Well everyone. There’s good news and bad news. The good news was that Futurama managed to throw off the shackles of cancellation and run, leaping like a giddy gazelle, into the field of a brand new series. The bad news is that it fell over and proceeded to get cancelled again. So the new ‘Complete’ Season 6 Blu-ray (which is slightly confusing as it's actually the second half of Season 6, or at least that was how they were broadcast in America, but here they’re calling it the complete sixth season and I’m going to stop now as it is making my brain hurt) will be the penultimate time you can enjoy the antics of Bender, Fry and Leela. But should we lament the show’s passing or be thankful that it’s been put down?
One of the strengths of Futurama over The Simpsons (and given their pedigree it’s hard not to compare the two, at least on a superficial basis) is its ability to be more –well – weird than it’s yellow skinned counterpart. With the show being set in the 30th Century the writers have always had fun in being able to go way out there and take the characters to different planets, fill the stories with robots, aliens and millions of geeky in-jokes (though geeky in-jokes were also stock in trade of The Simpsons) and generally be rather crazy. Season 6 continues the trend – in ‘Benderama’, Bender manages to make millions of copies of himself and ends up in a fight with giant nerd voiced by Patton Oswald whilst Law and Oracle sees Fry become a policeman in an episode that is basically Minority Report done in 20 minutes.
Throughout all the 13 episodes there’s the sparks of visual inventiveness and quick wit that have made the show popular (and what created such a vocal fan base that it was brought back from its initial cancellation). It’s huge fun as always, with lots of great satirical one-liners (“You've gone from crazy like a fox to crazy like Fox News,”) and brilliantly realised animation. But there’s also a sneaking suspicion that the situations are beginning to outweigh the characters. As with The Simpsons, the biggest delight of Futurama has always been in the characterisation – the stupid yet good hearted Fry, the rude but loyal Bender, etc. But – also as with The Simpsons (and lots of other modern animated shows) – the latter seasons of Futurama have been driven by high concept ideas that drive the characters rather than vice versa (such as Leela suddenly becoming the creator of a Children’s TV show of Bender becoming a ghost) which makes everything seem a bit forced. I realise we’re talking about a cartoon with robots and spaceships and not Shakespeare, but great shows have always had a vein pathos within them and – while Futurama still has it (such as in the occasional mention of the Fry and Leela relationship) – it appears to be dialled down from what it was.
But it will be a shame to see it go after its Seventh Series (though there has been a Simpsons / Futurama crossover episode announced to keep the show in our minds). Because Futurama – for all its flaws – still manages to be immensely entertaining and it will be missed.
And let’s face it – we need more robots who smoke and drink on our TV screens.
The Blu-ray includes commentaries (which are always geekily entertaining) and an FAQ (or Frequently Axed Questions)
Futurama: The Complete Season 6 is out now from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment