Futurama We Hardly Knew Ye

It’s hard to believe that with the long-running sitcom “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening had any time for another show. Much less the time to lose that show, create 4 straight-to-DVD movies and revive that show years later. “Futurama” is pretty much the little engine that could of TV shows, and with good reason. I know some of you out there may be thinking “Yeah, but ‘Family Guy’ did the same thing” and I’ll give you that, but let’s be realistic, “Family Guy” has suffered its fair share of ups and downs in that time and it seems pretty clear, to me at least, that McFarlane’s putting in his time elsewhere.

But with “Futurama”, the show never really seemed tired. Sure, it recycled some gags but that’s a staple of television. “Futurama” introduced audiences to a new world and a variety of characters that sort of grew close over the years, as strange as it may sound. It eventually became the highlight of my Sunday night line-up as a kid, eventually taking over the spot where “The Simpsons” used to be. Granted, I’m not sure I got all of it when I first watched it, but hey, that’s the great thing about TV on DVD.

One of the things that always struck me about “Futurama” was the way that it could shift in tonality. The world of cartoons is often an under-appreciated one, but for all of its many quality attributes, it typically has one fatal flaw, and that is its flatness. Like I said, typically, but certainly not all the time. “Futurama” is one of those cartoons that kept you on your toes. It was always consistent in its storytelling and its characters, but every so often, they’d have an episode that would just about bring you to tears. “Luck of the Fryrish” is one or the episode about his dog? They’re almost too emotional to relive. Well, that may be a bit melodramatic, but they get to me. You never really could tell because some would be absolutely hilarious and then they’d turn around at the last second and get you all choked up. It was that kind of dimensionality that stands as a testament to a great series.

Another thing, because let’s be real I could never handle sci-fi, is that this show totally transcends all the stigmas of the sci-fi genre. Sure, there are some episodes that lay it on thick, but first and foremost, it’s an enjoyable experience. It seems like there’s a little bit there for everyone because there are definitely some “in” jokes aimed at sci-fi fans, but the majority is lowest common denominator sort of stuff. Normally, the term “lowest common denominator” is insulting, but with “Futurama” it’s what kept me coming back for more. If they’d thrown all the material straight to the fanboys, I’d have been over my head, but thankfully, “Futurama” had a host of dumb characters who needed things explained to them… kind of like me, the dumb, non-sci-fi kid watching at home.

On one hand, I’m glad to be getting my beloved TV characters back, but I’ll reserve further judgment till I actually see the new episodes air. Until then, I guess I’ll keep re-watching my “Futurama” DVDs to tide me over like I’ve been doing for years.

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