When a show returns to the air after a lengthy hiatus, it tends to have a difficult time re-ingratiating itself with hardcore fans. They’ve watched the older episodes dozens of times, and have memorized countless quotes, so it’s hard to make the new episodes seem as good as the old ones. That was one of the biggest problems Futurama faced when it began airing new episodes for the first time in seven years back in 2010. When the fans have subconsciously put your show on a pedestal, how do you make sure new episodes stack up?
The first few episodes of Futurama‘s return season didn’t hold up. The biggest example of this was “Attack of The Killer App,” which featured Leela’s singing butt boil — a crude reference to Susan Boyle. Let’s be honest; that’s the kind of crap Family Guy does on its worst days (i.e. Chris’s talking pimple, which was terrible beyond belief).
While that episode was an obvious misstep (although it did give us the “shut up and take my money!” meme), Futurama‘s first season back also had a ton of winners. The most agreed-upon classic of that season was “The Late Philip J. Fry,” which was a tearjerker for the ages that also gave us the great line “I’ll shoot Hitler out the window.” And that was hardly the only great episode from that season. Don’t sleep on “Lethal Inspection,” which gave us Bender’s origin story while finally fleshing out the character of Hermes. Equally strong was “A Clockwork Origin,” which, in addition to providing us with another great meme (“I don’t want to live on this planet anymore!”), was also a hilarious episode with a clever, original storyline.
Throughout Futurama‘s four-year run on Comedy Central, there were quality episodes. Who could forget the glorious “Re-Animation,” which saw the show experiment with various animation styles to hilarious effect. Or “Game Of Tones,” where Fry finally gets closure with family he left behind. Or “Stench And Stenchibility,” where Zoidberg finally found love — with Emilia Clarke, no less! It’s too bad that episode couldn’t have aired a bit earlier — we could have seen more of Marianne. She was cool.
Now that we’ve established that Futurama was still good when it was on Comedy Central… was it as good as it was during the Fox years? That’s where things get a bit tricky. My first instinct is to say no, because the Fox era was more consistent, and it gave us too many classics for the later years to match. But that could be the result of familiarity bias. I grew up with the Fox episodes, I watched them hundreds of times, and I could recite pretty much every line from all of them. By contrast, I’ve watched many of the Comedy Central episodes multiple times, but they don’t have the same familiar feeling to me, so I could be underrating them a bit.
Despite that fear, I would probably still say that Futurama was a stronger show on Fox than it was on Comedy Central. The difference between the two eras is not as stark as some believe. Futurama had to shake off a bit of rust when it returned, but overall, the 52 episodes it aired on Comedy Central are more than worth your time. And as far as shows returning to the air after lengthy hiatuses go, Futurama held up a lot better than many others. If you’ve dismissed the Comedy Central era as not being “real” Futurama, you’d be wise to give it a look. You’ll probably end up laughing a lot more than you expect.