The Booth at the End – The Best Show You’re Not Watching
Hulu’s low-budget series is technically about a man who sits at a booth in some greasy diner, awaiting the chance meeting with strangers who’ve heard of him. I say technically because the truly interesting thing here are those he meets with. Ordinary people come to him, desiring something so strongly that they’re willing to take inconceivable measures to attain it. They ask him for something, and he sets out a task they must perform to achieve it. A girl who wants to be prettier must rob a bank. A man who wants the woman from a magazine’s centerfold has to protect a child. An old woman must build a bomb and blow up a café to cure her husband of Alzheimer’s.
One of the scenarios I found most interesting was a woman who wished to die so that another could live. Her task was to find something worth living for. How’s that for fucked up?
There is no negotiation, and they must check in with him periodically to tell him how their task is moving along. At any point, they may choose to cancel the deal. This is the meat of the story, and where (I assume) most viewers opt out from the synopsis: the entire series takes place inside the diner, checking in as they make steps toward their goal. Upon realizing that it’s literally just two people talking, I was initially disappointed. How interesting could this be? How well could some little-wig Hulu show pull this off? But then the first episode ended, and I clicked the next. And the next. Before I knew it, they had crept under my skin and became people I cared deeply about.
Each check-in is sort of like being privy to someone’s therapy session… if their therapist was the Devil, and he was asking how killing a bunch of people is going. How did that make you feel? What was that like? Where are you going to go from here? In the end, it’s not about the act, but the struggle they must overcome to achieve their dreams. How is this task changing them, and will they even want what they asked for in the end? Were they always that person to begin with? Did they ever want it at all? Will they see through what they’ve agreed to? The answers to these questions are both chilling and unexpected.
It’s an excellent example of character study, and a fine opportunity for these actors to deliver a lot with very little. Ever see Quantam Dream’s tech demo for Heavy Rain, years ago? A quiet girl delivers a shocking monologue on how she killed her cheating husband, in a way so well written and acted that you forget she’s just an actress auditioning for a role. You don’t even realize that you didn’t see a single one of these events take place. You didn’t need to. That is what every episode of this show reminds me of.The YouTube ID of nFUmWb6kpO8 is invalid.
As the story lines begin to weave together, it becomes clear that there’s something bigger going on here. Some of these tasks will bear unexpected consequences on even the most well-meaning people. You’ll be on the edge of your seat, spamming the Next Episode button, and it’s two people talking in a god damned booth!
This wouldn’t be possible without some sharp writing, and Christopher Kubasik delivers so well that I despise him with every fiber of my being. (Not really – be my mentor?) Adding to that, the acting is surprisingly impressive for such a low budget show, with even children delivering convincing monologues.
Each episode is a brisk 30 minutes, with five episodes a season. The second season just ended, and you can watch the entire series so far on Hulu.
Do it. You’ll go from skeptical to finished in a flash, and then you’ll be left. Like me. With nothing to do but wait for the next season, and wonder why your friends aren’t waiting with you.