When FOX announced it was bringing “Family Guy” back from cancellation following a hugely successful rerun stint on Cartoon Network, I wasn’t what you’d call super stoked. Personally, I didn’t find “Family Guy” funny the first time around, and I don’t find it funny now. But the decision to revive it made damn good business sense and was an amusing “screw you” to the programming executives who axed the show in the first place.
Now, in case you hadn’t heard, FOX’s “Futurama” is coming back to the airwaves after an even longer seven-year hiatus. “Futurama,” which was created by cartoonist Matt Groening, is like “The Simpsons” only nerdier. Which works for me. And it’s back for a sixth season!
That’s the good news. The better news is that the 26 new episodes won’t be on FOX (a network that has demonstrated no loyalty to shows like this) but on Comedy Central—the very network that kept it alive when FOX moved on to ignoring other sci-fi-centric shows like “Firefly,” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “Dollhouse” and “Fringe.”
While it’s hard to recapture the glory of a past success, fans of “Futurama” can rest assured that the new season fits in 100 percent with what came before. Sure, there was some brief FOX executive-idiot talk about replacing the entire voicecast, but fortunately that never came to pass. “Futurama” is back, exactly as it was. Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), Bender (John Di Maggio), Professor Farnsworth (West again) and all the supporting characters are on board for more satirical, space-spanning adventures.
Comedy Central will celebrate the fact by airing not one, but two new episodes this week. The first is a clever “comeback” episode, in which the entire Planet Express crew is killed in a freak accident. Cloned from assorted body parts, the characters adjust to their “return” with plenty of in-jokes and winking asides. At one point, the Professor even notes that, “We’re now on something called Comedy Central.”
The second new episode finds Leela and egotistical Captain Zapp Brannigan (West once again, seriously earning his pay) marooned in what appears to the Garden of Eden (hence, the title: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela”). The episode, chock-a-block with animated seminudity, successfully pushes the boundaries beyond what even FOX censors would have allowed. (The whole episode is a jab at network censorship, in fact.) Like the “Rebirth” episode before it, it was penned by Mr. Groening himself.
So are these the best episodes ever of “Futurama”? Of course not. (Then again, the heavily sentimental “Luck of the Fryrish” is my fave “Futurama” episode. You may think differently.) But the characters are there. The voice actors are there. The animation is there. The jokes are in full swing. (Bender’s dying request for “mouth to ass resuscitation” is a milk-snorter.) Bottom line: If you loved “Futurama” way back when, you’ll love it now.