I never watched much of “Futurama” when it first aired on Fox over a decade ago. I didn’t really like the premise, and the robot bugged me. I figured it was another one of Matt Groening’s “Simpsons” followers, much in the same vein as the short-lived animated fart “The Critic.” I remember liking a few episodes, but nothing struck me as anything I’d want to revisit.
Last summer, I went down to visit one of my favorite friends, Dave Moody of Santaquin Utah fame. As there is nothing to do in Santaquin, Utah (I’d been on the unofficial “Footloose” tour of the neighboring Payson many, many times), we turned to Netflix. Despite sharing similar tastes in movies and TV shows, for some reason, Dave and I can never agree on what to watch on Netflix. He suggested a “Futurama” movie. I didn’t know that any existed, let alone four that proved to be pretty popular and helped resurrect the dormant TV show to Comedy Central.
I said, “Sure,” (with my professionally trained baritone voice) not really expecting much from “Into the Wild Green Yonder,” though I admit, I liked the titled, mostly because I’ve always liked the word ‘yonder.’ It’s fun to say. But it only took a few minutes into the movie before I was laughing at every other line. I love laughing at a movie so much that it feels like I just did 600 sit-ups. I’d never been so happy to be wrong—except when I accidentally pronounced my great aunt dead. What can I say, I wanted her Wii Fit.
Anyway, my initial diagnoses of the series falling under “The Simpsons” umbrella was completely off base. This brand of humor (which is actually a successful hybrid of several types) was new, the ensemble completely different from anything I’d seen before. As “The Simpsons” has been suffering in quality the last… I don’t know, eight or nine ENTIRE seasons, I welcomed this sardonic tale of Phillip J. Fry, frozen on the eve of New Years 2000 for a thousand years, forced to accept the changes of the future.
The country is now filled with aliens (the ones from outer space). Actually, the world seems to all fall under one banner, led by President Nixon’s head. No lie. Celebrity heads are a recurring theme throughout the entire series—one of the show’s many gems. Fry has now found employment working as a delivery carrier for Planet Express, owned by his ancestor, Professor Farnsworth. The crew consists of big-breasted, one-eyed Captain Turanga Leela, robot Bender Bending Rodrigez (Fry’s best friend and roommate), intern Amy Wong, Jamaican diplomat Hermes Conrad, and lobster-esque Doctor John Zoidberg. Each character is hilarious in their own right, and, for some reason, the bizarre combination of characters works excellently together. This might be the best working ensemble sitcom since “Cheers,” and much like “Cheers,” this show is spot-on from episode one. It’s one of the few Netflix TV shows I found myself pacing the amount of episodes I’d watch in one sitting so I wouldn’t run out of them.
Despite its gap between when Fox cancelled it and the time the movies and further seasons were released, the series never falters. In fact, its last aired season finale ranks in my top-five favorite. The only slight speed bump in this franchise is the movie “The Beast with a Billion Backs,” featuring the guest voice talent of David Cross and the late Britney Murphy. David Cross is mainly the reason this movie is the ugly cousin of the other three. He provides the voice of some supreme being with tentacles who wishes to mate with every person on Earth. Cross is a funny actor at times, and this premise isn’t totally off base for this sometimes odd cartoon, but put them together, and they are two positively charged ends of a magnet—they don’t click.
As a side note, “Bender’s Game” and “Bender’s Big Score” are the two remaining movies, and both on par with the rest of the series.
I hear it from people all the time: “Oh, I didn’t really like ‘Futurama’ that much when it was on; I didn’t watch very many episodes” (I used to be one of them), and I am DEMANDING they give this brilliant show another chance. My buddy gave me the gift of “Futurama,” and in return, I gave him $85—one for each episode on Netflix. No wait, that’s right. I gave him nothing. My bad. Even so, sit down with any episode and you’ll find yourself being sucked “Into the Wild Green Yonder.”