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Things We Want To See In Hulu's Futurama Revival

The brainchild of "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening and writer David X. Cohen, "Futurama" launched all the way back in 1999 on Fox. A prime-time animated sci-fi series, "Futurama" entails an ordinary 20th century pizza delivery boy winding up frozen for a thousand years and awakening in the 30th century. There he joins Planet Express, a package delivery company owned by his descendant, Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth.

While the show was never a smash hit on the scale of "The Simpsons," "Futurama" always boasted a diehard fanbase, even after it was canceled in 2003 after four seasons. But the series wouldn't die, and four direct-to-DVD films were released between 2007 and 2009, which were eventually split up into 16 episodes to comprise a phantom fifth season. Two years later, Comedy Central revived the series proper for three additional years of all-new episodes.

In 2022, after nearly a decade of being off the air, it was announced that streaming network Hulu would be reviving the series once again. Due in 2023, Season 8 will consist of 10 episodes with titles that leaked in August. With the show's revival just around the corner, we thought it was the perfect time talk about what we want to see in the series' comeback.

Fry and Leela together

From "Moonlighting" to "Cheers" to "Friends" and "The Office," audiences seem to love on-again-off-again romances on TV. In "Futurama," the 20th century Philip Fry and the one-eyed mutant Turanga Leela are the quintessential "will they-won't they" couple, dancing around a potential relationship for years. In fact, when it looked like the series was done for good, its final episode broadcast on Fox closes out with the implication that the two are finally going to get together. But all that changes with the direct-to-DVD movies released a few years later.

Once revived, Fry and Leela return to the status quo, with Fry's romantic advances rebuffed by the love-leery Leela. But once "Futurama" became a full series on Comedy Central, Fry and Leela spend the next few seasons dating on and off, finally entering a serious relationship by the seventh and final season. The last episode "Meanwhile" in 2013 saw the two tie the knot, though a time-travel plot offers up the possibility for it all to be reversed. 

For Hulu's revival, we hope Fry and Leela remain married, and the show avoids reverting back to the "will-they-won't-they" trope the way they did in their first return to television. While the formula worked for a number of years, stories about Fry chasing Leela are well-worn. Having the pair embark on married life, perhaps even with kids of their own, would at least provide opportunities for new and interesting stories to set the revival apart from previous runs of the show.

Don't forget the running gags

One of the best parts of "Futurama" is its brilliant and occasionally subtle running gags. From meta in-jokes to repeated references that carry through years of the series, we want to see "Futurama" continue getting laughs from the same old places it always has, at least when it comes to background jokes. 

This includes the ongoing use of owls as the pests of the future, Dr. Zoidberg's constant references to the Three Stooges, and Bender's oft-mentioned supposed material composition — he's always 40% whatever metal comes up in conversation, somehow. Deep cut pop culture references to movies like "Dolemite is my Name" and "Tron" are always appreciated, and we can't wait to see what other Easter eggs and cult callbacks pop up in 2023's return for the series.

As for Farnsworth's useless inventions, we fully expect the last decade of real-world progress to be mined for some fun jokes at the professor's expense. At the same time, years of new modern slang should give the writers plenty of fodder for Amy, who is constantly putting new-fangled futuristic twists on popular buzz words.

A soundtrack full of hidden gems

Before James Gunn became the mad genius who could elevate sci-fi stories with the perfect song, always seeming to unearth just the right hidden gem or lesser-known cult cut, "Futurama" did it. Sure, the show also used well-known pop songs, but episodes from its first two runs on television put several indie songs into the zeitgeist, including Pizzicato Five's "Baby Love Child" in "Leela's Homeworld" and "Atlantis" by Donovan in the episode "The Deep South."

This trend got a boost when the show returned in 2010 with episodes using treasures like "Rocket Ship" — a Dan Johnston tune as rendered by Kathy McCarty — and a parody of the Zager and Evans track "In the Year 2525," with new lyrics, in the time-twisting adventure episode "The Late Philip J. Fry." If the show is returning in 2023, we're hoping that music will again play a major role and that includes the use of not just well-known, beloved popular music from today and yesterday's best artists, but also some lesser-known greats.

Incisive social commentary

The world is a very different place in 2023 than it was when "Futurama" was last on the air. But while some fans may revolt if Hulu's revival includes heavy-handed social commentary, that's exactly what we want to see. It's always been a hallmark of the series as far back as its first season in 1999. In the show's early days, "Futurama" was never afraid to tackle controversial issues with an incisive but humorous edge. Episodes went full bore to examine hot-button issues like global warming in "Crimes of the Hot" and racism, poverty, and the class divide in several episodes featuring the mutants living beneath New New York.

From the corruption of the government and big business to sexism and gender politics, the animated "Futurama" does what any good science fiction series should — uses allegory and metaphor to examine the problems of today through the lens of tomorrow. If Hulu's revival of the show is going to carry the torch of its older incarnations, it needs to once again be loaded with political satire. From the episode titles released so far, this seems like one wish we're going to be granted, as "Zapp Gets Canceled" and "Rage Against the Vaccine" seem like they'll confront today's most controversial topics head-on.

