Matt Groening and David X. Cohen's animated television masterpiece Futurama returns to the airwaves Thursday night and my guess is longtime fans of the series (as well as new ones) won't be disappointed.
The series kicks off on Comedy Central with two episodes (of 12 this season) that bring us back up to speed with the Planet Express crew and launch us back into the thick of their hilarious and biting social commentary. Just like The Twilight Zone and Star Trek, Futurama is able to use science fiction and the unknown to deliver relevant critiques of society. Take for example the 11th episode of their last season on Fox, "Three Hundred Big Boys;" they were able to quite deftly explore the absurdity of George W. Bush's $300 tax refund. Because of the ever widening gap between the poor and the wealthy and the shrinking of the middle class, they illustrated how little $300 would do for someone already well-to-do (in fact, one rich person on the show actually blows their nose with the $300 "Nixon-fun-buck") and how the poor are in so deep $300 isn't going to do much to help them at all.
In the second episode of the season premiere for Comedy Central "In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela," a rogue FCC sattelite is bent on destroying indecency and censoring everything else in its path. But, when he comes across Zapp Brannigan and Leela in a recreation of a bible story, he wants to see them have sex and is willing to approve it for all audiences. It's a hilarious take on the double-standard we see quite a bit out of religious zealots, and it's just great to see that they're able to come back and deliver that biting commentary on television.
Television has been a black hole since Fox canceled Futurama, and our TV landscape has brightened significantly since Comedy Central decided to bring it back on Thursday nights.
I had the chance to talk to David X. Cohen (creator, producer, and head writer of Futurama) about the premiere and he told me that they were excited to come back and offer a Futurama take on plenty of things, including iPhones and Twitter and all of the new technology that has popped up since Futurama went off the air all those years ago.
He also gave me a preview of the guest stars on the show, including former Vice President Gore. "Al Gore will be making his fourth appearance. He's in our holiday special which will be between the two seasons. Other guests for the sci-fi fans includes Katee Sackhoff and she's playing a person with a very alien-related fetish, and I'll just leave it at that. A couple of comedians we're fans of will be making appearances. Chris Elliot, Patton Oswalt and Craig Ferguson will be on. And one more that I'll mention, for our 100th episode for our season finale at the end of the summer we have Devo appearing."
All in all, I'm intensely pleased to report that Futurama is back in its seductive, velour uniform, reporting for duty to the benefit of all mankind. It premieres Thursday, June 24 at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central. It's as sharp and hilarious as ever and you'd be a fool not to watch it.
You can listen to my full interview with David X. Cohen and Billy West (the voice of Phillip J. Fry, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan) on bigshinyrobot.com.