Good news everybody! Futurama has finally returned. The seventh season is scheduled the same as the sixth with 26 episodes separated into two different runs of 13. ‘7B’ will commence sometime in (early) 2013 while Comedy Central kicked off '7A' last night with a special one-hour premiere that included back to back episodes “The Bots and the Bees” and “A Farewell to Arms.” The excellent sixth season was not just a return to the small screen but also a return to form. I was never a huge fan of the films (or the chopped up 16-episode 'fifth season' if you prefer to refer to it as such) but last year managed to remind me of the good old days while also beginning a new era. The Comedy Central era. And besides the heavy handed meme marketing leading up to the Season 7 premiere, every thing else the network has done with Futurama is coming up Milhouse! Wait, that's the wrong Groening.
"The Bots and the Bees"
"Not sure if new episode or just rerun of episode I watched drunk."
It was not the best start to see yet another of the 'Not Sure If’ memes appear in the title-card but any doubts were quickly washed away by the absolutely terrific episode that followed. "The Bots and the Bees" was a great episode to air so close to Father's Day with Bender not just having a son but also ending up being a pretty great dad. "TBatB" began with an awesome Planet Express crew assemble sequence complete with the symbol shone up into the sky. I'm not sure who's reaction to the light was the better, Zoidberg saying "to the employment cave" or Scruffy riding in on an alpaca before sending him away to Paraguay? After all that, the important news, sorry, the greatest good news turned out to be the arrival of a new soda machine. And the crew couldn't be happier!
"Wipe my tiny metal ass."
The soda dispenser is voiced by guest star Wanda Sykes, adding a lot of attitude to the beverage machine better known as Bev. Fry's amazed she can talk but quickly tells her to shut up and give him some Slurm Loco. At 25 cents it's the first of, well, who knows how many. More than 100 cups of coffee that's for sure and he's soon got a slight green glow going. Bender and Bev's combative relationship turns sexual after she shoo's away the robo-sluts and the jokes are firing so fast at this point it was hard to keep up. Simply put, it was a hilarious first act that culminated in what was probably the weirdest on-screen sex since Macgruber. Oh, and a pretty disgusting 'birth' scene into Fry's cup.
"For a guy that's not too bright, you're too damn bright!"
Soon, Fry starts to get shunned because of the color of his skin and Bender didn't even know robots could reproduce which seems like a logical assumption until the show explains the process, in a visual gag that mirrors human biology... which I totally bought. I bet someone is making that tech right now. Too bad that means Bender really is a daddy but Leela comforts him by letting him know he'll likely be a deadbeat. That is comforting. Fry, however, looks amazing at this point and you can see that the animation this season is going to be the best yet. No wonder they were showing off so much promotional material on the Futurama Facebook page. After Bender's failed attempt to ditch out on his bastard - he even got a certificate of abandonment notarized by Scruffy- the episode takes a turn towards the sweet.
"I never knew my father."
"TBatB" is still raunchy and hilarious but also has a huge dose of heart, a mixture that very few comedies can pull off. Bender can't get the baby to stop crying and out of frustration turns to what he does best, bending. This does the trick as the baby, soon named Ben (after the beginning of of father's name), falls in love with his dad'd vocation.Too bad he inherited his mother's (no) arms and he'll never be able to actually do it. It's a tragic tale. Really. Robots apparently grow up really fast and 13 days later, at his Bot-Mitzvah, he's declared a man-bot only to have Bev show up and demand custody. Scuffy confirms the abandonment document is in order and Ben leaves with Bev.
The succession of sad jokes that follows is incredible, from Fry lighting up Ben's precious crap box to the father and son 'hug running' away from captivity. Oh, and let's not forget the "damn, dam, grate, great." But the best part of the episode is the perfectly conceived and sombre ending, where Ben gives up his memories (wrapping everything up nicely for the next episode) in order to be able to bend. Bender sheds a few tears and then delivers his son (who are you again?) to college. Well, they try to fly Ben to school but they can't navigate through the fog. "Or is there!" I mean, Fry gets to come in and save the day, chugging one more cup of Slurm, taking off his undies and climbing aboard the front of the Planet Express ship like a modern day Rudolph. Merry college registration day indeed and the perfect ending to an impeccably structured episode.