Another depressing episode

Sure, "Futurama" is a light-hearted sci-fi comedy, but it also contains a surprising amount of heart. Earnest stories about family, friendship, love, and loss permeate the series, so much so that not even superfans always remember just how many episodes qualify as legitimate tear-jerkers. Nobody can ever forget the heartbreaking episode about Fry's dog Seymour, but that's certainly not the only one. There's certainly also "The Luck of the Fryrish," a story that ends with a touching tribute to Fry's long-dead older brother and namesake nephew; "Leela's Homeworld," which concludes in a moving musical flashback montage that shows mutant Leela's childhood, and plenty of others.

If the series is to be a success in its comeback on Hulu, we'd like to see at least one more emotional, poignant story that shows us the wonders of life, love, and beyond. Whether it brings us to tears by reminding us about the futility of existence or by showing us the magic of everlasting bonds of friendship, we'll leave it up to the show's story wizards. But one thing is for sure — it should end with an emotional punch to the gut. But this time, perhaps, it shouldn't hit quite so hard that we take it off our binge list. Because even two decades later, some fans still haven't recovered from their first viewing of "Jurassic Bark."

Long-awaited follow-ups

Part of what has always made "Futurama" so special is its long-running storylines, which certainly weren't in fashion in the early 2000s, especially in prime-time animation. But whether it's the saga of Leela's origin and the mutants beneath the city or the frequent visitations to Fry's past that reveal him as the most important being in the universe, "Futurama" likes to roll out its sprawling sagas in installments. But there are still plenty of lingering threads that the series can pick up when it returns in 2023.

For starters, Professor Farnsworth is revealed to be the father of MOM's son Igner in the 2008 movie "Bender's Game." This also makes Igner Cubert's half-brother, and a descendant of Fry, yet in the following seasons, there is never any additional story exploring the relationship. Likewise, in "Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch," Leela inadvertently becomes mother to Kif's progeny who are deposited in the Sacred Birthing Grounds on Amphibios 9. If our math is correct — and if time advances on the series at the same pace it has in real life — than 3023 should be just about the same time that Kif's spawn are due to emerge from the swamps as bipedal children.

Considering that the new season includes an episode titled "Children of a Lesser Bog," it seems like we may very well get a sequel to that story.

Side characters getting the spotlight

For an adult animated series — especially considering how much of its premise is based around a single character, the time-displaced Philip J. Fry — "Futurama" may have one of the best ensemble casts. But while Fry, Leela, and Bender are almost certainly the three leads of the series, its wider cast of featured players always have space to shine. Each of the main cast — from young scientist Amy Wong to alien lobster Dr. Zoidberg to staff accountant Hermes Conrad — all take the spotlight in multiple episodes. 

Even recurring guests like Farnsworth's child clone Cubert and robot actor Calculon have been the focus of entire episodes, and we're hoping that trend follows through into Hulu's new season. While episode titles announced seem to portend stories centered on Zapp Brannigan and Kif Kroker, we don't want it to end there. In fact, we'd love to see episodes that explore the likes of lesser side characters who we still know very little about. This could include stories about Scruffy the janitor, news anchor Morbo, and even the holiday-themed tin man Kwanzaa-Bot. The latter of which could be a potentially touching tribute to the character's original voice actor, the late rapper Coolio, who passed away in 2022.

Smart humor, fewer pop culture references

When "Futurama" debuted in 1999, many were hoping it would be a spiritual successor to creator Matt Groening's other prime time animated series, "The Simpsons." But while the family sitcom cartoon was a laugh-a-minute riot that, at its peak, was so quick-witted one could hardly keep up, "Futurama" is a bit different. Rather than assault viewers with rapid-fire gags, the sci-fi series wielded its humor with more precision, as well as well-timed and intelligent jokes that take time to breathe. 

Later seasons of "Futurama," however, lean a little harder on pop culture references as a source of amusement — something many fans definitely noticed and weren't happy with. We're hoping Hulu's revival of the show returns the humor to greatness. We certainly don't mind a few pop culture references here and there, but we also don't mind gags that take a minute to grasp or require a little knowledge of science and science fiction to really land. 

In fact, we prefer the latter. Some of the show's best laughs have always been rooted in history, math, and a knowledge of sci-fi tropes. We'd rather have to work a bit to get the gags than see the show play down to the lowest common denominator.

Meta jokes about the show's return

Like "The Simpsons" — Groening's first, and more famous series for Fox — "Futurama" has a long habit of poking fun at itself. That includes plenty of jabs at Fox during its initial run and beyond, as well as jokes about Comedy Central, and even the creators of the series. The first episode of the show's first full season back on the air — following four movies — centers entirely on the meta joke of the show's revival, with the entirety of the cast getting killed and coming back to life in a story titled "Rebirth." 

