Forward to the Past!
“Future Man” on Hulu
Pop culture is, by its very nature, cannibalistic. The fact that superstar comedy producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express, This is the End, The Interview, Sausage Party) basically borrow the entire premise of their new Hulu show “Future Man” from Ernest Cline’s 2015 novel Armada is neither a crime nor a surprise. (Especially since Cline borrowed the entire premise from 1984’s box office hit The Last Starfighter.) “Future Man” at least has the stones to own up to and point out its familiar roots—which also include The Terminator, Back to the Future, Ender’s War, “Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future” and about a dozen other childhood favorites.
The half-hour series centers on Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson from The Hunger Games). Josh is a lowly janitor who still lives with his highly permissive hippie parents (Ed Begley Jr. and Glenne Headly). Unambitious in the extreme, Josh’s only measurable skill is playing the video game Biotic Wars. In fact, he’s the best in the world at it. Turns out, however, that Biotic Wars isn’t just any old video game. It’s a recruitment tool. Wouldn’t you just know it: Mysterious people from the future are using it to locate one highly skilled “savior” in order to fight off an impending alien invasion.
Josh realizes all this when he beats the seemingly impossible game, releasing digital characters Tiger (Eliza Coupe from “Happy Endings”) and Wolf (Derek Wilson from “Preacher”) into the real world. As Tiger explains it, “Everything in Biotic Wars is real. The Biotics. The wars.” The futuristic soldiers immediately use their time travel device to transport Josh back to 1969 in an attempt to change history and prevent the deadly Biotics from ever coming into existence. “OK, so now it’s The Last Starfighter crossed with ‘Quantum Leap,’” points out Josh.
The problem is, of course, that Josh is no super-powered warrior. He’s just a slacker who wasted his life playing video games. He can’t actually fight in the real world. Still, he has a personal connection to the wasted future world, and may still be able to prevent it from occurring.
“Future Man” lays on the raunchy jokes, dropping bombs about the Super Mario Bros.’ penises and including a graphic semen gag in the first episode. But you probably shouldn’t expect any less from Rogen and Goldberg. The show spends most of its time in 1969 and in modern-day Los Angeles, keeping the expensive “future” sequences conveniently (and economically) at bay. There are, as expected, plenty of jokes about video games and sci-fi movies. None of them are particularly deep-dive references, but retro video game addicts will get the most mileage out of this show’s nerdy man-child sense of humor. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little cannibalism—so long as you already have a taste for what’s being served.