I was equal parts apprehensive and enthusiastic when Hulu announced that it was picking up Futurama for a new batch of episodes nearly a decade after the series ended for the third time. With the bulk of the original cast and crew on board, I held out hope that season 11 would be a success, and based on the first three episodes, my faith has been rewarded.
As a refresher, Futurama initially ran for four seasons on Fox from 1999 to 2003. Fox never did formally cancel the series but stopped buying more episodes in 2003. In 2006, Comedy Central announced that it was bringing Futurama back in the form of four direct-to-DVD movies (which were later split into 16 episodes that made up season 5).
Three years later, Comedy Central ordered 26 new half-hour episodes of Futurama. The sixth season began airing in 2010, and following its successful run, Comedy Central ordered another 26 episodes. Season 7 would be the network’s last, with actually-for-real-this-time series finale Meanwhile airing on September 4, 2013.
In anticipation of Futurama’s latest reboot, I binge-watched the entire series over the last several weeks. As many others have expressed, the original Fox run remains the peak of the series, with the funniest jokes and the most emotionally impactful storylines – often in the same episode. But there are a number of exceptions to this rule, such as season 6 and 7 standouts The Late Philip J. Fry, The Duh-Vinci Code, and Game of Tones. And after concluding the series twice before, the team nailed it with the exceptional season 7 finale, Meanwhile.
But as poignant and perfect as the third series finale was, co-creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen did leave the door cracked for future adventures. Hulu decided to take them up on that offer ten years later with 20 new episodes. (Hulu refers to the latest batch of episodes as season 11 because of the way it split up the previous seasons.)
Well, the future has arrived (again, and in more ways than one), as the first three episodes of Futurama season 11 are now streaming on Hulu.
The Impossible Stream, the premiere of the Hulu run, picks up right where the show left off in 2013, with Professor Farnsworth, Fry, and Leela breaking out of the stasis field that had engulfed the entire universe when Fry broke the professor’s time button.
Much like the first Futurama DVD movie, Bender’s Big Score, the episode spends as much time making fun of the show’s repeated cancellations and revivals as it does reintroducing the crew of the Planet Express. Back to his daily life, Fry realizes that he hasn’t accomplished nearly enough in the 23 years since he was cryogenically frozen and sent to the year 3000. And so he decides to binge-watch every show in existence, which hit a little close to home.
In the following episodes, Children of a Lesser Bog and How the West Was 1010001, we see two ways in which the reboot will explore the universe of the show. Lesser Bog is a direct sequel to the season 4 episode Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch, in which Kif gets pregnant and gives birth to his and Amy’s children on his homeworld. He notes that they won’t hatch for another 20 years, and wouldn’t you know it, that episode aired in 2003. It’s a clever setup that doesn’t really pay off its premise, but I do hope we see more of the kids in the future.
As for How the West Was 1010001, the show goes full satire as the Planet Express crew heads West to mine for thallium to convert into bitcoin to pay off the professor’s debts. Most of the jokes won’t land if you aren’t familiar with the cryptocurrency scene, but Futurama’s American West of 3023 is just silly enough to keep you entertained anyway. Plus, side characters like the Borax Kid and the Robot Mafia make their triumphant returns.
Upcoming episodes will explore cancel culture, anti-vaccine hysteria, and Amazon’s domination of online shopping. Futurama’s biting critiques are entertaining, but I’m still anxiously awaiting the more character-focused stories like The Luck of the Frylish and The Why of Fry. That balance is what makes Futurama stand out from other animated sitcoms.
Meanwhile (see what I did there), I’m just glad to have the show back. These ridiculous humans, aliens, and mutants have yet to wear out their welcome, even after jumping between three networks over the course of the last 23 years.