Likewise, "Bender's Big Score" — the show's first story back from its five-year hiatus — is loaded with unsubtle gags about how the show's fans prompted a new network to pick up the series. Well, we want to see more of that please, and the road the show took to Hulu is filled with material for more meta jokes. The saga of voice actor John DiMaggio — who voices Bender and was threatened with replacement at one point during a contentious negotiation — would be the perfect real-world story to make fun of on the show's return.

Could we see Bender voiced by another actor for a line or two? Or jokes about their lengthy time off the air? With the premiere episode titled "The Impossible Stream," it sounds like we'll get some good-natured ribbing at their new home on streaming network Hulu. 

LGBTQ representation

To say "Futurama" was ahead of its time in 1999 sounds like the basis of a bad pun, but it is accurate to say the show had a diverse cast of characters right from the jump. The Planet Express crew includes Leela, a strong one-eyed woman; Amy Wong, an Asian-American scientist, and Hermes, a Jamaican bureaucrat. But the series has never had a true LGBTQ character; instead, it's got a few poorly aged jokes aimed at gender and sexuality. This is all the more problematic for a show set in the 31sh century, as it potentially sends the message that the LGBTQ community hasn't made much progress toward equality in this version of the future. 

One way to solve the issue would be the addition of an LGBTQ character or simply reveal an existing character as a member of the LGBTQ community. And if we look around, there's already one that has been heavily suggested to be just that. To be specific, we're hoping the "Futurama" revival will see blowhard space captain Zapp Brannigan finally embrace who he really is. 

Introducing an LGBTQ character could also help the show put behind it some of its more dated sexuality-based jokes. This includes old gags that poked fun at Zapp's secret attraction to men — and his own homophobia — by making it a story about accepting yourself for who you are and not letting society's expectations define you. Because at the end of the day, "Futurama" has always been full of important life lessons, and we can't think of a better one than that.

More celebrity heads in jars

When it comes to running gags on "Futurama," the appearance of dead celebrities living on as heads in jars easily tops the list. Sometimes, such as in the episode "All the Presidents' Heads," this takes the form of actual dead historical figures like Richard Nixon and Abraham Lincoln who've been revived with their heads placed in a special jar. But more often than not, the gag has real-world, still-living celebrities — including actors, politicians, and sports stars — lending their voices to the animated heads.

This has included everyone from Pamela Anderson to the Beastie Boys to Leonard Nimoy to Conan O'Brien, and allowed the show to feature a current celebrity guest star despite being set a thousand years in the future. At their best, the appearances of some jar heads have even formed the basis for entire stories.

For the upcoming eighth season of the series on Hulu, we're looking to see this continue, with at least a couple of big-name celebrity guest stars showing up as heads in jars. Maybe it's one of today's hottest pop stars like Billie Eilish or Travis Scott, or perhaps an actor like Zendaya or Ryan Reynolds. Because while it's true that we don't want too many pop culture references this time around, there's still a good use for them when they're well-timed, and the "head in a jar" gag never seems to get old.

High concept sci-fi weirdness

Never afraid to dive into its science fiction premise, "Futurama" episodes have had all manner of stories, and some of the best really lean into the genre. From time-travel episodes in which Fry becomes his own grandfather or travels forward to the rebirth of the cosmos or the time the entire gang shrinks down to the size of atoms and flies into Fry's body, the series is at its best when it embraces timey-wimey sci-fi shenanigans. 

Likewise, high concept anthology episodes like "Anthology of Interest" that explore strange "What If?"-style scenarios, and "Reincarnation" which reimagines the crew in different animation styles really push the boundaries of what the show can do. But if the new episodes include Fry and Leela together in domestic bliss and Kif likely meeting his own children, there's a possibility that the new season could focus on more personal tales. 

So for Season 8, we want to see the series not forget the topsy-turvy stories that send the crew back in time, or into the far future, and into far-off alternate realities. Another new and even weirder high concept anthology episode would be appreciated. In short, we just hope that the show still finds time for wild, zany, sci-fi adventures exploring dimensions of space and time in between the heartfelt character stories.

More than one season

In its lifetime, "Futurama" will have had three distinct phases: its first run on Fox from 1999 to 2003, the "Futurama" episodes on Comedy Central that began with four movies that lasted from 2007 to 2013, and now a revival on Hulu. The first two phases account for seven seasons and 140 episodes, and so far, we know its new run on Hulu will be comprised of 10 installments.

But if Hulu's revival of "Futurama" is to live up to the show's legacy, it will need something that both prior incarnations achieved — continued success. That means we want to see "Futurama" 3.0 receive a second, third, or even a fourth season. After all, going to such great lengths to bring back the entire cast and crew of the beloved series may seem like a missed opportunity if it's a one-and-done year. And with the first season announced to be just 10 episodes, we don't think it's too much to ask that the series come roaring back for a final run of 30 or 40 total episodes before all is said and done.