Since 2005, mainstream audiences have proven that they want science fiction (think Battlestar Galactica, Lost, V), despite past difficulty with the genre fitting into prime-time. And yet somehow, Futurama fans are some of the most jerked-around hollowed husks of humans.
After years of cancellation, syndication, promises and delays for renewals, and much hyped straight-to-DVD "films" which seemed to slip under the radar. But if word can be trusted, it looks like Futurama could be returning to air this June. It remains to be seen if it will resonate with the ever-so-slightly new generation — less quotable than the Simpsons, more innocuous than Family Guy, Futurama's brilliance was subtle, literary-minded and comfortable. Best left to example, here are five reasons to get re-excited about one of the most underrated shows of all time.
The Leela Mind-F*** Episode
If ever there was an episode that proved that Groening's writers are unrivalled nerds of a type that society may never witness again, it would be The Sting, an air-tight package of Bradbury-esque psycho-sci-fi. Leela is stung by a psychotropic bee creature and tries to distinguish reality versus her own hallucinations. These twenty-odd minutes were straight-up Tarkovsky (OK, we may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves here), but watching our animated ingenue try to take her own life in the pursuit of establishing an authentic reality, all the while aware that this came on after Bernie Mac, was a little nuts, in the best of ways. That it was nominated for an Emmy in 2003 in Programming (Less Than One Hour) is unsurprising — it ranks with Pier Pressure and Blink in terms of self-contained narrative perfection.
Seymour the Dog
Unapologetic emotional manipulation is nothing new to primetime, but Futurama seemed to have a way of tearing your heart out in 45 seconds flat, after twenty-five minutes of general light-heartedness. In Season 3, an interstellar search for a lucky seven-leaf clover turned swiftly to Fry's confrontation with the death of his brother and nephew,named after him in the 21st Century. Audiences found themselves moved by an otherwise second-string romantic plot, after Fry lost the brain-parasites which temporarily made him intelligent, gifted, and worthy of Leela's love. But no moment in Futurama's history was as shockingly, sucker-punchingly heart-breaking than the last thirty seconds of Season 4's "Jurassic Bark," in which Fry rethinks Professor Farnsworth's offer to clone his dog from the 20th century. If you've never seen a room full of semi-overweight nineteen-year-olds suddenly become vocally angry at a Fox animated series for reducing them to tears, I recommend it.
The Time the Entire Surviving Cast of Star Trek Was On
Nerdy, Not Alienating, Not Patronizing
The line between uber-referential, relatively inaccessible (unless you are familiar with its mythology) Caprica, and the insult to both the arts and sciences which is The Big Bang Theory may be more elusive than you'd think. It's hard to be nerdy without being pandering, or — for lack of a better term — being too goddamn nerdy. In classic Simpsons-style, Futurama was able to slip issues of science (duh), ethics, and epistemology in the guise of aliens and goofy-future-miscellanea.
When the relics of Fox's Pre-Cancellation-Bonanza-Age fade away into so many boxsets on so many shelves in so many Freshmen dorms, Dr Zoidberg, the gluttonous, Semitic-Crustacean physician, will live on in infamy.