Hulu’s latest original series Future Man starts out, perhaps, on the wrong foot, when Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson) becomes the first person ever to finish an impossible-to-finish video game, yanks down his pants and starts furiously masturbating, only to have the characters from the video game suddenly appear in his bedroom just in time to accept his payload.
It’s the sort of gag one expects from creators Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir, and exec producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the team behind [the horrible] Sausage Party, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of 13 episodes of dick-and-cum jokes. But rest assured: The show gets better, but without ever actually maturing.
We soon find out that the video game Futturman is playing is a training application sent back from the future. The characters in the game are real people from a dystopia sent back under the misconception that Josh is as good a fighter in real life as he is in the video game and therefore their savior, their Future Man. It’s basically the plot of The Last Starfighter, a point that Josh is quick to make.
Josh, it turns out, is hapless when it comes to his physical abilities, but thanks to an enormous knowledge of time-travel rules gleaned from countless time travel movies, he proves helpful in their task: To kill Dr. Elias Kronish (Keith David), a scientist responsible for inventing a herpes cure that ultimately leads to a doomsday scenario a hundred years in the future. So, it’s basically Terminator, except they also travel back in the past in an attempt to kill Dr. Kronish as a baby, and each time they do, they alter the future, so it’s basically Back to the Future, too.
In fact, Hunter and Shaffir manage to work in not only a bunch of time-travel classics, but Top Gun, Cocktail, and a lot of Corey Hart (“Sunglasses at Night”), who becomes an hilariously unexpected constant presence in the series.
The first few episodes of Future Man are funny enough to hook viewers, but just barely. However, once Future Man gets its feet and finds its inner humanity, the encyclopedic pop-culture knowledge begins to play companion to the story instead of driving it. Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings) is fantastic: A fast-talking badass with an arsenic-laced rathole. Keith David does his always amazing job of playing Keith David, while Ed Begley, Jr. and Glenne Headly (who sadly died after filming 5 episodes) do a nice job of playing Josh’s parents. It’s Derek Wilson, however, who proves to be the most enjoyable surprise: He’s basically Jayne Cobb with an obsession with 80’s pop culture, cooking, and, uh, Corey Hart.
Future Man was a show I had planned to sample: Watch two or three episodes, or enough to write a short review. But I unexpectedly got hooked and binged the entire series in two days: Not because it’s a brilliant comedy, but because it’s comfort TV peppered with familiar pop culture references, likably dumb characters, Eliza Coupe insults, and a few heartfelt moments. It’s not “great” television, but it’s a perfectly good distraction if you’re not up to “great” television over the holidays.