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Futurama Can Haz Laughs

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When Futurama premiered on Comedy Central, I wrote that I was relieved to see the show nearly back to form: The jokes were fresh and the characters were able to act like themselves instead of servicing some ridiculous 90-minute-long plot. What I'm finding, though, is that it wasn't just the pilot that held up. Futurama has been fantastic, choosing to focus its sense of humor on world-changing events. And the grander the ambition, the more fun the characters seem to have.

Last week the professor designed a time machine that, in order to avoid any paradoxes, only traveled to the future. But the team went a little too far and witnessed the destruction of their civilization, its rebirth, another destruction, and finally the heat death of the universe, only to watch it be reborn again. They went around the loop multiple times, and each stop on the journey allowed the writers to have a little fun—like the look of joy on Bender's face when they arrive in a year where robots were destroying humanity. Though the story was lofty, its heart remained on Leela and Fry's budding relationship.

The same formula worked wonders on Thursday, when a race of hyperintelligent cats (or, just regular cats who've been hyperintelligent this whole time) infiltrated society to steal Earth's rotation. Amy was the one who invented the machine to do it, and Amy was the one who saved the team—and the world. Futurama effortlessly shifts focus between the Planet Express crew, and Amy's moment involved Kiff, Nibbler, and some genuine moments of frustration. What's especially great is that, even when facing the end of the world, the show continues to let its characters do the heavy lifting—which is exactly what The Simpsons has stopped doing.

My one complaint about the new Futurama is that every episode feels the need to do some sort of social commentary. They've tackled the cult of Apple, for one thing, and last night's episode was all about the LOLCATZ meme. The problem becomes that Futurama's targets are inherently geeky, meaning they come and go from the public conscious quickly; given the amount of lead time animated shows need, that's not a recipe for timely satire. (At least the LOLCATZ thing has not been done before.) Thankfully, though, the show mostly relegates the wink-nudge references to the secondary part of the story—last night contained just a few scenes with kittens doing things humans do, and only one cutaway to an I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER-type poster. So as long as the series keeps it up with the laughs, and the accidental killing of Eleanor Roosevelt, I'm peachy.

What do you think of this season so far?

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