Tech companies apparently can’t get enough of April Fool’s Day. For whatever reason, Silicon Valley mainstays like Google can’t resist having a laugh every year on April 1 – and that includes streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which have both been in the annual prank business since getting into the original content game earlier this decade.
This year, April Fool’s Day falls on a Saturday, which is why Netflix and Hulu got a jump on things by unveiling their latest stunts on March 31. Hulu has just introduced “Hu: TV Abbreviated,” which cut series like “The Mindy Project” and “Shut Eye” down into eight second recaps. (Honestly, in this age of Too Much TV, that’s actually a great — and very welcome — idea.) Netflix created “Netflix Live,” with Will Arnett narrating mundane activities like watching an unattended copy machine.
Those gags are…fine. But where do they rank among Netflix’s and Hulu’s other gags this decade? Here are some highlights.
“John Stamos: A Human, Being.” (Netflix, 2016)
In 2016, as “Fuller House” first premiered on the streaming service, Netflix went all-in on executive producer and star John Stamos. Not only did it include Stamos-centric categories on the home page that day, but Netflix programming boss Ted Sarandos followed it up with a tongue-in-cheek apology. And then, of course, Netflix even offered up a sneak peek at this new original documentary, which could be summed up with this one line: “John Stamos is more than just a human being. John Stamos is a human, being.”
Hulu Datr (Hulu, 2016)
Hulu created 11 videos to tout its Hulu Datr service, which it called “the revolutionary free new app that will transform the way soul mates find one another. Press play on your love life.”
Actually, this is another pretty good idea. Why keep it a gag? Hulu ought to be bringing couples together over a shared love of “The Path.”
Binge Responsibly (Netflix, 2015)
“House of Cards” star Michael Kelly, “Orange is the New Black’s” Uzo Aduba and Taylor Schilling (below) and others were just looking out for you, the Netflix binge addict, in this series of fake public service announcements.
Hulu Pets (Hulu, 2015)
Another pretty great idea: “The Real Pugs of Portland,” “Bone Appétit,” “The Mew.” All shows that might trigger a few more customers to sign up for a monthly subscription. Why should only humans get to binge?
Netflix Original: Rotisserie Chicken (Netflix, 2014)
This may seem like a joke, but it’s actually clearly inspired by both the famous annual Yule Log (started 50 years ago by WPIX-TV in New York) and the “slow TV” movement in Europe. Watching a rotisserie chicken cook for 73 minutes, or bacon sizzling in a pan (another offering that year) for 20 minutes? Why not.
“In the Kitchen with Hannibal” (Hulu, 2014)
Fake TV shows, of course, are the hallmark of TV-centric April Fool’s pranks. In 2014, Hulu created two elaborate faux series: “In the Kitchen with Hannibal,” a play on the cannibalistic cuisine created by José Andrés and seen on “Hannibal”; and “The Field,” which delved into the anger issues of Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) from “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
Unusual Netflix Categories (Netflix, 2013)
Perhaps the most useful and clever of them all: Netflix categories that watch TV the way you watch TV. Among them: “Movies Starring Estelle Getty and Some Other Guy,” “TV Shows Where Defiantly Crossed Arms Mean Business,” “Movies That Are in English But Still Require Subtitles,” “Movies Starring Actors Who Look Like Zach Galifianakis.”
Hulu Goes Retro (Hulu, 2011)
Who doesn’t love a little retro? Ironically, the idea of Hulu in 2011, before the original streaming revolution really took off, feels retro itself. But back then, the Hulu team was feeling even more nostalgic for the early days of the Internet – creating a home page that looked like it came straight outta 1996. (Honestly, this still looks a little too good for 1996 – the photos are too big, and there isn’t a lot of weird obnoxious dead space.)