By Neil Cross
March 07, 2018 at 12:00 PM EST
Robert Viglasky/Hulu; Inset: Hulu

Hard Sun

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Hulu’s Hard Sun tells the story of two detectives who don’t like each other very much but who have one very big thing in common: They want to save their loved ones from the end of the world. The show comes from Luther creator Neil Cross, who reveals his inspirations for his new series in the blog post below…

Does anyone remember Moonlighting? It feels rude to ask, because it was huge… but it burned bright and burned out and now, unfairly, seems largely forgotten. 

It starred Bruce Willis and Cybil Shephered as will-they-won’t-they private detectives David Addison and Maddie Hayes. And I loved it. All these years later I can’t remember any story of the week, but I vividly recall how acutely I needed Maddie and David to get together. 

When they got close and Mark Harmon’s urbane ex-astronaut turned up and ruined it… that was an upsetting time for me. (And truthfully, I’m not sure I ever quite forgave Mark Harmon. At least not until he got himself shot in The West Wing and C.J.’s grief compelled me to give him a pass for old sins.)

But in the end, Maddie and David did get together. And yeah. I quickly realized that, actually, I hadn’t wanted this at all.

It threw a piston through the hood and into the windshield of the show. And as I picked my way through the wreckage I began to understand that what I’d actually wanted all along was simply to enjoy the wanting.

Thus ended one of my early lessons in the perverse nature of TV. But no good lesson should ever be wasted, and for a long time I wanted to make a kind of anti-Moonlighting: a show in which we’d know from the get-go that our two leads are never, ever, ever going to get together. They’re never going to bond or flirt or yearn or enjoy a sharing moment. Instead, each would have good reason to coldly distrust and fear the other. But they’d be forced to cooperate anyway. Because if they didn’t, they’d die… and so would everyone they loved. 

Naturally, we’d want them to trust one another; or rather, we’d think we wanted that. But what we’d really enjoy would be this intense, murderous paso doble of complicity and betrayal, trust and mistrust, played out before our eyes. 

I didn’t know exactly who these characters were. I knew they were night and day, sun and moon. I knew one would be happy and loving and profoundly corrupt, and I knew the other would be damaged and secretive and incorruptible. I didn’t even know what kind of story I could tell with them. They were just there, spectral and half-real, characters in a departure lounge waiting for a fictional world into which they could step.

I’m not a writer who has much of what you’d call a “process.” I didn’t know what do to with these desperate, amoral, trapped characters. I didn’t want to “work them up into a pitch” because, although that’s a sentence I hear pretty often, I’m not entirely sure what it means. So I left them on a low simmer and got on with writing and reading and watching other things.

At this stage I should confess to an unhealthy relationship with books. I like their company. I think of them of as much a luxury as a necessity, just as I once thought of cigarettes (and secretly still do). Books are compost for the imagination. Books are their own reward.

But books are like Tribbles: take your eye off them for fives minutes and they’re encroaching into every nook and cranny of your living space and, for all I know, breeding. 

It used to be a problem; for much of my life I was fiercely unwilling to part with a single paperback. But now, two or three times a year I fill a number of boxes with “unwanted” books and give them to a local charity. 

So there I am, in my study, grudgingly playing triage with thrillers and histories and biographies. In the background, I’m playing music. And up pops David Bowie singing “Five Years.” 

It’s a song about the end of the world… except it’s not. Not really. Or not completely. It’s about how seeing the world in its frailty and impermanence reveals everything and everyone in the truth of its infinite value: all the tall, short people, all the fat, skinny people.

In lesser hands it would’ve been a dirge. But these weren’t lesser hands. “Five Years” is exultant; a life-affirming song about the end of days.

And suddenly I had a world onto which my two characters could step. It was the world of the song: a world that has five years left.

Because what better way to test these two characters? What better way to see what really matters to them? 

The nameless characters became Elaine Renko and Charlie Hicks, and then one very happy day they were personified by Agyness Deyn and Jim Sturgess; actors who like each other a great deal and excel at pretending they don’t. And we found a London in which to tell their story: a London that’s a collision between ancient stone and postmodern chrome and glass — a city that’s speeding away from its long and storied history into a future that doesn’t exist. 

And that’s where the crazies come from, too: all the killers and the lunatics and the cultists and the fanatics because…

… well, what’s to stop them? What’s the point of law and order in the face of Armageddon? What’s the point of justice? 

We called the show Hard Sun. It was a labour of love, and we’re very proud of it. We hope you like it, too.

Hard Sun

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