"A Farewell to Arms"
"Ask your doctor is Futurama is right for you."
The first episode was a wonderful mix of rapid fire jokes and a emotionally stirring storyline and, when paired with the second, it also highlights the strength of the ensemble. "The Bots and The Bees" saw Bender take the lead - with great success - while the second equally funny and well crafted episode shifts the focus to Fry and Leela. And end of the world prophecies. "A Farewell to Arms" opens in the midst of a storm, part of a lot of weather they've been having, and Fry's chivalric actions keep making things worse for Leela. But it was a lovely trousering show of love, especially since those are his lucky and only pants. Soon said pants are taken away by the Professor's weather balloon and, after a hot pursuit, down a badger hole. The opening sequence not only introduces the repeated 'take my hand' relationship cue but also delivers the funny chase and a clever way to get us into that hole.
"Look what my flashlight found."
After Fry's applied the right viscosity of varmint grease and discovers the ancient Martian writings, the rest of the crew descends into the hole. Leela, however, falls and breaks her leg after once again being offered Fry's hand. If chivalry wasn't dead, she'd kill it. In the hole, Amy's flashlight finds a rolling Martian Calendar that predicts that the end of the world of nigh, a fact quickly backed up by the Professor's weather ballon. Yep, those damn sun spot cycles. And while everyone freaks out, Fry again tries to act noble with Leela but she just want to join the balcony club. I should once again call attention to the animation and congratulate the animators responsible for creating those beautiful, troubled orange skies.
"Delivery boy. No discernible skills. Accepted! Cause I like his pants."
The balcony club session is interrupted by Amy because she thinks, after deciphering more of the calendar, she's figured out a way to possibly save the planet and make the episode even more like Prometheus. Yeah, the connections to Damon Lindelof's sci-fi flick are pretty clear but I don't want to expand (especially on another upcoming plot-point) because some people haven't seen the blockbuster movie. Anyways, what Amy discovered was that the underground pyramid is actually a spaceship (one designed with a cool Mayan theme in mind, a mix between Star Wars and Raiders) but one that can only save a small number of the Earth's population. After Zapp, Nixon and a headless Agnew discuss a Dr. Strangelove-esque selection process, Fry figures he's screwed but it's up to the 'choosematron' to make the final call.
"Or somebody else could do it!?"
And his lucky pants save the day! Well, they save Fry's day but the same can't be said for Leela. He once again asks for her hand only to once again find rejection. Even though he's approved twice, they don't need two captains aboard this ship and Zapp is already filling the position. Of course, Fry won't leave Leela behind and remains with the mayhem loving, not going to miss the looting Bender. Leela didn't know that Fry switched the passes but, in a brilliant piece of writing, his noble act backfires and it's actually Mars that will be destroyed. Good thing the Martian came back for his stuff to explain the writings to them and us. Meanwhile, Fry and Bender await their doom with couple of Pena Skulladas on the balcony only to see the erupting planet hiring towards them. With a visual cue oddly reminiscent of Inception, the planets are almost folded on top of one another which allows for the people on Mars to safety jump back down to Earth.
Except Leela, whose broken leg prevents her from being able to make the leap. Not to worry, Fry will save her! And what does he do? He offers her his hand and, having no other choice, Leela accepts and is saved. Well, she's eventually saved by Scruffy and the ladder but only after Fry rips her arm out of it's socket and she his. Genius. I can't think of a moment in any series recently that has a cut as perfect as Fry and Leela's awkward armless hug to their holding hands floating through space. How wonderfully sweet and macabre, two images that nicely sum up just how special and unique Futurama can be. I don't know if there is another comedy on television (perhaps Parks and Recreation) that manages to be so funny and yet also so full of heart. A smile rarely, if ever, left my face during that one-hour premiere, some of it caused by the hilarious and endless stream of gags, the rest by the overt but not off putting sentimentality.
Futurama airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central. It stars Billy West, Katey Sagal and John DiMaggio. It was created by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen.