I was scared Futurama would suck. I have such fond memories of the show's early run, and consider it one of the formative comedies in my pop-culture development, but those four straight-to-DVD movieswell, let's just say I was unpleasantly disappointed. The writers struggled to maintain momentum for more than 15 minutes at a time, throwing in too many pointless gags and needless, flat quips. It wasn't the punchy Futurama I remembered, and I worried that the show's new run on Comedy Central, which debuted last night, would further tarnish my memories.
But good overused quote, everyone! Futurama is nearly as good as it was back in the day. Last night's episodes were packed with laugh-out-loud lines and the hare-brained doomsday scenarios Futurama is known for.
At the expense of much plot, the show opted to give fans some quick resolution to the events of Into The Wild Green Yonder, then hit them with a barrage of one-liners. It even kept Bender, the king of one-liners, on the sidelines, zinging from afar. That was probably the smart move, though: I missed Bender, but given that all the characters had, well, died and needed to be brought back to life, the story was convoluted at best. Too many characters trying to play central parts would have made things worse. (And, luckily, the show somewhat joked about how convoluted it was, with the back-and-forth of wondering who Fry loved, Robo-Fry loved, Lela, Robo-Lela, etc.)
The best Futurama episodes are the ones that blend sweet character stories with the weirdness of the Futurama world. One of my favorites, "My Three Suns" from Season 1, has Fry upset over not being taken seriously on the ship, then inadvertently becoming the ruler of a world of liquid people. Hapless Fry tries to maintain favor, jumping through ridiculous hoops because he's terrified of going back to his life as a plain ol' delivery boy. Last night's pair of episodesin which the Professor reunited the team and Lela and Zapp Brannigan gallivanted around an Eden-like worldweren't much in the way of story, but that's the next step in Futurama 's journey back onto the airwaves.
As a fan, I'm optimistic. The show didn't sacrifice its characters for the sake of a joke; Fry and Lela are still yearning for one another, and the Professor is still coldly distant from everything that happens. Plus, the jokes felt fresh, like the writers were genuinely excited to write for these characters one more time: "We can't avoid any of humanity's mistakes." "Like the tuba." I went in to last night's episodes soured on the DVD movies, but I can't deny they made me feel that Futurama magic all over again. Good news, everyone, indeed.