This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Futurama, created by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, has had a, shall we say, interesting history in terms of its run since premiering in 1999. For those living under a rock or frozen in suspended animation, the show follows a futuristic motley delivery crew as they get into far-out adventures. This includes Fry, a lovable loser who acts as a point-of-view character. The show found success and a large cult following, which helped bring the show back multiple times. In fact, as The Simpsons was declining in quality, Futurama was truly hitting its stride. On the surface, the futuristic show offered a hilarious commentary on sci-fi shows and pop culture. It was filled with endlessly weird adventures and razor-sharp writing. Yet underneath it all, it managed to craft a rich lore and great character arcs; the most interesting being the relationship between Fry and Leela, whose relationship over the course of the series is excellently handled.
While yes, the show was often whacky, that does not mean Futurama couldn’t bring the emotional weight. The seventh episode of the fourth season, entitled “Jurassic Bark,” scared many millennials. Every time “Walking on Sunshine” plays, I dare fans not to get a lump in their throats. Rest in peace, Seymour. All the above elements made it easy for fans to get invested in these characters. The big question is, will fans get that same kind of joy from the new series? Good news, everyone! The show that many people have come to love over the years is truly back and better than ever.
In a landscape that is dominated by reboots and cash grabs, it’s hard not to be jaded when it comes to show revivals. For every Arrested Development that feels uninspired and churned out, you get Futurama which somehow has beaten the odds. The first episode, “The Impossible Stream,” has a lot on its shoulders. Not only does it have to continue where the finale left off but justify why fans should still be invested. It also must be clear that the writing style and characters feel in continuity with the rest of the series. The writers handle this task effortlessly. Thankfully, we get a very solid reason for the gap in time along with a very meta-centric commentary on streaming. This seems maybe a bit too on the nose, yet it’s a testament to sharp writing that it feels like something very much in line with Futurama of old.
This seems to only trend upwards with the following episodes. Not only does “Children of a Lesser Bog” pay off an unresolved plot line in a satisfying way, but it delivers a nice emotional payoff as well. Speaking of which, the episode “Parasites Regained” brings back some familiar parasitic hosts, whilst also giving us a heartbreaking and beautiful storyline between Leela and her fuzzy pet Nibbler, once again being voiced by the legendary Frank Welker. Both episodes should be textbook examples of how to not only service the longtime fans but do it in a way that makes sense within the larger narrative.
Present is the social commentary, which like the fan service serves the show well. Longtime fans will know that has always been in the DNA from jump, and with the current client in politics, social issues, etc., it feels like the writers had a seemingly endless well to draw from. The burnt-out writers featured in the season premiere episode is hauntingly prescient to the writer’s strike, even though this is a pure coincidence seeing how it was written before this event.
Whilst projects like The Flash should be studied for what not to do with fan service and world-building, the newest season of Futurama should be how to do it correctly. It feels like all the amazing characters many people grew up loving are back in full force. Sure, not every episode is a banger, but many come damn close to being modern classics. The Futurama looks so bright I need to wear shades.
Futurama is currently available to stream on Hulu. New episodes debut every Monday.
It feels like all the amazing characters many people grew up loving are back in full force. Sure, not every episode is a banger, but many come damn close to being modern classics. The Futurama looks so bright I need to wear shades.
Big film nerd and TCM Obsessed. Author of The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema from Schiffer Publishing. Resume includes: AMC’s The Bite, Scream Magazine etc. Love all kinds of movies and television and have interviewed a wide range of actors, writers, producers and directors. I currently am a regular co-host on the podcast The Humanoids from the Deep Dive and have a second book in the works from Bear Manor.