Futurama is like a great comic-book; it might have been a while since you last read it, but you love the characters, and every now and then you learn something new, making you glad you went back to that world.
Layered comedy with emotional weight behind it is a speciality of the House of Groening, and Futurama has always expertly managed to balance black humour, pop culture and poignancy. In short, we missed it when it was gone
The fifth season showed the series needed to get back on its feet after its protracted and keenly felt absence.
‘Bender’s Big Score’ et al aside, seven years had passed since the series’ cancellation, and sure a few jokes fell flat, but the show was finding its voice again. By comparison, Season Six feels more confident, funny and rich in ideas.
There’s a great ensemble cast to play around with, and as well as crowd-pleasing Bender episodes like ‘Benderama,’ there are some more straight-laced Leela stories like ‘Mobius Dick’ (no prizes, it’s about revenge) and standout episodes like ‘Cold Warriors’ – a heartstring-puller in the same mould as ‘Jurassic Bark’ which explores Fry’s relationship with his father.
This is where Futurama arguably has the edge over the competition: they do emotion really well. It doesn’t feel mawkish, and it doesn’t feel shallow. It gives you just enough, then Bender does something inappropriate to shatter the moment and hit us with a punchline.
Season finale ‘Reincarnation’ follows the ‘Anthologies Of Interest’ format with ‘Steamboat Willie’ via 8-bit videogame and anime segments, the latter of which is simply amazing from Amy’s Sailor Moon outfit to the nods to Battle Of The Planets.
Futurama’s writers have always shown a deft hand at balancing comedy and pathos and that sparkle is back. There are also some noteworthy guest appearances from the likes of Buzz Aldrin, Dan Castellaneta, Patton Oswalt and Stephen Hawking. Sadly, the series is due to wrap up in September after its seventh season.
Enjoy it while it’s still here, because we probably won’t see the likes of Futurama again for another 1,000 years.