Difficulties

Imagine a picture puzzle. It’s on a table, complete, but as you walk towards it, you note that the pieces don’t all fit together snugly. The end result is clear but the constituent parts look a bit doggy.

Difficult People on Hulu has an obvious conceit: New York Jewish woman pals around with gay best friend floating on a bed of pop-culture snark. Julie Klausner, the writer and lead actor, connects a loose federation of jokes and set-ups that create a cohesive whole until you notice the detail. Enter the dogginess.

After we understand the outline, too many gay set pieces begin to overwhelm everything else. Billy Eichner’s whining monotone drowns out his lines. Snappy zingers could (and I imagine the writers feel should) balance his lovelorn self-pity, but one ends up tuning out both to focus on…well, anything else.

Klausner gives herself some funny moments – one in particular being an adventure into questionable taste in Hoboken – but in general she’s more amusing acquaintance than rapier wit.

Because of that, the show’s overarching feel is that of gently entertaining pastime rather than destination viewing. Perhaps that’s what they’re aiming for; a docu-snicker at big city single/gay life with a few sheathed barbs for interest.

Performances of note include that of James Urbaniak and Andrea Martin, as Klausner’s shack-up stud and mother, respectively. Urbaniak has only two-dimensional lines with which to work, but manages to be both comic and sympathetic. Martin is blessed with some of the best material and the ability to work with it.

People’s singular failure is an inability to create laugh-out-loud moments. That’s a shame.