Futurama's Latest Bender

A new batch of episodes is poised to cast a 31st Century mutant eye on the present.

It's been seven long months since the last episode of "Futurama," but we suppose we shouldn't complain considering the previous gap was seven years.

Our expectations are as high as an inebriated Bender for the latest batch of 13 episodes, the first two of which are set to air Thursday night on Comedy Central. That’s because the creative team raised the bar with the show's return last June, offering one of the program’s strongest seasons a television eternity after Fox canceled the cartoon comedy.

The animation aspect certainly helped, unlike, say with the various movie re-incarnations of the canceled-too-soon "Star Trek," in which the inevitable aging of the cast and William Shatner's various Tribble-like hairpieces added hurdles to recreating the magic on the big screen. But the triumphant comeback of "Futurama" rests most in the creators' sticking to their vision of a show that views the present – pop culture included – through the one-eye mutant lens of the 31st Century.

Bender's plea for "robosexual marriage" (human and robots), proved a highlight of last year’s comeback mini-season, as did the YouTube spoof centered around troublesome viral videos captured with the eyePhone (which is exactly what it sounds like). "The Da Vinci Code" parody featuring Leonardo himself emerged as another favorite, as did the 100th episode in which one-eyed beauty Leela returned to the sewers, filled not only with her fellow mutants but clever allusions to "Metropolis."

The "Metropolis" reference offers a good example of how the show's built-in distance and its appeal to a geeky, cult audience gives "Futurama" more leeway in taking chances with its satirical pop culture-driven humor than even Matt Groening's other, much better known creation, "The Simpsons.”

Thursday’s return, meanwhile, features episodes with promising premises: one in which the cast of characters switch sexes, and another in which Earth is threatened by an invasion of tiny Bender clones. Check out a preview below as you get ready to go back to the "Futurama":

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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