scorecardresearch Skip to main content

In musical series ‘Up Here,’ cutesy trumps catchy

Mae Whitman and Carlos Valdes in "Up Here."Patrick Harbron/Hulu

“Up Here” is a musical rom-com from a pedigreed creative team whose resumes include “Dear Evan Hansen,” Frozen,” “tick, tick… BOOM!,” and “Hamilton.” It’s a cutesy tale, as the two romantic interests — Mae Whitman’s Lindsay and Carlos Valdes’s Miguel — break up and make up while trying to manage their insecurities. But then it’s a mildly cerebral show, too, as it runs on earnest, angst-filled tunes that aren’t especially character-revealing or catchy.

Set in 1999, the story is very simple. Lindsay has left her parents and her dentist fiancé and moved to New York City to become a writer. She winds up working at a bookstore and literally renting out a closet for a bedroom. Naturally, she and Miguel meet cute, but things quickly get complicated when Miguel flees a sexual encounter for no apparent reason. He is still twisted up over having caught his girlfriend cheating on him two years earlier, and he has channeled his anger into a career as a soulless investment banker.


Both lovebirds are in turmoil, as they try to find their true selves underneath all the cultural and family expectations bearing down on them. Those expectations materialize as people from their pasts, who regularly appear to them and stir up their fears and neuroses in song. Lindsay sees and hears her mother, father, and grammar school friend, and Miguel sees and hears his devoted mother, a high school bully, and the corporate alpha dog he caught in bed with his ex. Will the young lovers find enough confidence to ignore all the advice from the voices in their heads and stand up for themselves?

I wish the story line were a little less predictable and trite, as the pair fall apart and get together a few times. Whitman and Valdes are charming enough, but they’re caught in a will-they-or-won’t-they situation that has nothing fresh to offer and songs that too-often fail to rouse or move. Perhaps “Up Here” might have worked better as a movie, pared down and filler-free, instead of an eight-episode Hulu series. It premieres Friday.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.