Hit or Miss: 'Future Man'
In last year’s season of South Park, there was a recurring joke about an addictive form of fruit known as ‘member-berries. Character’s would consume the little grape-like fruit and be instantly reminded of their favorite pop-culture nostalgia. “member Star Wars? ‘member Ghostbusters?”. Of course the joke was rather obvious; the season came after a string of TV shows and movies that were ether rebooted from previous IP or simple just reused iconography from other material. Naturally, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were taking shots at this notion, no doubt after the runaway success of Stranger Things to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The argument here is simple; there is nothing creatively satisfying about simply recycling the past.
The new Hulu series Future Man, at least on the surface, seems to have a similar problem. The series, created by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg deliberately pays homage to sci-fi blockbusters such as Back to the Future and The Terminator, as well as more niche properties like The Last Starfighter. I actually couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the fact that the jumping off point for Future Man is pulled directly from that latter film. That is until the series deliberately refers to this similarity in a joking manor.
Future Man’s stars Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) as nerdy named Josh Futterman, who’s only real skill seems to be his mastery of a particular video game. As in The Last Starfighter, Josh discovers the game he has been mastering is actually a recruitment tool for a group of futuristic resistance fighters. With an already proven skill set, Josh is thrusted into a mission to prevent the extinction of humanity by traveling into the past (i.e. Terminator style). This mission involves stopping a single event, of which’s ripple effect will lead to the apocalyptic future.
However, with Rogan and Goldberg at the helm, the mission is anything but a straightforward action romp. The comedic duo has showcased their off-kilter talent before on projects such as This Is the End, Sausage Party, and the currently running AMC series Preacher. Their particular brand of humor may be a bit on the extreme or vulgar side for some but one certainly has to commend them on the sheer creativity of their work. From what’s present in the trailer, it’s clear that both writers, as well as their lead protagonist, are in on the joke of recycling classic sci-fi films but putting their own vulgar stamp on them. You get the idea of exactly what kind of series you are getting yourself into when you realize the quest to prevent mankind’s extinction revolves around stopping a cure for herpes. No other writing team could possibly think of having something that vulgar and zany at the center of their show. Rogan and Goldberg are also experts at playing with meta-humor as well, making them arguably the ideal pair to play with this kind of self-referential story.
One can hope that Future Man will be more welcomed by viewers than the duo’s other television outing, Preacher. That show, based on an acclaimed comic series from the 90s, has managed to possibly be too niche, what with it’s bizarre storyline and over-the-top violence. However, if Rogan and Goldberg can somehow channel that series’ wild, anarchy driven energy to a more pop-friendly show, they’ll likely have a hit on their hands. Rogan and Goldberg are, after all, master entertainers. The more absurd, meta, and wild their ideas get, the higher they seem to reach. I’ll be disappointed if Future Man just winds up being a tribute to 80s sci-fi with the knowledge that these two can take it to much more exciting places.