Especially Zoidberg. He fucking rules.
It’s been three years since “Futurama” returned to the airwaves, and I think we can safely say the show is still funny. Admittedly, there were some concerns at the beginning, like the highly dubious “Susan Boil” episode (I get shivers just thinking about that one), but for the most part, the show is producing just as much laughter as it did in its original run.
This is only significant because based on history, the odds were stacked against “Futurama.” Let’s remember, “Family Guy” went way downhill when it came back from cancellation, and Matt Groening’s other, bigger show “The Simpsons,” is a pale shadow of its former self. How would a Matt Groening show that had been off the air for seven years fair in its return? The outlook was cloudy at best.
Luckily, “Futurama” has continued to generate laughter by staying true to its formula, and not losing track of characterization. Bender is still a merciless alcoholic thief, Fry is still endearingly stupid, and Zoidberg is still the funniest character in the history of television. The show’s continued groove was never more clear than during the season premiere, in which Bender becomes a father after impregnating a soda machine played by Wanda Sykes. Yes, all of that is just as ridiculous as it sounds. And it’s fucking hilarious.
While the big laughs come in the first two acts, things take a dramatic turn near the end. Bender’s son wants to follow in his footsteps, but the only way it can happen is if he loses his memory card, meaning he’ll forget ever knowing his father. When Bender says a heartfelt goodbye to his son (who has no recollection of him), it was hard not tear up a little bit. “Futurama” has never shied away from dramatic moments, and this was a great one, feeling heavy but not sappy.
“Futurama” has also entered the political realm this season, giving us a look at the 3012 election. Earth’s evil ruler (the head of Richard Nixon) has no strong opponent in the upcoming race, until an idealistic candidate named Chris Travers gets some campaign advice from Leela, the only member of the crew with a political conscience.
This episode is not without its faults. Namely, it feels a bit dated. Travers is obviously modeled after the 2008 notion of Obama (when everyone thought he was perfect), and it just seems a bit ridiculous to look at him in that light these days. Still, it’s a minor gripe, and the episode has enough jokes to keep it from mattering much. The Obama parallel does produce one great joke, when Travers being born in Kenya is actually a positive (as Leela notes that it’s the cradle of life). Things end on a pessimistic note, as Bender points out than nothing will actually change. Not because Travers is a liar, but because he’s from the future, and when he beats Nixon, that changes the future, and keeps him from being born. A solid twist on the notion of “politics as usual.”
“Futurama” has avoided the trap that “Family Guy” memorably fell into, and continues to be one of the funniest shows on television. If it can avoid becoming a parody of itself, as cartoons tend to do, it might be able to push out great episodes for years to come. Just as long as Comedy Central isn’t as stupid as Fox is.