‘Futurama’ Hulu Reboot Review: New Revival Stays True To Its Roots

‘Futurama’ Hulu Reboot Review: New Revival Stays True To Its Roots

There appears to be a collective disdain toward reboots in films and television, yet, at this point, Hollywood is locked into the format. Creators are reviving some of their most precious and well-received works, but resurrecting something that meant so much to an audience during a particular moment is no small feat. Of course, there have been successful attempts, such as the TV adaptation of the film “Fargo,” and the revivals of “Twin Peaks” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” 

Other efforts like “Charlie’s Angels” and “Heroes Reborn” should have been left in the vault, especially since streaming has made original series more readily accessible to fans. Still, as much as audiences, fans and critics have begged for more originality, when a reboot is done well, it is a wholly enjoyable viewing experience.

Created by “The Simpsons” mastermind Matt Groening and scribe David X. Cohen, fans were first introduced to “Futurama” in 1999. The series follows the underachieving Philip J. Fry (Billy West), a pizza delivery boy living in New York City on the eve of the new millennium. After a foolish mishap, Fry inadvertently freezes himself for a thousand years, only to be awakened and defrosted on New Year’s Eve 2999, where he must learn the ends and outs of the futuristic city, New New York.

Eager to do life differently this time, Fry finds employment at Planet Express Delivery Company, founded by his elderly and distant nephew, Professor Hubert Farnsworth, aka The Professor (voiced by West). Fry also meets a kindred spirit in Bender (John DiMaggio), a crass, alcohol-filled robot who becomes Fry’s best friend and roommate. Despite his often moronic choices and views, Fry falls in love with Leela (Katey Sagal), the spunky and competent cyclops who serves as captain of the Planet Express Ship.

In addition to West, DiMaggio and Sagal, in this fourth iteration of “Futurama,” (the first running on Fox from 1999-2003, the second a direct to DVD format from 2007-2009, and the most recent running on Comedy Central from 2010-2013), the entire original cast has reprised their roles with hilarious storylines and the same satirical tone that made the initial series a cult classic. There’s the limbo connoisseur Hermes (Phil LaMarr), Planet Express’ accountant who wears his Jamaican heritage as a badge of honor while delighting in the monotony of his job, the universally loathed Zoidberg (voiced by West) who always manages to make things worse and, of course, Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) Plant Express’ ditzy but well-meaning intern who finally earned her PhD and has made a life with her lover, Lieutenant Kif Kroker (Maurice LaMarche), much to her wealthy parents’ disgust. 

For a series that has been a part of the fabric of television for nearly two and a half decades, there is a wealth of lore that newcomers or the casual viewer of “Futurama” will undoubtedly miss. The nuanced information about Leela’s beloved pet Nibbler’s (Frank Welker) poop, the horrors of Evil Santa, and what became of Amy and Kif’s offspring might not signal as crucial information for some. Therefore, it can feel alienating when entire episodes are dedicated to these narratives. However, for those aware of the series’ biggest secrets, it’s hard not to shriek with laughter when these puzzle pieces click into place. 

Despite its accolades, including a dozen Emmy nominations and six wins, those who didn’t watch “Futurama” when it was last airing regularly a decade ago may not flock to Hulu to screen the new episodes. After all, it is a series that speaks to a particular audience. Still, Groening, Cohen and the cast welcome everyone in, orienting viewers quickly into the ins and outs of Planet Express, while providing sharp commentary on everything from society’s collective obsession with free express shipping, imbalanced parenting loads, NFTs and bitcoin, a growing disdain for reading, labor issues and so much more. Episode 5, “Related to Items You Viewed,” is particularly brilliant and frighteningly relevant. 

With its varied humor styles, “Futurama” also has no qualms about looking inward. The series acknowledges its new streaming home, Hulu, which has ushered in a new way to view TV while making the jobs of many writers and actors untenable. From those quippy jokes in the title sequence, Fry’s imbecilic antics, to a dazzling cameo by an iconic rapper, there is something in the newly reemerged series for everyone. Yet, though “Futurama” remains true to its roots, our society sits at a very different place than it did a decade ago. Thus, whether or not “Futurama” can make the same punchy impact it made so many years ago remains to be seen. 

“Futurama” premieres on Hulu on July 24, with new episodes dropping weekly on Mondays.