Last seen on Comedy Central in 2013, Futurama is proving more durable than Bender’s gleaming steel posterior. Resurrected once again – this time thanks to the deep pockets of Hulu – Matt Groening’s sci-fi extravaganza promises more of the same nerd-centred humour and general silliness that made it so popular in the first place.
The first episode – ‘The Impossible Stream’ – is an indication of business being pretty much as usual. Philip J. Fry (Billy West) is still the dumb delivery boy, thawed out 1000 years in the future, Leela (Katey Sagal) is still a sassy one-eyed mutant and Bender (John DiMaggio) is, well, Bender. There are a few nods to character development from the previous season – Leela and Fry are now in a burgeoning relationship after years of ‘will they, won’t they’ – but the format is essentially the same.
Said first episode shows there is still plenty to raise a smile – lots of ‘biting the hand that feeds it’ pot-shots at streaming companies such as ‘Fulu’ alongside a myriad of sight gags and scabrous one-liners. The humour feels a bit low hanging fruit sometimes – with later episodes sometimes drifting into the arena of the lazy parody with the likes Westerns and Dune under the microscope (the latter almost literally) – but there’s still a sense of unfettered joy that runs throughout the episodes, even if every single joke doesn’t land. And there are some moments of genuine satire – episode five sees Amazon get a kicking, as well as people’s attitudes to the corporate behemoth – and there is even a smattering of emotional resonance and pathos.
Those who – much as with its cousin series The Simpsons – subscribe to the theory that ‘it’s not as good as it used to be’ will not be disabused of the notion on the strength of the first few episodes of this latest season. But Futurama still feels as comfortable as a pair of Professor Farnsworth’s ever present fluffy slippers and with the gang back together there is enough here to enjoy.
Futurama will stream on Disney+ in the UK and Hulu in North America from July 24. Find more reviews at SciFiNow.