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The Best of Futurama

kimberlee rossi-fuchs debuts with a blog about futurama, which will be making a comeback on national TV in june.

Good news, everyone! After a seven year hiatus from new episodes, Futurama is set to return to Comedy Central with twenty-six new episodes beginning this June. The brainchild of The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, Futurama originally premiered on Fox in 1999 and told the story of Phillip J. Fry, a 25-year-old delivery boy who is accidentally cryogenically frozen on New Year’s Eve 1999 and awakens 1000 years in the future to find a brave new world of suicide booths, sexy one-eyed mutants, and cigar smoking, alcohol swilling robots. Although critically acclaimed and marked by intelligent writing, sharp wit, and often dazzling animation, the show struggled in the ratings and was eventually canceled by Fox in 2003. Much like the resurrected Family Guy, however, Futurama reruns eventually found a home and a rabid audience on Adult Swim and last spring, Comedy Central announced that new episodes would begin airing this summer.

In anticipation of Futurama’s upcoming return to television, I’ve put together a list of the top episodes of the series original run. Whether you’ve watched the show from the beginning or have never seen it before, the following picks represent the best the show has to offer and will get you ready for the new episodes of the world of tomorrow.

The Series Has Landed – Season 1

In this early episode, the newly assembled Planet Express staff is assigned a package delivery to an amusement park on the moon. Although Leela and the rest of the crew are blasé and view the moon as nothing more than a cheesy tourist trap, Fry, who is still adjusting to life in the future, is amazed and eager to explore the landscape. His initial enthusiasm quickly fades, however, as he realizes Luna Park has nothing to offer beyond tacky souvenirs and historically inaccurate portrayals of the original moon landing and he hijacks a go-cart to explore the quiet, cratered surface of the “real moon” he dreamed of visiting as a boy.

Only the second episode of the series, “The Series Has Landed” introduces many central characters, including Amy Wong, Hermes, and Dr. Zoidberg, and also does an excellent job of establishing the personality traits that would define these characters throughout the series’ run, from Fry’s naiveté and wide-eyed wonder with the new world around him to Bender’s long held secret dream of becoming a folk singer. This episode also offers a rare and hilarious instance of Fry being smarter than his 30th century counterparts when, while watching an animatronic Ralph Kramden portrayed as Earth’s first astronaut, he disgustedly scoffs, “That’s not an astronaut! It’s a TV comedian. And he was just using space travel as a metaphor for beating his wife!”

Insane In The Mainframe – Season Three

Framed for a bank robbery and too intimidated to testify against the crazed robot who actually committed the crime, Bender and Fry cop an insanity plea and are both sentenced to time in the Asylum for Criminally Insane Robots. Fry’s terrified assertions of his humanity fall on deaf ears and he remains institutionalized, fed only motor oil, and forced to share a tiny room with Roberto, who spends each night practicing “stabbing,” until he is eventually brainwashed into believing he’s a robot.

Fry’s traumatic experiences in the asylum and eventual transformation into a human robot are incredibly funny, particularly his version of robot-speak, which inexplicably often includes the word “ye.” However, it’s the varied cast of mad robots who steal the show in “Insane in the Mainframe,” particularly the Abraham Lincoln robot afflicted with multiple personalities, who declares, “I was born in two hundred log cabins.”

Time Keeps On Slipping – Season Three

When the Harlem Globetrotters arrive from their home planet via spaceship to challenge the people of Earth to a basketball game for intergalactic bragging rights, Professor Farnsworth creates a team of Mutant Atomic Supermen to compete for Earth’s honor. Unfortunately, the Professor’s use of time particles called “chronotons” to speed the mutants’ growth causes ruptures in the space-time continuum and huge chunks of time go missing and forgotten, including a span in which Fry and Leela apparently fall in love, marry, and divorce. As the Professor and the Globetrotters attempt to put an end to the time skips, Fry tries to remember just how he managed to get Leela to fall in love with him.

While Bender’s attempts at joining the Globetrotters are hilarious, the center of this episode revolves around Fry and Leela’s relationship. Fry’s unrequited love for Leela had been a running theme for some time at this point and it’s somewhat bittersweet to see him finally get the girl of his dreams, only to lose her again within a matter of seconds. The final reveal of Fry’s method of wooing Leela manages to be simultaneously sad and funny and is perfectly accented by a melancholy rendition of the Globetrotter’s theme song, “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

A Fishful of Dollars – Season 1

When Fry, Leela, and Amy need to come up with some money to cover Bender’s shoplifting fine, Fry heads over to his old bank to see if his account from the 20th century is still open. At the bank, he discovers that after accruing interest for a thousand years, the ninety-three cents left in his account in 1999 is now worth a staggering 4.3 billion dollars. Fry quickly squanders this windfall, spending lavishly on historic memorabilia, including a multimillion dollar tin of anchovies (extinct since the 2200s) in an attempt to recreate his 20th century life.

