The following is a review of the first six episodes of Futurama Season 11.
Good news, Everyone! Futurama has defied cancellation once again for an eleventh season! Fry, Leela, Bender, and the rest of the Planet Express crew have been given another life on Disney+, along with 10 new episodes appearing weekly on Mondays.
Marking the third time this cult sci-fi animated series has been revived, a lot has happened during its decade-long hiatus. Streaming services have altered audience’s perception and appreciation for how they consume entertainment in the cultural zeitgeist; it was only inevitable that a show like Futurama would be harvested from the fields of nostalgic television properties and unfrozen from its cryogenic chamber. Even with newer, groundbreaking science-fiction programming taking the reigns of nostalgia and satire like Black Mirror, Stranger Things, and Rick and Morty, the cultural relevance of Futurama still teeters on that edge between obscurity and popularity; it’s a product of its time but one that, if given a chance, is still enjoyable and hilarious to watch.
Luckily, what is very evident about this re-re-reboot is that the majority of, if not all the original cast and creative writing staff is back onboard (even with a straining contract negotiation that almost kept John DiMaggio from reprising Bender), and that’s one of the best saving graces this time around. It’s a nice gesture of goodwill to its long-time fans and an aspect of integrity that felt genuinely welcome.
Everything that makes Futurama funny is still here. There are a ton of background jokes, moments of physical humour, and clever, deep-cutting punchlines that will garner plenty of laughs. Throughout the six episodes made available for review, there are many chuckles to be had, but something felt off and rushed about the satire, particularly with how dated and behind-the-8-ball it felt for a show of this caliber. The world seems to be moving too fast for the writers to keep up, though perhaps the writer’s room joke in the premiere episode, “The Impossible Stream,” was insightful in predicting the current WGA strike.
From Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency, Amazon and its AI smart home devices, and even the nature of reboots itself (a trope that the series always feels the need to address, as if to excuse itself with a wink and a nod), these topics would have been topical, if not prophetical Futurama plot fodder in its heyday on network TV. When episodes stray from topical to more personal (such as “Children of a Lesser Bog,” calling back to an episode 20 years in the making involving Kif and Amy), the heart and humour shine. However, these ideas seem half-polished, with abrupt resolutions occurring at the end of many episodes.
The best way to describe this feeling is seeing a band you’ve grown up with for decades reunite for a fourth time to make another album. You’ve followed them throughout the years, listened to all their albums, seen how they’ve adapted their sound and playing style. Everything is still there, but it’s not the same band as those first few albums you remember listening to. Maybe they’re not being as inventive as they once were, but you still feel happy that they’re releasing more music for you to enjoy. Not exactly a shell of itself, but one that makes you yearn for how they captured that lightning in a bottle all those years ago. All that said, you still want to support them through thick and thin because of how hard that nostalgia hits.
In the latest iteration of streaming channels’ non-stop efforts reviving nostalgic television properties, Futurama falls on the better side of the spectrum, all things considered. Sure, it may not exude the exact same academic level of humour it once had (perhaps a by-product of grievances that the writers and showrunners have mentioned with the current model of producing streaming content), but after all these years of cancellations and revivals, there’s a reason the it keeps coming back.
New episodes of Futurama Season 11 air Mondays on Disney+.