Josh Futturman isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. Played by Josh Hutcherson, the protagonist of Hulu’s Future Man, produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, is beyond archetypal: a janitor at a science lab who lives in his childhood home with his parents, Josh doesn’t do much of anything besides obsessively playing a seemingly impossible video game called Biotic Wars to the point where he keeps his own piss in jars. At the end of the day, Josh just wants to be special.
This is a character type we’ve seen hundreds of times—a well-meaning slacker set up for an adventure that will turn him into the person he was always meant to be. Thankfully, Rogen and Goldberg aren’t using Josh as a way to alleviate their own insecurities. Instead, the references are the whole point. When two people from the future show up to tell him that his video game is actually a training module designed to find their savior, he immediately points out it’s the exact plot of The Last Starfighter. Future Man actually manages to pull off a neat trick here, paying homage to its obvious reference points gently enough that most of the gags work as parody without toppling the (relatively) sturdy foundation of the show. (Rogen and Goldberg have gotten pretty good at this whole directed thing; their action sequences are only a touch silly.) Besides, Hutcherson is a lot of fun in the role, bringing a dead serious puppy dog earnestness to Josh that blends well with his willingness to be humiliated in the pursuit of jokes.
Though most of the first episode is spent fleshing out just how lame Josh’s life is, nearly everyone around him is a lot of fun. His endlessly chipper parents, played by Ed Begley Jr. and Glenne Headly, are just happy to have their son around. (Headly passed away recently; the episode is dedicated to her.) Paul Scheer and Awkwafina are funny enough as the employees at Josh’s go-to video game store. Keith David makes a brief but memorable appearance as Dr. Elias Kronish, Josh’s boss who has been driven to find a cure for herpes by an unfortunate incident at a college party. Josh might eventually become a kickass action hero who can do flips and throw sharp objects really well, but it’s not going to be the focus.
The best members of the cast so far are the two denizens of the future, sent back to find their savior. As Tiger, Eliza Coupe is no-nonsense commander, snapping on a moment’s notice. Derek Wilson is very funny, but I also can’t shake the feeling that he’s supposed to be playing Bradley Cooper. (Wilson’s put-upon, goofy tough guy delivery of the line “Ugh, I can’t work with this guy” when Josh says killing is wrong is almost a note-perfect Cooper impersonation.) Their seriousness is understandable: They’re the representatives of The Resistance, rebels from a future overrun with Biotics—a super-evolved people with lizard-like skin masks who are apparently immune to all disease and have taken advantage of this fact to wipe out the remnants of poor, biologically weak humanity.
Dr. Kronish’s cure for herpes turns out to be the cause of the Biotic Wars, which is why the newly-assembled team needs to go back to 1969. After using their time travel device (TTD), they’re still in the Futturman home, leading to a very over the top sequence set to The Doors where Tiger and Wolf terrorize Josh’s family when his dad is a child. Eventually, they beat up some bikers, sort of hold a diner, and eventually use something called a subatomic sensor mine to blow up a cop car.
Future Man definitely isn’t for everyone—it’s exactly what you’d expect from a show created by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg riffing on ’80s movies. The sort of material you would expect from them abounds, including riffs on movies, arguments over video game characters, literal come shots, a quick, nice 69 joke, and an extremely specific and amazing bit about Awkwafina’s character wanting to bone Luigi. I, however, find most of this stuff funny enough, especially as a distraction from some of the more serious pieces of entertainment competing for my time. (I also really like Preacher, and am beyond pleased that Rogen, Goldberg, or both seem to be fans of the “Welcome to The Resistance” meme.) So yeah, I’m pretty happy with this episode.
It’s totally understandable if Future Man isn’t your thing—but you can’t say it isn’t up front about what kind of show it is. This first episode suggests that Future Man won’t ask too much of its viewers while also refusing to insult them, which is honestly a pretty delicate and impressive balance to strike. If you want to come along on that ride, then you’re in luck. Welcome to The Resistance.