Future Man. Available now on Hulu.
I am officially on record as complaining that television relies on time travel just a tad heavily. But then along comes Future Man, in which a mild-mannered and generally witless janitor has been selected by some tough bastards from the future to interrupt a sexual act in 1969 (and yeah, "sexual act" and "1969" are a smirky non-coincidence), which, if performed, will a couple of hundred years later plunge the world into fascism.
The janitor has what passes in Future Man as an epiphany. "We cock block him!" he exclaims. One of the tough guys nods in approval: "Okay, rip his cock off, he bleeds out slow. I like it."
How is any past or present 13-year-old boy not gonna cackle in joy at that and break out the popcorn to binge-watch the next the next 12 episodes? Sophomorically funny and hormonally twitchy, Future Man is just too stupidly engaging to pass by.
Once you know that Future Man is written and produced by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir, the team behind the epically uncouth cartoon Sausage Party, further explanation becomes almost totally unnecessary. It's a comic onslaught against video-gamers and their culture of the past 30 years or so, with the occasional random shot at baby boomers so they won't be left out of the fun.
The plot—which sounds like it could have been lifted from a video game if it weren't already stolen, as the script gleefully acknowledges, from the 1984 teensploitaton film The Last Starfighter—centers around that janitor, Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games).
Nerd to the very bone, Josh lives in his parents' basement and plays video games 18 hours a day. Well, make that a game, singular; he plays the same one, over and over.
His nerd friends are certain it's because he wants to diddle himself while watching one of the game's female characters. (Not that they judge; in a group harboring unnatural designs on Ms. Pac-Man or Mario's brother Luigi, the gender spectrum is pretty wide.)
But when an apparently dumb strategy unlocks the game's final level, two of its characters pop out with disconcerting news: The cartridge was really a training and recruitment device to locate the man who could save the future from its enemies. Even if his job is sweeping the floor at a herpes pharmaceutical research facility where the activity seems mainly to consist of jamming cotton swab up the urethras of infected lab animals.
The two warriors who escape from the game, Tiger (Eliza Coupe, Quantico) and Wolf (Derek Wilson, Preacher), come from a future where the veneer of civilization has been pretty much worn away from everything, and their sanguinary work habits—Wolf's favorite plan is "Rip his fucking dick off!"—supply much of Future Man's staple humor. (Bodily effluents, emitted in always surprising but ever disgusting ways, are pretty much the rest.)
But it's hard to resist a show a show that so relentlessly mocks its own origins. Future Man is a tapestry of withering allusions to everything from The Terminator movies to the Mortal Kombat video games (can you guess which organ gets ripped out of losing contestants?) to Animal House.
Even entire epochs get the shiv. When Josh, Tiger, and Wolf take their time machine back to the Age of Aquarius in hopes of stopping the forbidden sexual act, they wind up in the home of Josh's grandparents—who promptly try to kill them, assuming they're drug-crazed hippies.
Coupe, Wilson, and Hutcherson all show a nice facility for playing off of one another as well as a sense of balance with the material, deftly avoiding the temptation to overplay. I know I said time travel shows are the stuff of doltishness, but that doesn't mean you can't have some secret fun with this one as long as you do it in secret and remember that no penises were harmed in the making of this series.