This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Good news everyone: Fry, Leela, Bender, and the Planet Express team are finally back for more wacky space-faring adventures! Since Futurama last left off, Fry (Billy West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) were trapped in a limbo-bubble of time, spending the rest of their lives together. Fry’s proposal flop in Season 7 incidentally led to one of the show’s most iconic episodes, leaving a sweet sendoff. Luckily enough, Professor Farnsworth (West) was able to find the two and reboot (figuratively and literally) the entire universe. Now, given a new opportunity, Futurama goes full steam ahead even if it takes a few bumps.
To start off, it’s great to hear the original voice cast once again after ten years. Despite having a long wait and pay complications, hearing the voices of Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, and more gave me a lot more confidence. They’re all still able to bring terrific performances to their characters, whether it be highlighting Bender’s (DiMaggio) egocentricisms or Zoidberg’s (West) crustacean naivety. This season also brings back most of its side cast, which invites a lot of potential that the show capitalizes on (joke intended.)
To be completely honest, I’d never been into Futurama before the pandemic hit. I originally assumed that this show, creator Matt Groening’s second outing, followed in the same vein as The Simpsons. Though they share similar animation styles, I was instantly pulled to this show after Season 5’s “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings”. Besides having some lively musical numbers, it was touching to see Fry try to gain Leela’s love in this fun, yet lightly sensitive story. Thankfully, there are some episodes like this here, but its indirect commentary is more direct.
The revival season of Futurama is more self-aware of the world’s circumstances, using its satirical perspective to highlight its own commentary. The first episode alone, aptly called “The Impossible Stream”, is perceptive of how streaming services hook viewers to go on a binge-watch for its thousands of shows. It even pokes fun at the platform on which viewers watch it, using it as a plot device for its story. By the end of it, it makes its hard-hitting message known, which honestly couldn’t have described the real-life situation better. However, some episodes, like “How the West Was 1010001” are more focused on implementing more action sequences. It’s good to a certain point, but it can take away from the story, especially the episode has multiple equally important storylines.
While some episodes mock the reality of our world, others base themselves on other franchises. Two episodes in particular take Dune and I Know What You Did Last Summer and put their own spin on them. In general, there are several moments throughout these episodes that got a few laughs out of me. Drops of physical comedy and witty humor are placed here and there for laughs. However, at times, it does feel like the episodes can over-rely on their cultural references or slow down the pacing a bit to make you better understand what’s happening.
That isn’t to say this season of Futurama didn’t have an original episode with some interesting storytelling. The second episode, titled “Children of a Lesser Bog”, may have been my favorite episode this season. It plays on the family dynamic, focusing on Amy (Lauren Tom) and Kif’s (Maurice LaMarche) relationship that started all the way back in The Beast with a Billion Backs. It’s more emotional than most of the other episodes as Amy and Kif face their own tough strides while trying to make things work. Plus, it’s also the more cohesive episode that canonically ties into the rest of the show, which works out great.
Overall, Futurama‘s reboot still has some good hits to go around even if it’s more focused on satirizing reality and taking its shots. There are some genuinely entertaining and sentimental moments that work well, but its comical mocking and focus on experimentation can get in the way. I genuinely think that there’s a lot of potential to still explore with the canon, but this season is sufficiently enjoyable enough for the exciting escapades of Planet Express to continue.
Futurama Season 11 releases July 29 on Hulu.