Futurama -- TV Review

"Futurama"
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There's good news in the future, a thousand years in the future. The resumption of new "Futurama" episodes on Comedy Central once more demonstrates the power of a truly dedicated fan base. More importantly, it brings new life to a show that brilliantly mixes satire, sex and sentimentality. Based on the first couple of episodes, executive producers Matt Groening, David X. Cohen and Ken Keeler waste no time picking up from where the series left off.

"Futurama," set in the 31st century, ran on Fox from 1999-2003. Except for a couple of months, the show was part of the Sunday animation block. Now, just like "Family Guy," which also premiered in 1999 on Fox and survived cancellation, "Futurama" is back, the beneficiary of a loyal following and impressive DVD sales.

In a sense, the show was like one of its main characters, Fry (Billy West), the pizza-delivery guy who was inadvertently frozen during a delivery to a cryogenics lab. "Futurama" never really died.

After Fox dropped it, reruns ran on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Starting in 2007, "Futurama" made four direct-to-DVD movies, the last of which came out last year. As early as 2006, Comedy Central said it planned to revive the series, and it began showing reruns in 2008.

The premiere of the revived "Futurama" tries mightily, if somewhat circuitously, to account for the time between new episodes. Appropriately called "Rebirth," Professor Hubert Farnsworth explains how the entire Planet Express delivery crew nearly was destroyed in a space battle. However, by dunking the preserved heads and skeletal remains in a vat of stem-cell soup, the unintentionally cynical professor regenerates each character, one by one.

All except sexy, one-eyed Leela (Katey Sagal), the Planet Express ship captain whose ultimate recovery becomes a tale of robotics and romance, very much in keeping with the tone of earlier episodes.

For sharper satire (and lots of sexual innuendo), stay tuned for the second episode, which will air following the premiere. Part fantasy, part allegory, it recounts how the Earth was threatened by a Puritanical satellite while Leela and pompous space captain Zapp Brannigan relive the moment when Adam and Eve committed their original sin, fig leaves and all.

No doubt about it, "Futurama" and its entire splendid voice cast is back, sly wit, social satire and all. So, too, are the disembodied heads of celebrated figures, starting in the second episode with Richard Nixon. In this new season of 12 episodes, the guest list includes Chris Elliot, Craig Ferguson, George Takei, Katee Sackhoff as well as executive producers Groening and Cohen.

Following the two-episode premiere, succeeding episodes will air 10 p.m. Thursdays.

Airdate: 10-10:30 p.m. Thursday, June 24 (Comedy Central)
Production: The Curiosity Co. in association with 20th Century Fox Television
Voices: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice La Marche, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, Frank Welker
Executive producers: Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Ken Keeler
Co-executive producers: Michael Rowe, Dan Vebber, Patric M. Verrone, Josh Weinstein, Eric Horsted
Producers: Lee Supercinski, Claudia Katz
Supervising director: Peter Avanzins
Creator: Matt Groening
Teleplay: David X. Cohen
Developed by/story: Matt Groening, David X. Cohen
Production supervisor: Michael Hughes
Editor: Paul D. Calder
Music: Christopher Tyng
Casting: Scott Muller
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