TV review: 'Futurama' returns with poignant, hilarious satire

From left, Zoidberg, Hermes, Bender and Amy celebrate the return of "Futurama." Photo courtesy of Hulu
1 of 5 | From left, Zoidberg, Hermes, Bender and Amy celebrate the return of "Futurama." Photo courtesy of Hulu

LOS ANGELES, July 22 (UPI) -- The return of Futurama, premiering Monday on Hulu, meets a present day full of technology that would have seemed like science fiction when the show premiered on Fox in 1999. The animated future uses absurd sci-fi to satirize our world.

Futurama does pick up in the year 3023, so real time has passed in the show's animated future. Episodes satirize new breakthroughs since the last season that aired in 2013, and also include some character-centric episodes.


The characters remain faithful to their original iterations. Fry (voice of Billy West), who was frozen in 1999 and woke up in the year 3000, remains an endearing idiot. The robot Bender (John DiMaggio) remains lovably obnoxious, usually because he's mean to the right targets.

One-eyed mutant Leela (Katey Sagal) remains the voice of reason and expresses relatable frustrations at the gang, but she is always there for her friends. A new family provides a foil for Hermes' (Phil LaMarr) workaholic tendencies.


Old Professor Farnsworth (West) hasn't seemed to age a day in 23 years, as he always was a doddering old inventor. Lobster man Zoidberg (West) remains pathetic.

Applying those characters to a future of technology way sillier than our own makes great satire. Even though they can draw the most advanced technology, Futurama usually undercuts it with the most absurdly simple devices.

The season premiere tackles streaming content, the proliferation of which is the very reason Futurama could return on Hulu. There are plenty of reboot jokes and jabs at popular shows on rival streamers. Viewers will want to pause to read all the titles on Fry's TV.

Episode 2 centers on recurring character Kif (Maurice LaMarche) and main character Amy (Lauren Tom) and follows up an original series episode. That episode literally anticipated an event to occur in 20 years, which they couldn't have known would ultimately pay off.

Though emotionally resonant regarding the Kif and Amy relationship, that episode also has an edge with violence and disgust toward alien babies. It also has something to say about nontraditional families.


In Futurama, they're dealing with absurd alien mating practices, but it's easy to see the parallel to challenges facing adoptive, surrogate, same-sex or trans parents in real life. Likewise, Fry and Leela stories don't shy away from their romance established in previous seasons.

Episode 3 imagines Bitcoin as a literal gold rush, crypto mining as western frontier gold mining. So Futurama gets to do a western episode, which makes sense since Star Trek was described as a space western.

Episode 4 does a Fantastic Voyage homage as the crew shrinks down to battle microscopic entities. That episode includes a Dune sandworm spoof, which makes it a recent movie spoof, a spoof of the previous two filmed versions and the literary original.

Episode 5 satirizes Amazon threatening small businesses and fulfillment centers tearing apart local communities. Episode 6 is a Christmas episode, or Xmas as has been established in Futurama. And there's four more to come.

The timing proves impeccable for Futurama. When the show debuted, most people accessed the Internet through phone lines and platforms like America Online.

The 21st century evolved quite fast with smartphones and social media, which would have seemed like the year 3000 only two decades ago. As long as the real world keeps doubling down on technology, Futurama always will have relevant subjects to satirize.


Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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