By Michael Learmonth
Hulu’s latest foray into original content is a half-hour animated comedy about a disgraced former record exec who flees to the suburbs to give motherhood a try — with mixed results.
Former "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria plays Rudi Wilson in "Mother Up," a 13-episode series making its debut this fall on Hulu and on Canada’s City Television. Hulu and Canada’s Rogers Media put up the money for the show, which is being executive produced by Ms. Longoria, former Sony Pictures chief and Mass Animation founder Yair Landau and "Family Guy" and "American Dad" co-producer Michael Shipley.
Hulu acting CEO Andy Forssell and Ms. Longoria previewed the show during Ad Age’s Digital Conference in New York.
Hulu is getting what would be the broadcast-TV window on the show in the U.S., but Mr. Landau sees the show as having the same after-life as a show that starts out TV.
"I don’t think of it any differently than launching on Fox on a Friday night," he said. "We think once it has aired on Hulu, it could have a home on any number of cable networks, and obviously we will be selling it into video-on-demand systems like iTunes and Netflix."
In an interview Wednesday, Ms. Longoria said stars are increasingly looking beyond traditional broadcast and cable as markets for content. "Creativity expands when distribution expands," she said.
The world has changed since "Desperate Housewives" drew 30 million viewers a decade ago. "TV in general is an elevator that’s gone down," she said. "It’s not affecting just one network; those [big] numbers just don’t exist."
"Mother Up" will portray Rudi Wilson’s hard-rocking lifestyle in the suburbs, drinking and swearing included, but the content will be more "Family Guy" than "South Park."
"In many ways we are delivering "Family Guy" from a female-empowerment standpoint," Mr. Landau said. "All of us who are parents feel like we mess up a lot and there aren’t a lot of moms on TV that mess up in the way real moms do."
It’s a big investment for Hulu, but Mr. Forssell says this kind of programming has done well for the service.
"We think the audience will be large, and we’ve invested accordingly," he said. "’Family Guy’ and ‘American Dad’ are frequently top-10 shows on Hulu, and there’s a vibrant female audience."
Like all of Hulu’s originals, "Mother Up" will air on Hulu and its pay service, Hulu Plus. "We want to get this in front of as many people as possible," Mr. Forssell said.
Mr. Landau says while animation has been popular in prime time, female leads are rare. "While there are a lot of funny women and big voices expressed, they haven’t been in animation, so far," he said.