When Hulu announced it would be rebooting High Fidelity with a biracial female lead, the show seemed likely to follow the original plot. After all, other such rom-com remakes that alter the protagonist’s gender and race—think the 2019 film What Men Want and Hulu’s series Four Weddings and a Funeral—had done so. In favor of capitalizing on nostalgia and achieving sentimental highs, both projects preserve the overall arcs of the original works: The lead has a meet-cute with the love interest, they encounter a major bump or two along the way, but they fix said bumps by the end and pair off anyway. The only subversion is cosmetic. Despite their ambitions, both reboots felt beholden to their original versions, depicting dating from the eras when the first films were released.
Created by Sarah Kucserka and Veronica West, High Fidelity the series not only expands on its original premise, but it also captures the nuance of Millennial dating by upending the tidiness of the original plot. Yes, Robin ends her first season alone, but the last moments—during which she learns to embrace her singleness, her flaws, and herself—feel just as tender and uplifting as any rom-com finale.
The series may conclude differently, but it never loses the spirit of the film. Take Robin’s post-breakup habits, for example. Like Cusack’s Rob, she mourns at home after being dumped by Mac (Kingsley Ben-Adir), delivers angry asides to the camera, and gripes about pop music and misery. But while film Rob’s angst led him to imagine Laura having sex with her new partner, Ian (Tim Robbins), TV Rob doesn’t have to depend on her imagination: She can use social media to stalk Mac’s new girlfriend, Lily (Dana Drori). One episode follows her scrolling through Lily’s feed, baffled at her posts of sunsets and frosés, in search of a shot of Lily’s face.
Social media pops up throughout the series, emphasizing the ways in which a breakup can feel oppressive. When Robin visits her ex-girlfriend, the Instagram influencer Kat (Ivanna Sakhno)—in the film, she was the stylish cool girl Charlie, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones—Robin’s surrounded by people judging her for her clothes, her career, and her love life. When Robin makes a last-minute decision to celebrate her 30th birthday party with two acquaintances, she enviously watches a larger group of partygoers singing the birthday song. Her friend, noticing this, immediately starts singing as well and filming Robin for her reaction. Grieving a breakup, the show understands, feels so much harder in the time of social media.
Recent reboots have updated the optics, but overlooked how present-day circumstances can deeply affect a character. Both What Men Want and Four Weddings and a Funeral take into account modern technology’s impact on dating through jokes and, in the case of the latter, texts shown on-screen. But the plots follow the same emotional beats as the films on which they’re based. As a result, they feel trapped in an alternate reality where people still show up at doorsteps unannounced and know nothing of one another’s lives unless they’re interacting in person. Meet-cutes and happily-ever-afters are adorable, but such generic rom-com plotting feels out of touch.