This is a formula Matt Groening, creator of Futurama and co-developer with David X. Cohen, had already perfected on The Simpsons. Philip J. Frye (Billy West), the silly delivery boy hero of “Futurama,” is the younger, more innocent Homer Simpson. If “Futurama” was human, I can imagine saying “duh” when the show, “The Simpsons,” which was resurrected for the first time in a decade and has always existed in its shadow, is still there.
“Futurama” ended peacefully in 2013. While Fly and the rest of the world are frozen in place, in the aftermath of one of the cleverest schemes of Fly and Professor Farnsworth (also West), who spent their lives together, they are about to be sent back in time to start their lives all over again. The next moment a new season begins, rebooting both the fictional time and the real show. A problematic robot, Bender (John DiMaggio), hopefully declares, “The important thing is that whatever happens, it will never happen again.”
Subtly self-deprecating is the opening theme, and a commentary on binge-watching intertwined with the tumultuous history of Hulu finds Black Mirror and Futurama. (My personal favorite fake TV show title might be “Better Call Cthulhu,” or “Alien vs. Predator vs. Bluey.”) With six episodes available as the season progresses, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the show has no qualms about mining its own past and iconography, returning to old plot lines, and bringing back a slew of characters. (Personal favorite reappearance: Méliès Man of the Moon.)
This closedness is a serious and justifiable concern, but its impact will be specific. If you’ve never watched the show before, you don’t know what you’re missing, but you’ll probably notice something is missing and this is the problem. If you’re already a fan, you’ll love it! Once you have enough fans to subscribe to Hulu, let the party begin.
A bigger concern is that some of the zip is missing from the writing and the overall comic concept. Episodes aimed at big, easy targets like Bitcoin or Amazon feel routine, no matter how many opportunities they offer to make connections with the show’s past. And the seemingly vast increase in screen time devoted to the characters’ various family make-ups lends the story a touch of sentimentality it didn’t have before.