‘Futurama’ can now be appreciated on Netflix
‘Futurama’ is an animated comedy show that ran on Fox between 1999 and 2003 and then was revived in 2007 with four direct-to-video movies, which are usually split into three to four half-hour episodes when they air in syndication. The series was created by Matt Groening, best known for having created “The Simpsons.”
The premise of “Futurama” is that, in the year 2000, a hapless, dimwitted, slacker delivery boy named Philip J. Fry is cryogenically frozen by accident. He is awaked in the year 3000 and eventually is assigned to be a space-faring delivery boy working for Planetary Express, owned by Philip’s nephew many times removed, an elderly, mad scientist named Professor Farnsworth.
Other characters include Leela, the one-eyed female pilot who was thought to be an orphaned alien but is later discovered to be a mutant, Bender, an amoral, larcenous robot, Dr. Zoidberg, a neurotic, lobster-like alien doctor, Amy, a spoiled rich girl intern, and Hermes, a Jamaican accountant and skilled bureaucrat.
The world of “Futurama” is a kind of funhouse mirror version of many imaginings of what the future is like. Space travel is common, robots are intelligent beings, and people tool around in flying cars and in human-sized pneumatic tubes. Many of the great people of history have been preserved as disembodied heads, including Richard Nixon who, for some reason, is president of Earth.
“Futurama” deals with many of the issues that more serious science fiction has covered, including the effects of technology, religion, social injustice, and personal relationships, though with a more humorous vein. Like “Star Trek,” “Futurama” uses its science fiction setting to comment on more contemporary issues. In one episode, for example, Amy and Bender enter into a sexual relationship, bumping up against laws that prohibit relations between humans and robots, a clear nod to the issue of same-sex marriage in modern times.
One of the terrific aspects of “Futurama” is how the series gradually added depth to its characters. Philip is an obvious figure of fun, but he acquires more dimensions thanks to his initially unrequited love for Leela, the tough, self-reliant woman who is revealed to have certain vulnerabilities, thanks to her childhood as an orphan.
One character who has no depth but is fun to watch nevertheless is Captain Zap Brannigan, an obvious parody of Captain James Kirk. Brannigan is at once vain and incompetent and thinks himself to be a ladies’ man. His pursuit of Leela is one of the most amusing, albeit in an awful way, running gags in the series.
“Futurama” can be binge-watched in all of its glory now on Netflix.