“On the count of three you will awaken feeling refreshed as if Futurama had never been cancel by idiot and then brought back by bigger idiots. One….Two….”
These words are spoken by Bender as we stare in the entrancing eyes of the all powerful HypnoToad and on the count of three we are filled with a renewed sense of laughter, comedic timing and familiar music as a space ship crashes through a billboard.
With that Futurama is back.
The saga is well known, fashioned by Simpson creator Matt Groening, Futurama follows the story of a delivery boy from the year 2000 who after being frozen for a thousand years awakens into a new world. From 1999 -2003 the show ran on Fox until after 72 episodes it was cancelled. Lost without Futurama the world carried on until the first of 4 direct to DVD movie were released, the aftermath of amazing Futurama box set sales. Bender’s Big Score, released four years after the shows cancelation, was released with both critical and financial success selling 222, 036 copies and making $4 million in its first week alone. It was followed by The Beast With a Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder. With the wild success of the four movies the show was renewed for a sixth season by Comedy Central and after a long wait the show that was too good for television at the turn of the century has returned.
Futurama returns with back to back episodes, the first of which, entitled Rebirth, picking up mere moments after the Into the Wild Green Yonder’s stunning conclusion. After the events of the fourth movie the Planet Express Crew go through the wormhole and are brought back home by the comedic coincidence that the wormhole is Earth’s central channel for shipping (thus putting them on the Comedy Central Channel). Yet during the chase by Zapp Brannigan the ship crashes by the Planet Express building leaving the Professor the only one to survive the crash and giving him the daunting, but enjoyable, task of bringing the others back to life which results in a robot doppelganger of Leela.
In In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela (the second episode) is a homage to Star Trek: The Motion Picture where a rogue satellite named the V-Giny threatens to destroy the Earth after deeming it indecent. After a suicidal mission to strike at the satellite weak exhaust port (a flaw that all ship must have as required by law) results in a crashed landing both Zapp and Leela find themselves stranded on an uncharted planet wide garden of Eden.
Both episodes feel familiar and comforting, like rereading a favourite book after many years, but with enough growth to warrant the series return. The writing and humour has only slightly changed. They still maintain the same character and situational based humour, with minor bumps up in coarse language and explicit topics now that they are no longer on FOX, but they have begun to increase the level in detail of background conversation and jokes, resulting in randomly said comments in the background, normally from Dr. Zoidburg, forming into front line jokes as he moves about in the background. One of Futurama’s most regarded strengths were the level of work that was put into the small details granting new jokes with each subsequent viewing, like Rook Takes Pawnshop, and it is comforting to say this trait has returned. The characters we all love have their traditional voice actors returning which aids us in this long awaited return. The animation seems crisper, the product of both the growth in technology in the past four years and the step up to HD to mirror The Simpson, but still holds the familiarity.
The first episode, Rebirth, is a refreshing return that the familiar world but get stuck behind the need to return to status quo. It does so with brilliant humour and clever writing, even going as far as to make sure long time fans feel like the devotion has not been wasted, but still ends up feeling as a bridge episode. It is still a highly enjoyable episode that focuses on Leela and Fry and they suddenly budding relationship.
In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela is the true opener to the new season and the new era of Futurama. Where the previous episode was the bridge, this episode is the new greener pastures. In this episode we see the progression of writing, humour, and the shunning of old shackles once force upon them by FOX. The story, an attack on television censorship, raises the bar for writing in not only this series but any animated series. While once again drawing heavily on the development from the movies the second episode has Fry suffering from jealousy at the birth of his new relationship. The focus on his development and Leela’s range of emotions, proves that good character writing is not only limited to live-action dramas. This episode also marks the leaps that the series has taken while no longer under the banner of FOX. The range of acceptable language and topics has been extended, never crossing over into filthy or explicit, but is hidden behind tasteful jokes never allowing the topics spoken about or words spoken to take center stage. This increased in allowed material results in some shocking and hilarious moments such as Bender sleeping with satellite dish, Amy in S&M gear and a groan worthy pun dealing with a public library.
While Futurama’s renewal mark the return of loved characters onto our TV screens, and with wild success, the show will have to make sure it does not succumb to the fate of Family Guy. Both shows share the distinction of returning after being cancelled by FOX, a return based on DVD sales, and both have increased level of shock humour, bur sadly Family Guy’s level of quality in its early returning years was not on par to the cancel show. Futurama needs to keep its level of writing of high and make sure that it does not succumb to its own fame. The only downfall of the first two episodes is that fan favourite Bender has very little plot or screen time, those being reserved for Fry and Leela, but with upcoming episodes, such as a war between Twitter, Facebook and iPhones, a robosexual relationship between Bender and Amy, and suffering from mortal manufacturing defect, Bender will get his due screen time.