Thursday night, Futurama returns to Comedy Central for the back half of its sixth season – a reassuring, giddy dose of geekery to greet the summer with. Which is ironic, if you take into consideration how imperiled the show’s existence was in the mid-2000’s; there was a time not all that long ago when the further adventures of Fry, Leela, Bender and the rest of the delicious freaks of Planet Express was anything but assured.
Admittedly, I’ve been something of a lackadaisical genre TV nerd lately. The last thing I was all hopped-up about writing was on Fringe’s season finale, but I felt like the show’d been well covered (including by me.) I, hate to say it, m’dears, wasn’t in love with this past half-series of Doctor Who. Though I’m assured it picks up major steam, I have yet to go back and finish Game of Thrones. I’m trepidatious about Torchwood: Miracle Day (though Lone Star and Claire Fisher are serious draws). Even on the Fall horizon, with the exception of Dexter, all the genre shows I’m looking forward are being held until January. (Plus, some of the pilots I was most interested in didn’t even get picked up, though at least I’ve been able to see some of them. A word to the wise: If you were in the test audience that sank 17th Precinct and we ever meet, don’t admit it to my face)
The challenging aspects of getting quality genre shows on the air – particularly in venues where they are given room to breathe, create worlds, and deliver thoughtful, sometimes even challenging, content – is both getting better (thanks to basic and premium cable taking risks) and worse (network time slots are as subject to advertisers’ bottom lines and LCDs as ever before). So, then, it’s with something of a shit-eating grin that we can embrace the return of Futurama and consider how wonderful it is that Comedy Central – following the success of the show’s four straight-to-DVD films, all of which are great, particularly the Gygax love-letter “Bender’s Game” – rode in on their big white horse (or was it a unicorn? Probably a unicorn!) to rescue it from cancellation purgatory.
Mind you, the fact that Futurama’s gleefully wild, slime-slicked, tentacle-covered, rocket-fuel-perfumed vision of the 31st century arrives to us in cartoon form is a crucial aspect to its resurrection along the Fox-to-Adult Swim-to-DVD-to-Comedy Central trajectory. Matt Groening, David X. Cohen and their creative team have never been burdened by the logistical and budgetary issues that frequently present problems for so many genre shows with an epic sense of scale. They are only limited by their imaginations and their ability to make us giggle-snort, and so far that doesn’t seem like a particularly restrictive arena. They’ve thrown so many fast-balls at us from all corners of math, science and pop-culture nerdity that sometimes we step back and marvel at how long it’s taken them to get to that plot-line or parody. (Thursday’s episode, “Neutopia,” has an alien being switching the team’s genders (see clip below); I totally had a “Huh. They just now got to that premise!” moment, much as I did when I realized we were on Season 12 of South Park before they got to the Heavy Metal homage.) The show continues to comment on contemporary issues and satirize the best and worst in us, and that we still have it around at all is a glorious comfort when the landscape of telly seems to get extra-rocky when the stories take on a fantastical bent.
|Sneak Peek – Scratchy Beards and Strip Clubs|
So with a glad heart, let the Slurm flow and the season commence! Bring on the bizarre creatures, and the brilliant guest-voices. (This season we get George Takei and Katee Sackhoff, plus Chris Elliot and Craig Ferguson? Hey, Wolowitz’s dream world, they just doubled down on you) And please, please deliver more superb parody like THIS (admittedly, “Fry and the Slurm Factory” is still the greatest parody ever – a far better Wonka remake than Tim Burton’s – but this is pretty excellent):
|Sneak Peek – Action Delivery Force|
“Neutopia,” Futurama’s 102nd episode, premieres June 23 at 10/9 Central on Comedy Central.