Hulu’s Future Man is executive produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (and others), the duo behind Superbad and The Interview and most recently, the Preacher TV series. It follows their usual brand of ridiculous gross-out humour but still manages to retain some heart.
Josh Hutcherson, “Peeta!” from the Hunger Games, is our lead as the titular Future Man or Josh Futturman. When finishing a very tough video game,”Biotic Wars”, a time portal opens containing two of the games’ heroes; Tiger and Wolf. Apparently, Josh was playing a training simulation and not just a below-average third-person shooter. Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and Wolf (Derek Wilson) reveal that they’ve come from the future and it’s all turned to shit, so they’re relying on Josh, who they think is some kind of ultimate warrior. Thus begins Josh’s adventure; your usual hero’s journey in which a nobody is thrown into some unusual situation in which they learn there was a hero inside themselves all along, or something.
It just so happens Josh works as a janitor at the facility in which, in the future, will cause the destruction of the human race. Hutcherson does well as the strait-laced kid out of his time and out of his depth.
Tiger (Coupe) is a hardened warrior. Much of the humour comes from situations in which her immediate response is violence and to take situations head-on. Josh usually ends up talking her out of it until it really is necessary. There could be a really cliche’ nice-guy-gets-the-girl storyline here but it’s mostly pushed to the side. Coupe looks more at home in this show than Wilson.
Wolf (Wilson) is another hardened warrior who learns the joys of cooking while living in a pre-apocalyptic world. Derek Wilson is rather fresh-faced, and it shows, to be fair he’s asked to do a lot here. He also did a stint in Season One of Preacher. And by series end, you can’t help but feel warmed up to the man even with his over-the-top persona.
Ed Begley Jr. is a familiar face. He pops up in all sorts of things. He’s here as Josh’s father. Glenne Headly appears as Josh’s mother, who I’ve just learned, passed away while filming the series. God, Wikipedia is such a bummer sometimes. Her role remains intact in the show. They’re both super sweet in this.
Haley Joel Osment at first seems like a much larger player than he ends up being and is better seen as an eccentric VR founder in Silicon Valley. Elias Kronish (Keith David) is a likable Doctor who, unfortunately, ends up causing the end of the world while discovering a cure for herpes. Hence the reason why our time travellers want to go back in time and kill him, preferably as a baby, it’s just easier that way.
There are also these biotic people with bombs in their heads and it all is rather flimsy and doesn’t make a lick of sense. But it’s okay because this is a fast-paced show and we’re soon thrown into some other scene with characters we (mostly) care about. The action is… okay. There are some neat set pieces now and again but it’s all rather network TV (besides the exploding heads). It looks and feels low budget although they definitely did spend money on this thing.
Future Man enjoys subverting expectations. What seems like a one-off gag may just come back as a recurring joke (that’s what folks in the biz like to call a “callback”!). So it has sci-fi and action elements, but at its heart, Future Man is an almost charming (charming when it’s not making dick jokes) comedy. Future Man is NOT a Back to the Future parody (as I first reported) though it does have clear references to time travel movies such as Back to the Future and Terminator. Heck, there’s even an episode that takes place in James Cameron’s house (it’s plot related I swear).
That episode is “Pandora’s Mailbox”. Of course, Cameron doesn’t show up, and probably wasn’t asked for his approval, but in this fictionalised universe high-tech AI controls his house, home to rare props from Cameron’s movie sets. Wolf even learns Na’vi. It’s ridiculous and a little bit awkward but somehow it all still works.
The show does take place in the past and the present and alternate presents, yadda yadda yadda, but there are not the twists you’d normally expect. There’s one episode that revolves around a coming out story. Of course, it’s not treated with the deft of say, One Day At A Time, and there’s a Scooby Doo-esque farce of hiding in a house, but at least it’s something more emotional than the plain save-the-world-premise.
Overall, Future Man is a mixed bag. The overarching plot is a little boring but episodes are only half an hour long and there are some fun moments in there. It’s not as dark as Preacher so you can binge without feeling too bad about the world.
Hulu (US), Lightbox (NZ)
14 November 2017
6 ½ hrs