Futurama: Long Live, Planet Express!

Television series come and go but Futurama is forever. (Or, at least, it seems to be.)

And it’s not for a lack of trying on behalf of the networks. After all, Futurama has found itself pronounced dead before. Multiple times. Over multiple networks.

And yet, here they are.

Finally re-emerging from the cryogenic chamber after a decade on ice, Futurama is back on Disney+ (and Hulu) with the entire cast and crew returning for ten new adventures. For those who are unaware, Futuramafollows the journey of Philip J. Frye, a low-legel pizza guy from the year 1999. When he falls into a freezing chamber on a delivery, he wakes up 1000 years in the future where he picks up where he left off: as a low-level delivery boy for a package delivery service called Planet Express. 

Since Frye first stepped into the year 3000 over two decades ago, Futurama became one of the more underrated animated series of the 21st century. The first series to stem from the mind of Matt Groening after he changed pop culture with The Simpsons, the team had learned a number of lessons with Futurama. As a result, the series required less time to find its voice. While ‘Rama doesn’t have the legacy of its predecessor, it’s also maintained a certain level of quality about its writing that makes the show pop.

In fact, the ten-year gap may actually help a series such as Futurama. Unlike other series, the fact that characters are ageless means that adult-animated fare is allowed to grow and move with the times. (There’s a reason that The Simpsons have been on the air for 35 years and counting.) As a result, Futurama continues to stay relevant, proving that the year 3023 isn’t all that different from our own world today. The characters may not age but the world around them does. 

In fact, that’s part of the magic of the show.

While the relationship between Frye and Leela remains the show’s soul, it’s ‘Rama’s willingness to sit in culture’s toughest questions that keeps it relevant. Frye is constantly learning new ways to interact with his futuristic culture—and, like our own, it’s always changing. While other shows like Simpsons and South Parkgrind away year after year, Futurama’s disappearance allows the writers to feel fresh in their approach. Now that they’ve thawed out once again, they’re able to tackle topics that weren’t even an issue a decade ago. Conversations surrounding cancel culture, cryptocurrency and, yes, vaccinations have changed the world in recent years and ‘Rama has never had a problem wrestling with complex issues. 

Admittedly, not every new episode is an ‘instant classic’, but does it need to be? There’s still more than enough sharp satire and pop culture references here to bring joy to its return. (Some favourites of mine include parodies of Dune and, to a lesser extent, Westworld and the premiere’s satirization of its own resurrection is particularly hilarious.) Though only the first six episodes were available to press, Futurama’s return shows that it has not worn out its welcome. 

Whether it lasts another season or ten is irrelevant. No matter what happens with this new incarnation, I am certain that the Planet Express ship will crash into another screen somewhere else, if it must. Because, no one should keep a good delivery boy (or his team) from telling us what we need to know about the future.

Futurama airs new episodes weekly on Disney+ beginning July 24th, 2023.

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