The fundamentals of “This Fool” are plain and well-known. Chris Estrada, a stand-up comedian, plays Julio, a 30-year-old who lives with his strict mother (Laura Patalano) and not-so-secretly badass grandmother, in the new Hulu comedy (Julia Vera).
He’s restless in a job he enjoys just enough to keep; he pines for his wild card ex-girlfriend Maggie (Michelle Ortiz), despite the fact that he knows they’re probably a bad match.
His cousin Luis (Frankie Quinones), who represents his polar opposite in every manner, irritates him. He’s bored and unsure about the direction he wants his life to take, but he’s not particularly driven to change anything.
Obviously, television is no stranger to such 30-year-old challenges. So “This Fool” — co-created by Estrada and “Corporate” producers Pat Bishop, Matt Ingrebretson, and Jake Weisman — is savvy to focus on what distinguishes it from the rest of that well-trodden genre, making it feel significantly more original than most.
For one, despite the thousands of new shows that premiere each year, there are still very few that feature Latinos as prominently as “This Fool” does with its multigenerational Mexican American family.
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For example, the disparities between Julio and Luis are highlighted by the fact that Julio works as a case manager for former gang members and the recently convicted — including, as the pilot reveals, Luis — for a minister who is unexpectedly laid-back (a hilarious Michael Imperioli).
There simply aren’t that many series that bother to include these experiences, let alone make them central to the plot, which makes “This Fool” a (refreshingly unique) exception.
Many “wayward thirtysomething lives at home” comedies rely on the same kinds of setups and punchlines to transition from one scene to the next, which, to be candid, may be problematic.
The combination of Estrada’s writing, his “Corporate” co-producers refined off-kilter humor, and great (and occasionally weird) direction, though, makes the film’s more specific jokes connect harder. Even when the characters run in circles — which, to be honest, is the majority of the time – they usually reach more unexpected conclusions.
The first 10-episode season — which premieres in its entirety on Hulu on August 12 — finds the program pushing hard to develop strong interactions amongst all cast members, a good and appropriate impulse for a new comedy finding its footing.
Still, the combination of Julio, a self-righteous square with “Edward James Olmos face,” and Luis, a class clown whose eight years in prison have left him in a condition of stopped development, is the novel’s most intriguing (and the era in which his hero Austin Powers was last relevant).
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With Estrada and (particularly) Quinones so at ease in their roles, “This Fool” might have kept their relationship as a basic odd couple and still remained amusing. However, the instances in which they switch places make Julio and Luis feel more realistic. There are significantly less amusing ways to spend a few hours than with these fools, even if they are merely crawling towards self-realization.
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