A Funny, Timely New Season

After debuting in 1999, multiple Emmy winner Futurama had an on-and-off existence across Fox, the direct-to-DVD realm, and Comedy Central, with its apparent finale in 2013—until news came last year that Hulu had ordered 20 new episodes. The first 10 arrive July 24, and fans will be glad to know they were worth the 10-year wait.

That said, you need not be an existing fan of Futurama (or be on a quote-along basis with the more than 120 episodes that came before) to appreciate the new season. Sure, there are Easter eggs for long-time devotees, and it’s a more rewarding viewing experience if you are at least somewhat familiar with the show—but the plot callbacks are explained enough so that new viewers should be able to follow along.

It goes without saying that a lot has changed in our world since 2013, and Futurama—a show always fond of commenting on current events, despite being set in the 31st century—is eager to embrace the culture of 2023. It’s just as eager to acknowledge the surreal feeling that accompanies Futurama’s long-awaited, they-said-it-couldn’t-be-done return, though it gets most of those winks (and there are a lot, including one actual fourth-wall break) out of the way in episode one, “The Impossible Stream.”

Even before the opening credits, Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) has explained away the “massive disruption in the flow of time” which has taken the Planet Express gang from the year 3000—the year Fry (also Billy West), a pizza-delivery guy accidentally frozen in 1999, was revived in the original series—to 3023. Or to put it another way, courtesy of boozy robot Bender (John DiMaggio): “Why is my beer stale?” Because you and your shiny metal ass have aged 10 years, sir! With that taken care of, Futurama is on its merry way.

Image for article titled Futurama's Return Is Equal Parts Nostalgic and Very, Very 2023

io9 was provided six of the 10 episodes for review, and we won’t be spoiling specific plot points here. But it’s not giving anything away to note some of the timely topics season 11 pokes into. These include the overwhelming feeling of trying to keep up with streaming shows (Futurama’s in-universe service of choice: “Fulu;” definitely hit pause when it shows the home screen to read all the punny yet oddly familiar names for the various series); and the “high-tech gold rush” world of bitcoin and cryptocurrency, literally interpreted with a Wild West theme. It also introduces “Momazon,” an Amazon-alike that unleashes smart-home assistants that are a little too smart; alarmingly speedy deliveries that Planet Express, a small business, can’t compete with; deplorable conditions for warehouse workers; and the idea that an algorithm knows what you want to shop for before you even search for it (this episode’s title is “Related to Items You’ve Viewed”).

There’s also an Ivermectin joke—and though it wasn’t included in the first six episodes, the trailer for this season promises there’ll be even more pandemic humor. Plus, there’s almost an entire episode inspired by Dune, with a very well-placed celebrity voice cameo. Beyond that, Futurama shows there’s still heart lurking beneath the snark, examining themes like motherhood, pet ownership, and building relationships—family, romantic, and among friends—despite being surrounded by ridiculous chaos.

Though it can sometimes feel like the show is racing along trying to cram in fan-favorite characters (Robot Devil! Calculon! Robot Santa Claus! The Hypnotoad!), and that first episode leans awfully hard into the self-referential stuff, it all feels very rooted in the show Futurama has always been—with weird asides, clever gags, and characters you can’t help but love, even though they tend to always do the wrong thing. The leap to 2023 feels as seamless as it could possibly feel, which is truly the greatest way to please old-school fans and, hopefully, the legions of new ones this revival will bring into the fold.

Image for article titled Futurama's Return Is Equal Parts Nostalgic and Very, Very 2023

Futurama was created by Matt Groening and developed by Groening and David X. Cohen. The rest of the voice cast includes Katey Sagal, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, and David Herman. Futurama’s new season premieres July 24 on Hulu.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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