as anything else weve seen commissioned of late, whether it be Apples Emily Dickinson comedy series with Hailee Steinfeld or Epix turning the origin story of Batmans butler Alfred into a 007-lite action show. It never ends, and its with a certain sense of exhaustion that one approaches another one of these Frankenshows, conjured into being via what sounds like a drunk party pitch given to an executive with more money than sense.
But as a fan of the original and the admittedly flawed London-set romantic comedies it spawned, its also hard not to remain cautiously optimistic, especially given how Working Title has mostly stopped making them. In resurrecting the subgenres patient zero, Kaling, along with 30 Rock and Great News writer Tracey Wigfield, has decided upon some vital tweaks. Richard Curtiss all-white upper-middle-class chums have been replaced with a more realistically diverse cross-section, and the sentimental tone has now been married with a light smattering of knowingly meta snark. Its a show crafted by writers who know these films inside and out, and rather than playing like a straight-up remake of Four Weddings, it feels more like a ramshackle greatest hits assembly job, stitching together pieces all the way from Love Actually to Bridget Joness Diary.
In Kalings remixed version, Hugh Grant is now Game of Thrones alumna Nathalie Emmanuel, who plays Maya, an American speechwriter heading to London to catch up with old friends. At the airport she has a meet-cute with Kash (Nikesh Patel) before later finding out hes actually the fiance of her best friend Ainsley (Rebecca Rittenhouse) because, obviously. Theres also Duffy (John Reynolds) whos had a crush on Maya since college, Ainsleys bitchy upper-crust neighbour Gemma (Zoe Boyle) and Craig (Brandon Mychal Smith) whos hiding a big secret from his girlfriend Zara (Sophia La Porta). Their lives and loves intersect in various ways as the plot forces them into five, ahem, major life events.
Once you get past the fact that the show barely resembles its source material and that any comparison would not work in its favour anyway, there are simple pleasures to be had. Its never less than watchable, spoonfeeding us familiar scenarios, intermixed with sweeping shots of London, easily digestible in a comforting, unchallenging sort of way. The writing is patchy, forcing in a few too many awkward pop culture references and crowbarring in character detail in an often painfully clumsy way (Maybe I only like it because I watched it with my mum on Broadway a couple of months before she died), but the performers try their best. Emmanuel is hugely engaging if a little too composed to pull off the requisite moments of bumbling social ineptitude, while Patel grows with confidence and charm by every episode. But as a sort of Kristin Scott Thomas substitute, Boyle struggles to sell what could have been an enjoyably snippy sidekick. Expanding a romantic comedy into a 10-part series does lead to an interesting challenge for the writers because its not enough to focus on just two characters and instead, supporting roles are forced into becoming more integral. Suddenly sassy friend has a life outside of giving quippy advice to the lead, and this plays out with mixed results, some storylines proving more interesting than others.