In Apple TV+’s Hello Tomorrow!, ‘retro-future’ series set in the 1950s, Billy Crudup’s moon condo salesman stars along with robots
- In a ‘retro future’ series inspired by 1950s car salesmen’s guides, Billy Crudup plays a con man who sells ‘lunar residencies’
- Co-creators of the show Lucas Jansen and Amit Bhalla talk about their hatred of utopias and how they mixed typical ’50s scenes with robots
Blink and you might miss it, but a man wearing a business suit and a jetpack casually blasts off in the first episode of the new series Hello Tomorrow!
He waves to his wife outside his suburban home and soars into the sky. Below him is a fascinating mix of 1950s-era cars with tail fins that hover over the ground and robots that do everything from walk the dog to deliver the post.
It seems like the utopia we always dreamed about until we see a driverless truck accidentally smash into a homeowner. Not all is perfect in this futuristic world – and the creators want it that way, studded with misery and human quirks.
“Utopias terrify us,” says Lucas Jansen, who co-created the show with Amit Bhalla. “The ’bots can do a lot for you, but they can’t relieve you of your human burden. And we’re ever so grateful and would hope that that continues to be the case as our society progresses.”
The Apple TV+ series taps into the alternate-reality retro cool of the ’50s that’s so popular right now – see the film Don’t Worry Darling and the streaming series For All Mankind – as it explores the American dream.
At its heart is Jack, a travelling salesman played by Billy Crudup who sells condos on the moon – sorry, “lunar residencies” – to those disappointed with life on Earth. “We’re not just selling. We’re changing lives,” he tells his selling team.
It’s a scam, of course, one that only he knows is happening, and it requires him and his hoodwinked team to occasionally hit the road before suckers wise up and want their money back.
The series explores the American fantasy that there’s something on the horizon – a medicine, a new product, a lottery win, any kind of Hail Mary – that will make our lives full. “We imagine that has a lot to do with the American experience right now,” says Bhalla.
“In Jack’s mind, providing that hope is proselytising. That is the good word,” he says. “The good word is the future because the present is so mundane, it’s so boring. It doesn’t have any of the American promise. It just has the reality of living.”
Bhalla and Jansen dreamed up a carefully curated world for this morality tale, one that can be called “retro-future” or an “an atomic age vision of the future”. It pulls from a familiar collective consciousness – old-school diners, fedoras, leafy suburbs, apple-cheeked boys and girls – and adds tons of cheery robots.
Bhalla and Jansen cut their teeth in TV under David Milch, the visionary creator of such shows as Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and Deadwood. They met while writing for Milch’s show Luck and teamed up again for Bloodline.
The new series was inspired in part by the training films made for car salesmen in the ’50s that Bhalla and Jansen – together with producer Ryan Kalil – became fascinated by. “They were like these holy texts of capitalism,” says Jansen.
Life for Crudup’s salesman gets more complicated when he is forced to confront the reality of his duplicity and the wreckage he’s made of his life. Years of travelling has left him alone and estranged from his family.
“What you see is this guy being ripped apart,” says Crudup.
“It’s a great contrast for somebody who has to live with the things that they’ve done while still trying to maintain the optimism that is at their core.”