Late yesterday, Twitter lit up with a bit of news few were expecting. Not a rare occurrence these days, but this time it wasn’t a story about a Covid-19 vaccine trial or a new Axios interview with President Trump. It was something else: Hulu had canceled High Fidelity after just one season.
The High Fidelity news wasn’t the biggest thing to break yesterday—it wasn’t the FBI searching Jake Paul’s house or anything—but it stung. Hulu launched the series on February 14 (Valentine’s Day, awwwww) and after the coronavirus lockdowns started hitting the US in early March, it became something of a lifeline. The show, a reimagining of Nick Hornby’s book and the John Cusack movie of the same name starring Zoë Kravitz, wasn’t particularly groundbreaking—it was about a bunch of Brooklyn music nerds who spent a lot of time hanging out. But at a time when everyone was “hanging out” on Zoom or group texts, it was like a broadcast from an alternate timeline where impromptu meetups at dive bars were still happening.
When it premiered, Jillian Mapes wrote a piece for Pitchfork declaring bluntly, “We Didn’t Need the High Fidelity TV Show.” The thesis was that much of the original book and film were infused with a kind of toxic masculinity specific to music fandom and that attempts to gender-flip the lead and introduce more women, people of color, and queer characters to the story was a “morally suspect” move when Hulu—or any streaming service, really—could’ve just green-lit an entirely new show. “Why spend all this time, money, and energy updating and changing the gender on source material that, in hindsight, is pretty dodgy about women?” Maps wrote. “Is High Fidelity really so beloved (or its brand name so powerful) that they couldn’t have started from scratch on a series about music obsessives who aren’t exclusively straight white men?” I’d argue Mapes was right about everything in her piece, except the headline—we did need the new High Fidelity, just not in the way she was talking about.
In many ways, High Fidelity is just one of many shows and movies that have come along to fill the void during quarantine. Everything from Twister to Tiger King has proven to be a comfort, or at least a distraction, as people while away the hours. Hulu’s show tapped in to a certain kind of layabout, day-drinking malaise that is currently missing from a lot of people’s summers. And even though it does have the patina of its predecessors, show creators Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka recently told The Hollywood Reporter that they were hoping for “many seasons” with which to explore the show’s various characters, and hopefully escape the book and film’s largely cishet-white-male storylines. Now, we’ll never know.