Every so often a SciFi show comes along that either redefines the genre or dramatically ups the bar for amazing TV. Shows like this combine jaw dropping effects with complex story telling, amazing acting and a reverence for the genre to create something truly special. They make us believe their incredible tales of what could be.
Future Man is not that.
Future Man is what you get when you take a Seth Macfarlane-esque sense of humor and strip it of all sense of class and decency. It’s what you get when you make a show about an 18-year old gamer’s desire to be The One (a la Neo and the Matrix) without giving them any actual skills. It’s also what happens when streaming studios let psychopaths like Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg create television programming.
And I’m totally fine with all of that, because despite all of those insane things I just said, Future Man is fun. It’s ridiculous, stupid, infantile, perverse and gross fun.
Future Man centers on Josh Hutcherson’s character Josh Futterman (or Joosh, as he’s called in the second season). Futterman is a complete loser. He’s really the prototypical image of a slacker gamer who lives in his parents’ basement. His entire existence centers on him on becoming the master of a video game called Biotic Wars, a game that no one else in the world has beaten. Futterman’s life is a bit of a sad testament to over-obsession with video games. He’s a janitor for a pharmaceutical company and spends most of his days plunging toilets and nights playing one video game.
Right off, we get introduce to Tiger and Wolf, two warriors from the future. These two are sent back in time with the mission of saving the future from the evil Biotics. They do this through the game Biotic Wars, which was sent back in time as a training simulator. Tiger and Wolf are totally over-the-top characterizations of video game action heroes brought to life, complete with anime-style calling out of their attacks as they make them. (Gut-punch! Neck Snap! etc…)
The first season centers on the trio’s attempts to remove the future threat of the Biotics by killing Futternan’s boss, Dr. Elias Kronish. Kronish is the CEO of a pharmaceutical company and his personal goal is to wipe out herpes. I mean, it’s a noble goal, to be sure. Unfortunately, creating that cure results in the creation of the biotics, a genetically engineered race of mutant humans bent on wiping out the normies. The team hops around through time trying to find ways to make sure Kronish’s evil cure never comes about. As callous soldiers from the future, Tiger and Wolf just want to kill Kronish as a baby. But, like most of us, Futterman has moral qualms with killing a baby that hasn’t committed any crimes. His issues throw Tiger and Wolf’s plans into a proverbial wood-chipper. What results is a mess of time hopping antics involving plenty of cocaine, explosions, James Cameron and timey-wimey insanity.
If you thought Season 2 would be a lot like Season 1, you’re gonna have a hard time. While yes, there’s still plenty of dick jokes and infantile humor, it’s less of a time travel show and more of a WTF post apocalyptic future show this time around. After dealing with the Kronish threat, Tiger and Wolf head back to their own time, only to find things didn’t turn out as planned. To make things worse, Josh (or Joosh as he’s now called) gets snatched from his prison cell in the present day and becomes a guinea pig of sorts in the future. Part of what makes this season fun is the strange, fluid dynamic of Wolf’s new family. Wolf gets sucked into the life of his updated timeline counterpart, Torque, and providing for his new family. Tiger, on the other hand, has to deal with finding her own place in this new future, along with a huge revelation about who she really is.
At its heart, Future Man is a “dude comedy.” I mean, the childish, sex jokes, 80’s cultural references out the wazoo, and absurd situations? Totally “dude.” But there are a few things that make it a little different and more enlightened (if you can say that at all) than it’s 80’s and 90’s counterparts. First, and please correct me if I’m wrong because I totally could be, but I didn’t see any real exploitation of women. The second season also takes the opportunity to cover some interesting points about relationship fluidity, pansexuality and polyamory that are fairly progressive for a dude-bro comedy. The show doesn’t make a big deal about them, it just kind of treats them as pretty normal.
One of my favorite moments comes from the scene highlighted in the season 2 trailer, with Futterman all puffy and clearly dealing with some kind of anaphylactic shock. This particular scene is actually a setup for a much better punchline later in the season.
Problems with the show
I will say that, Jeri (Britt Lower), Futterman’s love interest, doesn’t have quite the strong character development that she could have received. There isn’t a ton of room for much, but they could have worked a bit more in. As it is, most of her appearance in the first season is just as Futterman’s fantasy girl. Of course, there’s more to her character, just not in the way that gives her a ton of character development.
The show’s first season certainly wasn’t raved over by critics or other online commentators. Overall, the show definitely fits the bill as a ridiculous dude-comedy. Take for example, Noel Murray’s (of The Verge) criticism about a certain dance-off in Episode 2, A Riphole in Time. Basically, the story steals a plot point from the original Back to the Future, only this time Hutcherson’s character ends up as the inspiration for Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. Murray’s comment, rightly so, is that too often white people end up getting credit for things people of color create, and that this joke basically advances that mentality. Murray’s not necessarily wrong, though one could argue that it’s kind of a closed loop of time traveliness, since technically Michael Jackson inspired Michael Jackson. The same episode also replaces Steve Jobs with a black man. It’s all very weird.
Wrap and Conclusion
Future Man isn’t groundbreaking in any way shape or form. In fact, it’s derivative as hell. It isn’t really very hopeful or inspiring either. But that doesn’t really matter because I don’t think it’s trying to do any of that. The first season is pretty funny, but can be a little slow getting through since it’s basically a 90-minute movie stretched out into 13 half-hour episodes. In the second season though, Future Man is starting to pick up steam, but this is almost always the case with new TV shows because the writers are moving past the pilot’s premise and are starting to explore the rest of the show’s universe. And Future Man has a LOT of universes to work with.
Look, Future Man probably isn’t going to win any awards. Most of the jokes are kind of dumb. (The penis-swap is a fairly large plot point, if that gives you any clue.) But for me, the silliness and pop-culture rip-off mentality are a large part of what makes this show entertaining. As I said, it’s not revolutionary, but it is entertaing as hell. Honestly, I do hope that Hulu picks it up for a third season. With more 80’s cues jokes on the horizon, I think it’ll be a lot of fun.