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Monday, September 9, 2013

FUTURAMA Canceled, "Meanwhile"...

Article first published as FUTURAMA Canceled, "Meanwhile"... on TheTVKing.

After resurrecting it for a scant few years, Comedy Central recently canceled Futurama. This week's episode, "Meanwhile," in which Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) invents a button that can send a person back in time ten seconds, will serve as the second series finale. Thank goodness it ranks among the most memorable and best written episodes of Futurama ever produced.

Futurama is supposed to be an animated comedy, but it has always been strongest when it tugs on viewers' emotions. Sure, sometimes it delivers funny jokes, but it rarely fails to jerk a tear when it tries. If one thinks back to the stand-out installments in the original run, episodes such as Fry (also West) giving up his hands to the Robot Devil in order to play a sweet song for Leela (Katey Sagal), or Fry's dog faithfully waiting back in 1999 for him to return home (he never does), are at the top of the list.

Which is why the Comedy Central run, taken as a whole, is inferior to the FOX airings. FOX, and the subsequent straight-to-DVD movies, get it right. On Comedy Central, Fry and Lee's relationship is never certain and rarely touch on, and most half hours go for the gag, rather than continuity or story.

That is, until these past few weeks. Perhaps knowing their time is up, the writers delivered a string of episodes done right. We see Zoidberg (West again) finally find love, Fry pledge to love Leela even as she grows into a mutant, and Fry going back in time to say goodbye to his mother. These are what we are longing for, and they finally arrive.

"Meanwhile" continues that proud tradition. After a near-death experience, Fry decides that he cannot live without Leela and must propose. He stages the perfect way to pop the question, but because he doesn't adjust his watch for the time travel he engages in, believes Leela doesn't want him. Distraught, he jumps to his death, only to realize his mistake and see Leela coming to accept the proposal on his way down.

From here, Fry, using the ten-second button (that takes ten seconds to recharge), becomes stuck in a time loop, always falling, but never landing. This is such a bittersweet moment. He will get to experience the joy of knowing Leela loves him over and over again, but also face death if he forgets to hit the button every ten seconds (like a fast-track Lost). Leela, meanwhile, only sees Fry falling to his death repeatedly.

The time loop is broken unexpectedly, thanks to teamwork from the rest of the Planet Express delivery team, but in the fixing Farnsworth is seemingly killed and time freezes for everyone but Fry and Leela.

I am disappointed Leela and Fry don't take a moment to grieve the professor, or say anything about missing their friends. However, watching them stage a wedding (with their frozen pals in attendance) and travel the world growing old together is enough to overcome these flaws. We finally get to see their happy ending, what it would be like for them to truly together. Without any of the distractions of the world around them, they are able to focus on each other, and the result is lovely taken to the extreme.

Also, while they walk through the frozen world, we get cameos by a number of Futurama's recurring characters, a tribute to what the series has been over the years.

In the end, though, Farnsworth isn't dead and visits them in their old age, ready to reset time back to before he invented the button. Though they won't remember their lives together, Fry and Leela agree to go back, too, giving themselves the opportunity to do it all over again.

This is cool because there is no doubt on the part of the happy couple. They are both certain they will be together and find joy, even if they don't remember this particular proposal and scenario. This solidifies what we suspect, that the pair are meant to be man and wife, and that they will share love no matter what happens. Given the depressing state of their romantic entanglement in earlier adventures, this is the way Futurama must end, giving fans exactly what they want.

Though it also opens the door for further episodes of the type we're familiar with, should anyone else decide to rescue it again. (I'm looking at you, TBS!)

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