By Tim Riley 

Remember when you could watch old television programs for free on Hulu on a computer screen?  It seems those days are long gone for a service that now requires a monthly subscription. On the plus side, if you wish to be a subscriber, Hulu keeps stepping up its game to present new original series that arguably compete most directly with Netflix as well as to a lesser extent with the usual pay-cable programming.

The latest new series have a vaguely science-fiction and supernatural feel to them.  In the latter category, it would appear that “Marvel’s Runaways” represents Hulu’s first foray into the Marvel Universe, which has already seen plenty of exposure on the ABC network.

Never mind that ABC’s new series “Marvel’s Inhumans” looks like a casualty that probably won’t air more episodes than are already in the can.  But ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is still running strong, and so are the feature films that are pumped out regularly. So where does “Marvel’s Runaways” fit into the Marvel Universe?  Based on the comic book series, the new show features six teens with their own set of inherited powers that discover their parents are part of an evil crime organization known as “The Pride.”

The teenagers come from wealthy families on the tony Westside of Los Angeles, where it appears if you are not a celebrity or tech billionaire, you just might find that the adults have superpowers that are not being used for any good purpose. Tragedy caused the six kids to drift apart, but then the anniversary of the event leads Alex Wilder (Rhenzy Feliz) to get them back together, apparently just in time for the disparate group to discover the evil machinations of their parents’ cultish behavior.

Given that “Runaways” centers on the doings of the adolescents, it should come as no surprise that executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, creators and producers of “Gossip Girl,” certainly have the right pedigree for this entry into the Marvel Universe. During the summer TV press tour, Schwartz, while noting the comic book obviously told the story from the point of view of the kids, hinted the approach of the series was destined to be perhaps more nuanced.

To that end, Schwartz said it was important to the production that “there are no true villains in the show” and that “we take the time to build up the parent characters in this story as well.” If you are so inclined as a fan of all things Marvel, you may want to slog through several episodes to see how things flesh out.  “Marvel’s Runaways” might prove to be an acquired taste.

Not part of the traditional superhero world is Hulu’s other new series “Future Man,” which has an oddly science-fiction bent to it that owes much of its development to movies and TV shows like “Back to the Future,” “The Last Starfighter,” and “Quantum Leap.” Josh Hutcherson stars as Josh Futturman, a man without a future who still lives at home with his parents and has a dead-end job as a janitor at Kronish Laboratories, a sexual disease research facility, where he often passes time playing video games.

To escape his humdrum existence, Josh plays his favorite video game in the janitorial closet and his childhood bedroom.  The game Biotic Wars is considered to be famously unwinnable, a point made by the geeks working at the gaming store he frequents. When Josh finally finds the inspiration to beat the final level, he’s visited by two characters from the game who contend that his victory over the dark forces mark him as the Savior who’s been selected to travel in time to help them save humanity.

In many respects, “Future Man” is a remake of “The Last Starfighter,” in which an everyday teenager achieves the high score on his favorite arcade game and is drafted into being an actual pilot to help fight a war on a distant alien planet. The banality of Josh’s laid-back existence is upended when the sexy but tough Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and the loopy, unhinged warrior Wolf (Derek Wilson) materialize in Josh’s bedroom at a most inopportune time of his engagement in the act of self-gratification. Be warned that “Future Man” involves not just masturbation in the first episode but a heavy dose of profanity delivered primarily for comedic effect, but also to highlight the hair-trigger demeanor of the impatient Wolf, who feels Josh is not cut out for his savior role.

The key plot point involves a cure for herpes, which somehow will trigger Armageddon in the future of 2162 where aliens are systematically eliminating all traces of the human race. The founder of Kronish is the titular doctor (Keith David), who has a perpetual cold sore the size of silver dollar, which apparently he received at a Caltech party on the night of the moon landing on July 20, 1969. “Future Man” has plenty of lowbrow humor, but the fish-out-of-water antics of Tiger and Wolf are often entertaining in a zany, crazy sort of way.  The absurd nonsense might be worth watching for awhile to see how the series evolves.

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