The Booth at the End

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There isn’t much to explain about the premise of The Booth at the End. A weird, nameless dude sits in a booth — at the end — in a diner and gives people cryptic assignments to complete in order to obtain things they want. It’s like The Wizard telling Dorothy to kill the witch, whom she’s never met and has no beef with, in order to go home.

Booth is a Hulu original series, but the episodes run the length of an ordinary televised show. That’s probably a bit long for a series of basically all bottle episodes.

As The Man (Xander Berkeley) sits in his booth, one can’t help but think of The Observer in the Fringe episode, “The Arrival,” but this doesn’t have the same payoff in terms of action. With this character, the creators have taken the reticent mentor trope (Being Erica, Dead Like Me) and stretched it to its limit. You really have to buy into the premise that these people are desperate. However, with the exception of the first one, their problems are pretty normal. One client just wants to be prettier, for God’s sake.

There are a ton of people in this cast, given the show’s seemingly narrow scope. (Incidentally, several of them appeared on 24. Berkeley played George Mason.) Over the course of the half hour, The Man is visited by two men, a young woman, a teenager, an elderly woman, and a nun (Sarah Clarke). They’re at various stages of their agreements with The Man; doing his bidding is apparently a multi-stage process. None of them is on screen long enough for us to care about them, at least not in the space of the pilot.

The first client is supposed to kill a child in order to save his own. A later client is told he has to watch over a little girl and protect her. We don’t know from what. That’s just one example of the information The Man frustratingly withholds. Is he protecting the same child that the first client is planning to kill? Are the clients’ assignments intertwined? I found myself hoping, but not convinced, that this was the case by episode’s end. If there’s no connection among these characters then we viewers are really wasting our time here.

A second episode didn’t give me much confidence that this thing had potential to rise above the feel of something created as a film school project, but if anyone knows differently, leave a comment.

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