Fox has a lengthy record of ditching quality entertainment in favor of, as Fry put it, “programs of the genre World’s Blankiest Blank”. Family Guy, Firefly, Arrested Development, Dark Angel for those of us more interested in Jessica Alba’s rear than her acting ability…the list goes on. The saddest part is that frequently these shows are never given a chance to succeed. Fox’s own poor decisions on scheduling and advertising doom them from the start and the shows are sent to Friday nights (aka Fox’s equivalent of Florida) to await their inevitable demise. Fox’s worse transgression by far, however, is the cancellation of Futurama and not just because it’s one of the funniest shows the network has ever produced. The real reason is Fox’s horrible decision to shuffle Futurama to Sunday’s at 7pm EST, a time slot that frequently gets preempted by NFL games. Bad time slot + expensive production = infrequent new episodes = minimal audience = bye.
In what would be a blow to Fox’s pride if they were smart enough to realize it, Futurama returns this year with new episodes on Comedy Central. The first four are parts of a made-for-DVD movie called Bender’s Big Score and while I really want Futurama to succeed this time around, it’s not going to do it if the movie is indicative of the quality to come. There are a few laugh out loud moments (courtesy of the underused Zoidberg mostly) but overall it seems more like a fan-fic trying to cram in as many returning characters and inside jokes as possible. The way Bender’s Big Score echoes the first new Family Guy episodes after that show’s return doesn’t inspire confidence in me. Too many attempts to get in past characters instead of breaking new ground. Too many jokes that fall flat. Too big a push to make things “edgier” (which is a euphemism for “cruder” here). And given that Family Guy has been spiraling into irrelevance since it’s return to Fox, I can’t help but worry about Futurama’s upcoming season. Just have to wait for June and hope the second movie, The Beast with a Billion Backs, is less fan service and more of the witty humor the show that defined the show before.