Josh Hutcherson has come a long way since his stint as the brooding, lovesick Peta in The Hunger Games.
In Hulu's new series Future Man, he plays Josh Futterman, a janitor at a medical research lab by day and an obsessive videogamer (screen name: Future man) by night. When he finally beats a reportedly unbeatable game one night, he's visited by time traveling soldiers from the future who believe he's "the Savior" of humanity.
Yes, just like The Last Starfighter.
But Josh isn't chosen to save the world from cyborgs or fight space wars. No, he's recruited to help kill the man who invented a cure for herpes. Apparently, the eradication of the contagious disease results in the destruction of humankind.
Super soldiers Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and Wolf (Derek Wilson) surprise Josh in flagrante delicto and quickly realize his video game combat skills don't translate into real life in any way they expected. The two's lack of empathy and complete disconnect with Josh's culture make them perfectly crude exaggerations of The Terminator's Kyle Reese.
Josh is like a dumpy Marty McFly, a loveable loser-turned hero who has to use his knowledge of pop culture to school Tiger and Wolf on "time travel 101." There's even a moment when Josh is lamenting to another character about how difficult it must be for Marty to fake his way through a changed reality, and another that's comically identical to the moment when Marty's guitar skills inspire Chuck Berry over the phone.
With Future Man, Hulu may have successfully created an almost-perfect sci-fi comedy hybrid. It mixes cheesy nostalgia and hat tips to classics like The Last Starfighter and Back to the Future with crude, juvenile humor. It's a B-movie comedy with a complex sci-fi plot that doesn't take itself seriously at all.
The series has a sense of self-awareness that keeps it from being a cheap knockoff of other nostalgic sci-fi series out there. As soon as you start to think "Did they just reference…?" Josh chimes in with something along the lines of "that's the exact plot of Minority Report."
It's hard to shame something that goes out of its way to be absurdly cheesy and to build a world where even the characters don't take themselves too seriously. The actors often look just seconds away from bursting out laughing.
The series is so clearly from the minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express, Sausage Party). Future Man isn't trying to create high brow nostalgia. It certainly gives nods to numerous '80s sci-fi classics, but at the same time skewers them and other pieces of pop culture.
It roasts everything and everyone from video gamers, Bill Cosby, Halo, kombucha and Luigi's anatomy. There's an even an episode dedicated almost entirely to ridiculing Avatar director James Cameron.
If you're looking for urbane humor and nostalgia, Future Man doesn't really have it. It's silly, profane and predictable. It never aims for acclaim. And that's why it works.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @chelseatatham.
All 14 episodes available at midnight Tuesday on Hulu.