(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching, why it’s worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)
The Series: Future Man
Where You Can Stream It: Hulu
The Pitch: Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson) is a janitor for a bioengineering lab. He doesn’t really have any goals in life, except to be the first person ever to beat his favorite video game. He beats the allegedly unbeatable game and finds out he’s in a The Last Starfighter kind of situation when two soldiers from the future (and the game) appear in his bedroom. Wolf (Derek Wilson) and Tiger (Eliza Coupe) are part of a resistance force from the future, sent back in time to get “the Chosen One”. Josh isn’t what they’re expecting, but they do their best to stop the impending apocalypse, caused by a virus-ending cure invented by Josh’s boss, Dr. Kronish (Keith David). They will jump through time and space to stop Kronish from creating the cure, and get in plenty of wild adventures along the way.
Why It’s Essential Viewing:
Future Man has a pretty basic premise that we’ve seen done before, but it takes that concept and runs with it in new and exciting directions. There’s a great deal of self-awareness here, too, as the series isn’t afraid to wear its influences proudly on its sleeve with direct references to Back to the Future, The Terminator, and Twelve Monkeys. Creators Kyle Hunter, Howard Overman, and Ariel Shaffir used their pop-culture savvy and warped humor to create a series that is plenty referential while still feeling completely fresh.
The humor in Future Man is crass and juvenile. If frequent jokes about masturbation, eating rats, herpes, and possum semen aren’t for you, Future Man is probably too much. For the rest of us, the series is almost refreshingly disgusting. The frank discussions and examples of sex and sexuality are a welcome change from mainstream television and movies, where everyone is hot but no one is horny.
The series gets the most out of its sci-fi premise. Josh, Wolf, and Tiger use the TTD (Time Travel Device) to hopscotch all over reality, creating massive continuity issues in their wake. The first season sees Tiger go back to the 50s to kill infant Kronish while Wolf goes to the 1980s and becomes a cocaine-fueled celebrity chef. It’s a fun thought experiment, wondering what would happen if future soldiers who knew nothing but survival had a chance to live as a nanny or do drugs with Charlie Sheen. They’re both left changed by their experiences, and their newfound humanity challenges them throughout the rest of the series.
You could theoretically just watch season one and call it quits if you wanted because the first season is wonderfully self-contained. You’d be missing out, however, because the second and third seasons are where Future Man shines brightest.
After causing enough change in Josh’s time to hopefully fix the future, the trio travels forward to see what they’ve created; their time-meddling has changed the future, but not for the better. Josh is held hostage by Stu Camillo (in a delightful turn by Haley Joel Osment), his former co-worker who uploaded his brain into a machine after he took over Dr. Kronish’s work. Wolf ends up moving into the NAG, which is basically just Barter Town from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. He joins a family group there (every family has six parents) and begins to heal from his lifetime of trauma. Tiger finds out she has a clone, Ty-Anne, created by Stu and serving as his daughter. It gets weird.
The storylines with the NAG in season two are surprisingly sweet. It’s nice to see both polyamory and pansexuality portrayed in a positive light. There’s quite a bit of progressive representation here, including multiple LGBTQ+ characters and a cast that’s as varied as the times the team travels to. It’s a good juxtaposition to the filthy, fratboy humor. When you know the show’s heart is in the right place, it makes it easier to laugh at some of its more questionable jokes. (Most of which are about penises, and we get to see some serious prosthetic dongs on display.)
The third season takes the show into its most abstract territory yet. After resetting the timeline once more, they catch the attention of the time police. If you like the adventures of the TVA on Disney+’s Loki, the third season of Future Man is right up your alley. Josh, Tiger, and Wolf must battle in a futuristic deathmatch arena reality show (think Rollerball meets American Gladiators). They get out of that pickle pretty quickly and go on the run, much to the chagrin of time cop Susan (Seth Rogen). In order to hide from the time police and survive in an increasingly chaotic existence, they decide to go hide out of time in a place called Haven.
Yeah, that’s right, the dick-and-poop-joke show sends its main characters to heaven. Josh even falls for Marilyn Monroe.
There’s a lot to take in with Future Man. It’s absurdist, surreal, and vulgar, with loads of graphic sex, violence, and swearing. Beyond its rough exterior, however, the series is full of heart. The characters’ relationships are explored with nuance, and each lead undergoes a radical transformation over the course of the series. You grow to genuinely care about these people because, in spite of the bizarre situations they find themselves in, they act like real people.
The cast is the glue that holds the series together. Hutcherson is pitch-perfect as Josh, an everyman who is as sweet as he is useless to the mission. Coupe’s Tiger is a badass for the ages, and seeing her softer side in the 1950s episodes is a treat. Wilson’s Wolf is one of my favorite characters from any work of fiction. He’s initially a violent brute who buys into many toxic traits, but through his experiences, he becomes a leader, a father, and a good man. Keith David rules in everything he’s in, and Osment is the comedic champion of season two.
I absolutely love Future Man. I’ve watched the series in its entirety twice now, and it still manages to make me laugh, gasp, and even cry a little. Go check it out on Hulu and find out why we can never go back to Cabo Wabo.
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