Future Man, Hulu’s new action-comedy from the team behind Sausage Party (Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir), goes something like this: Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherson) is a janitor in a big fancy laboratory who is obsessed with a seemingly unbeatable dystopian video game called Biotic Wars. One night, after a breakthrough in the final level, two of the game’s characters, Tiger and Wolf (Eliza Coupe and Derek Wilson), burst through the screen and reveal that the game was actually sent to 2017 from the future because the Biotic Wars are real, and the person who masters the game will become their long-awaited savior.
This brings up two important points:
- This is all basically the plot of the movie The Last Starfighter
- Future Man comes right out and admits this
The show does this a bunch, actually. Tiger and Wolf will tell Josh something about the future, or set some plan in motion, and it will sound very familiar right up until Josh straight up says what it’s from. It’s kind of the flipside of the same coin Stranger Things uses. On that show, staples of the horror and sci-fi genres are winked at and nodded toward, in a way that makes the audience say “Oh, this is like Aliens” or “Oh, this is like Goonies.” On Future Man, it’s Josh himself who says things like “Oh, like in Back to the Future” or “Oh, like in Minority Report.” Both are fine and both can work, depending on the execution.
And for the most part, Future Man works. The show gets a lot of help from its cast, especially Coupe and Wilson as the futuristic post-apocalyptic Mad Max-style revolutionaries who are totally unfamiliar with the world as we know it today. Coupe is great as the team’s commander, which is not really a surprise, because Eliza Coupe is usually great, dating back at least to the gone-too-soon Happy Endings, a show I miss so much that I still get excited when I see its cast pop up in other shows, to the degree it calls my paper-thin veneer objectivity into question. I’m fine with it.
The bigger surprise here is Wilson, who you might know from Preacher or Rectify. He delivers his gravelly, violent, apocalypse-influenced lines with increasing confusion and naiveté as he sees more of the current world (at one point he mistakes Josh for a scientist and calls a broom a “science wand”), and the show takes great pleasure in putting him in insane situations. Does he eat a bunch of pot brownies and freak out? Yes. Does he do a lot of meth and freak out? Also yes. It’s really quite delightful, even when he is covered in the brains of characters he has just killed, in extremely graphic fashion.