Season 11 of Futurama continues The Simpsons’ co-creator Matt Groening’s brash vaudeville about a trio of working stiffs a couple of eons from now.
Fry (voiced by Billy West) was a minimum-wage Buck Rogers who was flash-frozen and thawed out to find a strange new world of aliens, robots, mutants and celebrity brains in jars. TV stalwart Katey Segal plays Leela, dressed in a husband-beater shirt, her one eye eclipsed by a peekaboo haircut. Thanks to corporate takeover, this rough and ready cyclops is now a Disney princess.
Their friend without loyalty is a metal-clad trickster figure called Bender Rodriguez, alcohol-fueled and always with a stealthy claw on your wallet. In one great 1999 episode, Bender was sentenced to robot hell for impiety towards a church similar to Scientology. As voiced by Dan Castellaneta (the larynx of Homer Simpson) Robot Satan sang out the charges: “Fencing diamonds, fixing cockfights, publishing indecent magazines…”
The first episode of Hulu’s reboot alludes to the four times Futurama was canceled—a satisfyingly modest approach to resurrection. And the dead theatrical actor Calculon indeed is sprung from robot hell to star in a revival of a centuries old soap opera, “All My Circuits” on the streaming network Fulu.
“All My Circuits” becomes a matter of life and death, since Fry foolishly quested to watch every television show ever made and may now cack from the ordeal. Professor Farnsworth (named in honor of the San Francisco-based inventor of TV, Philo Farnsworth) gives his diagnosis: “Fry will be dead by lunch. I’m having ham salad.” The show is a little unlimber after its ten year nap, but between the reliable characters and the first episode’s piquant gags about TV writers on the brink, it’s possible this new Futurama will brush off the cobwebs, rise and shine.
The difference between DC and Marvel in the 1960s was that the former sold stories that ended in no more than about two issues, returning the colorful characters to square one. By contrast, Marvel was a pop-culture drill rig, boring deeper and deeper into subrterranean layers of their own mythos.
Like the classics of DC, Futurama is something you can pick up on fast.
Futurama airs Mons, 9pm, on Hulu