Back to the 31st Century Future

Bender, Fry and the rest of the Futurama gang are back with new adventures as they find a shiny new home on Comedy Central.

When it comes to unpredictable destinies, the fate of the animated sci-fi series Futurama certainly ranks way up there along with the twists and turns of the lives of its characters who are forever pushing the boundaries of space and time in 31st Century New York City.

The acclaimed series, which first debuted in March of 1999 (tucked between The Simpsons and The X-Files), finished its Fox-TV run in 2003, then picked up steam as reruns on Cartoon Network’s [adult swim] block and proved to be a stellar hit with four stand-alone movies on DVD. This month, the sixth season of David X. Cohen and Matt Groening’s clever show makes a triumphant return to first-run cable as it finds a welcoming new home on Comedy Central on June 24 at 10 p.m.

Cohen, who has won three Emmys and a small planet’s worth of other acclaimed TV awards, says he is simply thrilled to have Fry, Bender and the rest of the team back for more intergalactic madness. ‘We have to thank the fans of the show who kept watching the reruns on [adult swim],’ he says. ‘Fox did take notice of that, and that’s how we were able to do the DVDs. That was critical in terms of the show’s future, because a lot of people discovered the show as it aired regularly in reruns. We could use that as a good launching pad for new episodes.’

The Futurama writing team got back together last July, and as Cohen describes it, it was certainly a good idea to recharge their batteries, have a nice lull and regroup to put 26 episodes of the show together again. ‘We had a little bit of drama for a bit, when we thought we couldn’t get all the original voices to return’there were a few stand-outs, but we are fine now. All our writers also go back to the original episodes we did for Fox, so the fact that everyone’s back helps a lot!’

Of course, with the cast and crew back for a new season, the question that is often asked is how is it possible to keep things fresh and inspiring after you’ve taken Fry and Bender through all kinds of madcap adventures for 72 episodes and four movies? ‘We have been able to maintain a high standard throughout the series,’ says Cohen. ‘But it’s true, it does get a little harder. At the same time, once we nail down the subject matter, we have gotten better at telling the story, perhaps because everyone has had a chance to look back at the stories that worked well along the way. I guess it’s just like riding a bicycle’we stayed in shape because of those four movies!’

Among the tidbits Cohen shares with us is that the new season is very cinematic’yes, it’s High Def and wide-screen, just like the DVDs. ‘There are some interesting developments regarding the ongoing sagas of the characters,’ he says. ‘We deal with second-class citizens who live underground, and tackle social issues like the rights of robosexual marriage. Get ready for a shocking episode in which Bender marries a human! We also reflect on some of the social networking developments of the year 3010!’

As always, fans can look forward to a cavalcade of interesting, eccentric and sci-fi-centric celebrity guest voices. Al Gore is making his fourth appearance on the show, along with Craig Ferguson, George Takei, Chris Elliott and everyone’s favorite Battlestar Galactica pilot, Katie Sackhoff. MAD Magazine‘s brilliant cartoonist Sergio Aragones is also making a special guest voice visit. There’s also comic Patton Oswalt, who stars as a ‘giant, unattractive monster from another planet who is ashamed of his physical appearance!’

Cohen, who studied theoretical computer science at Berkeley before his decade-long stint as a writer on The Simpsons, says it’s been absolutely fantastic to be able to pay homage to his favorite science fiction books, TV shows and movies on Futurama. ‘We were able to prove a mathematical theorem in one of the episodes,’ he explains. ‘I was a big fan of the original Star Trek series as a kid. You can see that there’s a straight line through Star Trek and Futurama. The Star Trek writers were able to make commentaries on the things that were happening during the making of the show, although it was set in the future’and we hope to carry on that tradition with Futurama. We just hope that the fans will agree that our new season is a worthy addition to what we’ve done in the past.’ Something tells us that they will, Mr. Cohen. You just wait and see! Or to paraphrase Dr. Zoidberg, let’s hope there will be no part of this new season we won’t like.

The new season of Futurama premieres on Comedy Central on June 24, 2010 at 10 p.m.