FUTURAMA Episodes 6.01 & 6.02: 'Rebirth' & 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela' Recap

While so many of you were busy watching the "Eclipse" red carpet action last night, I was... well, I was watching that too. But after the red carpet, I flipped over to Comedy Central.

After seven long years of watching rerun after rerun, the Planet Express crew is back in New New York City to bring us all new adventures from the year 3000. Really, 3010. "Futurama" is now officially back on the air. And you know what? It's like they never left.

Back From The Wild Green Yonder

"Into the Wild Green Yonder," the last of the direct-to-DVD "Futurama" movies, ends with Fry, Leela, the Professor and pretty much everyone other major character we've come to know and love flying off into a wormhole, perhaps never to be seen again. It was a calculated decision to leave things off that way. As series creator David X. Cohen told MTV in a recent interview, "That was entirely representative of our own knowledge of our fates at that point."

It turned out that there was nothing to worry over, "Futurama" was coming back. But how to deal with the wormhole? Simple! Just have everyone fly out the other side, like nothing ever happened! And really, nothing did happen. Nothing really. I mean, sure, everyone died in a fiery wreck. But is that really a problem when you've got a mad scientist like Professor Farnsworth looking out for you?

New Jokes, Same Folks

The scope of "Rebirth" is very small, and it fits. We haven't seen these characters in some time, so it makes sense that we get reacquainted with the main players in the Planet Express office. "In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela" opens things up with a Leela/Zap Branigan misadventure. Seemingly trapped on a distant planet, the two must eke out a new existence while coming to terms with being the only humans left after the Earth is apparently destroyed. The common bond between the season-opening episodes is the humor. It's like nothing's changed since the series was canceled back in 2003. In 1,000 years, when the real residents of New New York City beam the Collected Works of "Futurama" straight into their brainboxes, they'll never pick up on the fact that there's a seven year gap between seasons four and six.

Following Familiar Threads

The last point I'll touch on in this very general two-episode recap is the ongoing story and how it is serviced. Cohen created "Futurama" with Matt Groening, who is of course the architect of "The Simpsons." The two series have always stood apart from one another in a few fundamental ways. There's the 1,000 year time gap in their respective fictional universes, and the somewhat inhuman quality of the yellow-skinned, four-fingered Springfieldians. But what really sets "Futurama" apart is the sense of story. "The Simpsons" delivers self-contained adventures in 30 minute bites. "Futurama," on the other hand, has a real sense of plot development.

The Professor clones himself and all of a sudden there's a child Professor running around the office. Bender and Fry move in together and, moving forward, their roommate relationship becomes a key plot point. Fry pursues Leela, but nothing ever seems to work out right... and the heartbroken Fry grows increasingly troubled with the situation. "Futurama" has a vibrant, beating heart exactly because its characters are allowed to live and grow. Aside from the wormhole, "Into the Wild Green Yonder" ended with Fry and Leela finally accepting their feelings for one another. And coming back, sure enough, that is still very much the case. We spoke with Kif Kroker voice actor Maurice LaMarche recently, and he spoke a great deal about how much he loves the work he's put in on the coming season, how "heartfelt" many of the episodes are.

Fans knew well from the DTV movies that Cohen and his team hadn't lost their touch. Last night's one-two punch of a season premiere confirmed it. "Futurama" is back, and it's like it was never gone in the first place. Who could ask for or want more than that?