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'Booth at the End' review: New series

THE SHOW "The Booth at the End"

WHERE | WHEN Streaming at starting Monday

WHAT IT'S ABOUT There is a man -- or the Man (Xander Berkeley, "24") -- who sits at a booth in a diner, sipping tea, looking out the window. Occasionally, a stranger approaches: "I hear the pastrami here is good," this person will say. And so begins their quest.

The Man says he will give strangers whatever they want -- as long as they perform a task. The tasks are not easy. Last season, a woman had to rob a bank of exactly $101,043 in exchange for beauty; an elderly woman had to set off a bomb in a cafe to reverse her husband's Alzheimer's. This season, you'll meet Dillon, who wants eternal life, and Henry, who wants to have been married to Katy the last 20 years (instead of Heather). You can be certain, the Man will demand something in return.

MY SAY May we all live in interesting times, and Hulu -- which, for all I know, asked the Man for this -- is living in interesting times. The website is launching a handful of new and returning series shortly, including "Hatufim" ("Prisoners of War"), a new online talk show with Larry King, the former CNN host, and the Morgan Spurlock documentary, "A Day in the Life." Some are established series, like "Hatufim," an award-winning Israeli drama. Others are homegrown, like new projects from Richard Linklater and Kevin Smith. All are intriguing.

But "Booth" -- created by science-fiction writer Chris Kubasik and directed by Adam Arkin -- is an especially strange bird. It's a hybrid of "Twilight Zone" and "In Treatment," with maybe a dash or two of "Finder of Lost Loves." As the Man, Berkeley is flawlessly droll and inscrutable: He is the embodiment of what anyone wants him to be, good or evil. "How can I know you're not the devil?" someone once asked him. "You can't," he replied with the chilliest of smiles. Who is he? Wouldn't they (and you) like to know, but the answer may be irrelevant. "Booth" is really an exploration of human desire, and its mysterious wellsprings.

BOTTOM LINE "Booth" can be talky and slow, but that's kind of the point. It wants to stop you dead in your tracks -- to think.


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