Futurama, You’re Making Me Nervous

Today was actually going to be a “surprise” blog, but surprise — I decided instead to deliver this. Either way, for me to turn and bite Futurama should be a little bit surprising at least to some. Except maybe Rob, whom I suspect is in the same camp.

Enjoy it!

Maybe it’s premature to start questioning the comedic value of the resurrected Futurama, but after waiting with such anticipation for the show to come back, watching the DVDs and seeing its less-funny former Adult Swim companion Family Guy go on to new successes I’m waiting for the funny to really come back.

I can’t underscore enough how much I’ve loved Futurama through the years. It’s delivered countless geek-friendly laughs that kept me warm. When they started running repeats on Adult Swim, I wouldn’t go to bed until I had my late-night giggles.

They made jokes that were really obscure, and had throw-away jokes executed with the timing of classic Mel Brooks. They even have a tremendous throw-away joke based on Atlas Shrugged that takes you a minute to catch. (At least they’ve kept that.)

Bender and Fry

Bender and Fry reminisce about the great laughs they've given us.

I bought the first released DVD and then loaned it to someone; after that I just rented the Hell out of them. After finding its feet, it provided the mythical “lost season” that they always wanted but never got. By the end of the first disc (each disc was a “movie version of four episodes”) they were back to their universally themed brilliance. The characters were as I remembered them and the endings were the brilliance that had made us all fans.

So when I heard that the show was officially coming back from the graveyard, I was thrilled. Even though I loathe Comedy Central as a whole because they’re a bunch of self-censoring jackasses who cower in the corner when the slightest whiff of “Islamic discontent” drifts into their offices, I watch South Park (though I may give that up since the CC brass keeps censoring Mohammed references while allowing every other major religion — especially Christianity — to be lampooned without mercy) and was willing to toss some DVR space to them for Futurama‘s return.

(It’s very hard for me not to go on a rant against Comedy Central and everything that they represent about the PC world that I despise. Seriously, they seem to specialize in offending Christians under the mantle of Free Speech while censoring and cancelling anything that might potentially offend the International Whack Job camp that killed Theo Van Gogh and still wants Salman Rushdie dead. But I’ll address that in a future blog, which has been formulating for a while.)

And now that we’re a few episodes into the new season, I’m getting a little nervous either that my hopes were too high, the new writers aren’t as solid, or that the lightning has left the bottle. Futurama used to be a show that couched its social humor in subtle nods to the current culture, as opposed to clubbing you over the head with its writer’s views. It’s the same thing that alienated me from Battlestar Galactica’s reboot from season 3 onward: the show no longer served as a platform for discussion or examination of all angles, the episodes became a chance for some disaffected writer to start showcasing their own point of view. Same thing alienated me from The Daily Show — when you lose subtletly, then all it becomes is yet another “hip” op-ed show that I can get on any other cable network.

A little more Zoidberg could solve the problem, maybe?

A little more Zoidberg could solve the problem, maybe?

I’m not saying that they should stop making whatever commentaries; but make it funny and make me work for it a little bit. Their “eyePhone” episode wasn’t even humor; it was pure iPhone backlash. I’m kind of in that camp myself, but at least put a little effort into it. I will credit them that the sub-plot about the hurtful nature of links posted to embarrass people was good, but the humor of the driving plot was just missing.

Of course, as I write this I realize maybe I’m trying to have it meet a level of expectation that it can’t, something I’m very critical of when I notice it in other fanboys. This is why I’m not throwing in the towel. I’m giving myself time to adjust my own expectations. I’m going to re-watch a few old episodes and then a few of the new episodes and see if my POV thaws a little bit. It probably will. Maybe I just need more Zoidberg.

I may even call a 1-hour TV special to talk about it after that, to let everyone know for sure whether I think the new incarnation of Futurama is worth watching.