Friday, June 25, 2010

Good news everyone! Futurama has returned!

    In 2003, after five seasons on the air (released in four DVD volumes; Wikipedia wrongly lists the four volumes as four seasons), Fox canceled Futurama.  Like so many bad decisions the network has made (canceling the amazingly awesome Firefly and Dollhouse and renewing the terrible Human Target spring to mind), this one was unacceptable.  However, luckily, the story doesn't end there.  In the last three years, four straight to DVD movies of the Futurama crew have been released.  And then Comedy Central asked for more episodes.  Last night, the culmination of that effort was gloriously realized when the first new Futurama episodes in nearly seven years premiered: "Rebirth" and "In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela".

     Producers and creators Matt Groenig (The Simpsons) and David X. Cohen are back at the helm.  The voice cast, including Billy West (The Ren and Stimpy Show), Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy, Married With Children), John DiMaggio (Kim Possible), Tress MacNeille (The Simpsons), Maurice LaMarche (Pinky and the Brain), Phil LaMarr (MADtv, Samurai Jack), David Herman (Office Space, MADtv), and Lauren Tom (King of the Hill, Man in Trees),  has returned.  There were disputes over salary, and talk of recasting, but it all was worked out in time.  If it hadn't been, it may have killed the new episodes before they even got started.  The setting, the animation, it's all like it never left.  Fans of the show should not notice anything different.

     Plot wise, the first episode picks up right where the final movie left off: with the ship and all the main characters being sucked into a wormhole.  This was intended as a series finale, just in case nothing else was ordered, but the writers were able to transition it seamlessly into the new plot.  Unfortunately, the ship crashes almost immediately and almost everyone dies.  Luckily, the Professor has murdered a few adults and harvested their stem cells, so he is able to bring everyone back.  Someone explain to me how stem cells regrew Bender, a robot?  Not only that, but due to a comedy of errors, a Robot Fry and Robot Leela are created.  And there were the obligatory puns, acknowledging their new network.

     Loyal viewers know that Fry's love for Leela was always an unresolved plot, winding through each episode, and taking center stage in a couple of the movies.  The fourth movie had them together, and the new episodes thankfully continue that thread, rather than setting them back.  My sincere hope is that the two remain a couple, and I think it likely.  Although only the first of last night's two new episodes developed their relationship, in the second one they kissed goodbye as she left for a dangerous mission.  Futurama is the rare cartoon that allows it's characters lasting growth, and it's part of what makes it so special.  That aspect should be nurtured.

     Twenty six new episodes have been ordered.  If it's rebirth is like Family Guy's, we can look forward to even longer run than the original series, although since it has been resurrected for cable, that may be wishful thinking.  However, I know of no other show that was off the air for as long as Futurama was and then brought back, so this whole situation sprang from wishful thinking.  It gives you real hope to see that anything is possible.

     Futurama will be airing Thursday nights at 10pm on Comedy Central.

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