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Stream It Or Skip It?

The Future Of is a docuseries that consists of short episodes (each around 20 minutes) that revolve around what the future of a particular item or topic will be. For instance, the first two episodes are about “The Future of Dogs” and “The Future of Dating.” The first six episodes (six more will drop on June 28) focus on The future of houseplants, cheeseburgers, gaming, and space vacations. Yes, the topics are a bit all over the place.

Opening Shot: A CGI animation of a faceless person walking through a futuristic automatic sliding door. “Here’s a familiar routine,” says narrator Jurnee Smollett, “You come home from work and yell, ‘Hello! I’m home!’” A CGI dog comes up. “What do all those barks and wiggles actually mean?” Smollett asks.

The Gists: The structure of each episode is similar: Interviews with experts are interspersed with talks with everyday people who have something to say about the topic. In the dogs episode, for instance, the filmmakers go to a dog park and talk to a few owners, and also speak to an expert dog trainer who is very attuned to the different non-verbal cues people’s pooches use to communicate. There is also a “celebrity” interviewee in each episode: In the dogs episode, we hear from rapper and dog breeder Big Boi, and in the dating episode we hear from Love Is Blind’s Giannina Gibelli.

The episodes set up the issue and what researchers are exploring — ways to translate barks and wiggles into English, or dating apps that nudge people into “meet-cutes” — and shows what’s possible in the near future and distant future.

The Future Of
Photo: Netflix

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The breezy tone of The Future Of is reminiscent of the explained series, and considering the fact that the Vox publication TheVerge is backing the series, that makes sense.

Our take: The Future Of isn’t a show that’s trying to get too deep into a subject. Between Smollett’s conversational narration, the rudimentary CGI animations showing some of the concepts being developed to the funny interviews with both experts and everyday folks, plus the “celebrity interview”, the show isn’t trying to go into all the ethical and other implications of what these future concepts might bring about.

For instance, in the “dogs” episode, there is a brief mention by an expert that we may not want to know what our dogs are saying with their various barks and wags and wiggles, because we might not want to know. But another expert says that how we treat animals changes if we know we can communicate with them. But each issue, which could fill an hour episode all by themselves, are just mentioned in passing. Same in the dating episode; having “meet-cutes” engineered for people requires a ton of personal data collection that people might not be comfortable with.

But that’s not really why you watch shows like The Future Of. They’re little vignettes that you can either binge in a short period when you don’t feel like watching anything that requires too much concentration, or they’re good to pop on when you can’t decide what you want to see next. Like your cousin series explained, The Future Of is designed to give you that feeling of “Huh. Interesting,” and maybe a tidbit of interesting information to put in the back of your brain to read about later. It’s mostly there to entertain first and inform second, and it accomplishes that goal pretty well.

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: Shots of dogs at the dog park. “For now, dogs are still our furry, loveable little mysteries,” says Smollett.

Sleeper Star: The dogs, of course! We thought all of them were lovable little (and big!) furballs, but we’re not sure if we’re up for finding out exactly what they’re thinking.

Most Pilot-y Line: “What if, every morning you leave for work, your dog does believe you’re gone forever?” asks Smollett. Uh, dog people don’t need advanced AI to know that their pups aren’t exactly the greatest gauges of how long their people have been gone.

Our Call: STREAMIT. The Future Of is a series that’s got some good visuals, some fun interviews, and a few tidbits of information that might make you think for a second after watching each episode. It’s a good show to watch while having your morning coffee or as a break between feature-length episodes of Stranger Things, and that’s all it’s meant to be.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing of him has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.comFast Company and elsewhere.

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