A lot of science fiction is pretty derivative. At least “Future Man” knows it’s stealing from other TV shows and movies, and isn’t ashamed that you know it knows.
The plot of the new Hulu comedy-action show, which drops its full first season on Tuesday, is that warriors from a dystopian future have returned to 2017, "Terminator"-style, to find a hero. It turns out they used a time machine to plant a special video game in present time, with the idea that anybody who could beat the game could win against the evil genetically engineered villains called Biotics.
Gen-X viewers may note that this is exactly the plot of the 1985 sci-fi film “The Last Starfighter.” And, as soon as they do, somebody on the show says, “Isn’t that just like ‘The Last Starfighter’?”
Before the first few episodes are over, “Future Man” will also steal from “Minority Report,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Back to the Future” and a whole host of others. The show — created by Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir (“Sausage Party”) and executive produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, as well as University of Wisconsin grad Ben Karlin — is proud of how derivative it is.
The joke is that the savior that warriors Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and Wolf (Derek Wilson) come back looking for is not a hero in disguise. He's a real-life nerd, Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson), truly incompetent and totally unsuited for futuristic combat. But Josh, a janitor, does work for the scientist (Keith David), whose breakthrough cure for herpes did inadvertently trigger the rise of the Biotics.
“Future Man” is gleefully juvenile, mixing comical ultraviolence and bodily function gags with an endless stream of pop culture references. Hutcherson, who played Peeta in “The Hunger Games,” makes for a surprisingly effective and funny nerd, hapless and pathetic. But the show is almost stolen out from under him by the very funny Coupe (“Happy Endings,” “Casual”), who sends up the sci-fi stereotype of the beautiful female killing machine perfectly. I also really liked Paul Scheer and the rapper/comedian Awkwatine’s occasional appearances as a sarcastic pair of video game store clerks.
In the first few episodes made available to critics, “Future Man” keeps the plot twists and gross-out gags flying, while managing a little character development along the way. As Josh becomes more comfortable with the idea of being a hero, the hyper-aggressive Tiger and Wolf start to soften up, getting used to life in peaceful, pre-apocalypse America.
With an endless supply of nerd culture references and sci-fi movie allusions to draw from, “Future Man” looks to have enough inspiration to keep going well until the Biotics take over the planet.
Also on streaming: It’s pilot season again on Amazon, giving viewers the chance to vote on the first episodes of three new shows that premiered last weekend.
“Sea Oak,” based on a short story by George Saunders, is the most intriguing of the three, starring Glenn Close as an aunt living with three nephews and nieces in a rundown apartment complex somewhere in the Rust Belt.
“Love You More” is a showcase for comedian Bridget Everett (“Trainwreck”), playing a woman who takes care of the intellectually disabled by day and goes clubbing at night. And “The Climb” is a comedy-drama in the vein of “Broad City” or “Insecure,” looking at a wannabe social media superstar in Detroit.
Say it ain’t so, Longmire! The sixth season of "Longmire", based on Craig Johnson’s mystery novels about a Wyoming sheriff (Robert Taylor), is intended to be the last. It premieres Friday, and hopefully it will wrap up some of the ongoing plot lines of the series, which jumped from A&E to Netflix a couple of years ago. I’m still amazed that Taylor, an Australian actor, has managed to create one of the iconic characters of the modern American West.