Movie Review: Futurama Season 11

Because adult animation is still a money mine for streaming services, it stands to reason that they would want to bring back some of the most successful cartoons from the past. Last year, Paramount+ revived Beavis and Butthead. Clone High, a cult favorite, was recently resurrected by Max, and it was revealed a few months ago that Hulu will be resurrecting King of the Hill. As a result, it’s hardly surprising that the streaming service would seek to resurrect Matt Groening and David X. Cohen’s sci-fi comedy Futurama.

This isn’t the first time the program has been revived; after being canceled in 2003, it was pushed into syndication on Adult Swim, where it became so successful that four direct-to-DVD movies were created between 2008 and 2009. A year later, the show was officially revived on Comedy Central, only to be canceled again in 2013. Despite the fact that the show ended almost a decade ago, Futurama remains one of Hulu’s most popular titles for good reason.

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Futurama follows lackadaisical pizza delivery kid Philip J. Fry (Billy West), who slips into a cryogenic pod on January 1, 2000, and wakes up a century later. With nowhere else to go, Fry encounters his sole living cousin, the aging Professor Farnsworth (West), who recruits him, the drunken robot Bender (John DiMaggio), and the one-eyed lady Leela (Kate Sagal) to work for Planet Express, his interplanetary transportation firm. Other members of the Planet Express crew include Zoidberg (West), a lobster-like extraterrestrial who serves as the ship’s medic, Amy Wong (Lauren Tom), a young intern, and Hermes Conrad (Phil LaMarr), a geeky accountant.

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The season opener follows directly on from the events of the show’s now-defunct series finale “Meanwhile.” Fry and Leela have married and grown old together while the rest of the world has been trapped in time – that is, until they are saved by the Professor and time is accelerated to the year 3023. After that quick introduction, the new Futurama episodes return to fundamentals, and it’s all the better for it. Groening and Cohen are able to offer future twists on things like Amazon, streaming services, and Bitcoin because of all that has happened in the decade since the program last aired.

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However, these new episodes are at their best when they avoid all of the present references and instead focus on extending some of the previous seasons’ plots. One episode is a direct parody of Dune, with the Planet Express crew shrinking down to defeat the parasitic worms inside Nibbler’s (Frank Welker) litter box, and despite one too many now-outdated jokes about Ivermectin, sending the Planet Express crew on bizarre adventures and encountering new lifeforms recalls the show’s golden years.

Even if some of the jokes fall flat, the resurrection season will not bore or frustrate longstanding series fans. All of the fan favorites have returned with their personalities intact, and DiMaggio’s Bender is as endearingly brash and unpleasant as ever. When it was first revealed that DiMaggio would not be returning to voice the fan-favorite character in the reboot, many were relieved, only to be relieved again when the deal was inked.

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Let’s face it: without him, the new season wouldn’t be nearly as successful, and the same goes for the rest of the voice cast. West, Sagal, Welker, Tom, LaMarr, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, and David Herman provide flawless performances as their respective characters.

Speaking of returning cast members, the sixth episode is a Christmas special that reintroduces Coolio’s Kwanzaa-Bot as an appropriate and heartfelt homage to the late rapper. There has also been no decrease in the series’ animation style, so fans won’t have to worry about dramatic redesigns of their favorite characters.

Groening and Cohen, like The Simpsons, always find a way to give Futurama a lot of heart among all the craziness, and the latest episodes are no exception. Some of the relationships have even shifted, with Fry and Leela adjusting to married life and the second episode centered on Kif (LaMarche) and Amy (Tom) having children, who become regular characters throughout the season.

Screenshot 105The new season also has a slew of returning characters outside of the core cast, yet without depending too heavily on nostalgia. Mom (MacNeille) returns to the series, having founded an Amazon Prime-like corporation with its own streaming service and an Alexa-like gadget that continually listens in on the protagonists’ discussions. As previously said, Nibbler returns in one of the greatest episodes of the current season and has an unexpectedly romantic plot arc involving Leela. (Or, at the very least, as nice as a narrative based inside a litter box can be.)

The new season of Futurama, like the previous revival of Beavis and Butthead, is the perfect example of how to bring back an animated program in a way that embraces a new audience while also gratifying those who have been there since the beginning. It recognizes that it does not need to rely on spectacular appearances, aging up the characters, or bringing in a slew of famous voices. The Futurama team’s enthusiasm for these characters and their universe shines through in every new episode. Some of the gags are old and fail to hit, but overall, it’s a good return to form for a cherished series.

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The new season of Futurama premieres on Hulu on Monday, July 24, with new episodes uploaded weekly. All previous seasons are already accessible to watch online.

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