We live in a weird time where nostalgia reigns supreme. We look to the past in search of comfort food. Future Man is that type of show where it heavily relies on references from the past to work. This can be a double-edged sword that can either produce something great or something terrible. Well, in Future Man’s case, the show falls on its sword with great aplomb.
Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherson) is a lowly janitor by day who is unsatisfied with his life. Josh is obsessed with beating an unbeatable video game called Biotic Wars. When he does finally beat the game, Josh suddenly finds himself thrust into a mission from two warriors from the future, Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and Wolf (Derek Wilson). The video game was a recruitment too and since Josh is the only one who’s beat it, it’s up to him and the two future warriors to prevent a catastrophic tomorrow.
The show outright says that it takes it basic premise from The Last Starfighter. Throughout its thirteen episode run, the show makes constant references to The Terminator and the Back to the Future trilogy. Most of the show’s humor relies on references from other eighties sci-fi movies, which is ill-intentioned.
This show is from the creator of the BBC show Misfits (which is excellent for the first three season) and two of the screenwriters of the hilarious Sausage Party. Just from the titles of episodes two and six, you can tell this is gonna be a raunchy affair. Plus, seeing how Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are executive producers as well as the directors of the first three episodes, expectations are high.
Sadly, I didn’t find this show to be that funny. Most of the humor, when it’s not referencing other eighties sci-fi properties, is really vulgar, lowbrow, raunchy humor. Literally, the plot of this show revolves around a character contracting herpes through various sexual escapades with our protagonists trying to prevent it. And trust me when I say, they make the cold sore as disgusting as humanly possible. When all else fails, this show falls back on tired penis jokes that are so juvenile, you’d be amiss that this wasn’t written by a fifteen-year-old.
To the show’s credit, the best and the funniest episode comes at the midpoint with episode seven. It’s a bottle episode that takes down one of the most famous and powerful directors on the planet. It’s honestly been a long time coming as this particular director has a notorious reputation for being difficult, to say the least. The references work well in a storytelling sense and are really clever.
The worst thing about Future Man though is how repetitive it is. I wish everyone would get on board with having shorter seasons as this show would constantly go out of its way to keep Josh, Tiger, and Wolf together and have them fail on what should be a simple mission. It’s clear from halfway through watching this that this was supposed to be a movie. At thirteen half-hour episodes, it’s stretching itself way too thin. In the time of peak television, your show has to be as tight and tip-top as possible.
Josh Hutcherson, who is also a producer on this show, embodies the everyman making Josh Futterman completely relatable even as his character manages to royally screw things up time and time again. Eliza Coupe and Derek Wilson make the most out of one-note characters. The fish out of water stuff wears pretty thin, pretty early for all three characters. Even more so later on in the season as the three split up and head their separate ways. Josh’s parents are a delight to watch as this is the last performance of Glenne Headly as Josh’s mom, Dianne. Ed Beagly Jr. also gets a lot of mileage out of his role as Josh’s dad Gabe.
However, I wished the writers went in a different direction with a different character. Jeri played by Britt Lower is another standout. She’s in three episodes but made a lasting impression on me. It’s fairly obvious where they’re taking the character as soon as she steps onscreen, but her presence is there. I hope she blows up from this as like everyone else she’s delightful.
One of the things that kills Future Man is that Rick and Morty are doing almost the same exact thing this show is trying to do only smarter. When that show lifts from previous works it takes it and runs with it making it into something unique. Here, Future Man just lifts and does nothing clever with it. Imagine if This Is
the End were a TV show instead of a movie. That film is brilliant but knows to keep things moving as well as to make economical use of its three-act structure. Now imagine that a thirteen episode show. For the life of me, I don’t see why Hulu just didn’t make this their first original film.
This first season ends on a cliffhanger and, to be quite honest, I don’t care in the slightest about where things go from here. Future Man is not a complete failure as it rests on the shoulders a very committed cast. But, for the most part, the jokes are juvenile and too self-referential for its own good. Look at it this way, I love almost (and I mean almost) all the stuff Seth Rogen has done up until this point. This and Preacher feels like a creative genius running out of steam fast. Sure there’s potential here but not enough to recommend to anyone or worth exploring for another season.
Season 1, Episodes 1-13 (S01E01-13)
Future Man streams on Hulu
A lifelong film enthusiast since he can remember, Brandon is an indie filmmaker/screenwriter and freelance critic who resides in Trenton, NJ. Feel free to hit him up on Twitter to talk movies, shows, and music (especially hip-hop).
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Brandon Norwood | Contributor