Another first season classic, “A Fishful of Dollars” is notable as an example of the show’s clever writing on both a humorous and a mathematically level, as the amount of interest accrued on Fry’s account over a millennium was calculated by the Ivy League educated math nerds on the show’s writing staff and is completely accurate. Fry’s attempts to recapture his past through frivolous purchases are also priceless, especially when he buys Ted Danson’s skeleton at auction because he has “an idea for a sitcom.”

The Sting – Season 4

When sent on a dangerous mission to collect honey from a hive of huge and deadly space bees, Leela is uncharacteristically reckless, endangering the crew and kidnapping a baby queen bee. Back on board the Planet Express ship, the baby queen attacks and Fry is killed while attempting to protect Leela. Guilt-stricken, Leela is visited nightly by Fry in dreams so vivid, she begins to believe he is still alive.

Featuring perhaps one of the most imaginative storylines in series history, “The Sting” is surreal, dreamlike, and lushly animated. While the story revolves around Fry and Leela’s deepening relationship and is of one of the more sentimental episodes, there are still plenty of genuinely funny moments, including the Planet Express staff’s impromptu performance of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

The Luck of the Fryrish – Season Three

After experiencing a streak of bad luck, Fry ventures to the underground ruins of Old New York to retrieve his lucky 7-leaf clover, which he left hidden in a secret spot in his childhood home. When he can’t find the clover, Fry assumes that his jealous, competitive older brother, Yancy, stole it, as well as his identity, after his disappearance on New Years’ Eve 1999. With the help of Leela and Bender, Fry sets out to reclaim what is rightfully his, but instead discovers the truth about his brother’s feelings towards him in the process.

Split between the 30th century and flashbacks to Fry’s youth, “The Luck of the Fryrish” provides a glimpse into Fry’s life and relationships before he was frozen and awoken in the future. A sentimental favorite, this episode epitomizes the heart and sweetness that characterize the show and when the truth about the missing clover is revealed, it’s hard not to get a little choked up.

Roswell That Ends Well – Season Three

When an accident involving some microwavable popcorn and a supernova sends the Planet Express crew back in time to 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, Leela and the Professor try to blend in, Dr. Zoidberg is subjected to an alien autopsy, and Fry, in a nod to Back to the Future, attempts to preserve his own existence by making sure his grandparents fall in love. Fry’s misguided attempts to safely lead his slow-witted, bi-curious grandfather into his grandmother’s arms lead to the patriarch’s death via atomic bomb. Soon afterwords, Fry is seduced by his future grandmother into a one night stand, thus making him his own grandfather and explaining his continued existence.

In addition to placing the blame for the alleged Roswell crash on the Planet Express crew, this Emmy winning episode represents a playful subversion of the butterfly effect theory, with the characters doing everything humanly possible to interfere with the past and yet still returning to an essentially unchanged future. “Roswell That Ends Well” is also significant for establishing some of the show’s key mythology, as Fry’s becoming his own grandfather will determine the fate of the universe in later episodes.

The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings – Season 4

Fry attempts to impress Leela by mastering the Holophoner, a clarinet-like instrument which produces holographic images as well as music. Unfortunately, his “stupid fingers” render him completely inept as a musician and it is only after making a deal to trade hands with the Robot Devil (voiced by the great Dan Castellaneta) that he develops any talent. Fry composes an opera dedicated to Leela, but on the performance night, the Robot Devil comes to collect his dues and take back what might be Fry’s only opportunity at winning Leela’s hand.

“The Devil’s Hands” was the final new Futurama episode to air on Fox and served as a fitting coda for the series. Perhaps more than any other, this episode paints a picture of the 30th century as an exciting, new world of wondrous innovations – admit it, you totally want a Holophoner – yet also one in which the 20th century Fry can not only fit in, but also flourish. The music is great, too, and it’s no wonder that by episode’s end, Fry finally succeeds in winning Leela’s affections, possibly setting up a romantic relationship for the two in the new episodes to come.



  1. Futurama had quite possibly one of the best origin arcs ever, and it makes me wonder if it was all ever intended from the get-go or Groening and Cohen simply lucked into it.

    One episode that also needs to be acknowledges is “Jurassic Bark”, simply because it’s plotline and ending are up there with the origin episodes, but witih a much more heart-tugging ending.

  2. Futurama, by far my favourite show.

    Although I’d have a hard time choosing, if asked these are probably the first ten to jump in my head.

    I agree with zedd1986 though, “Jurassic Bark” was possibly the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

  3. I really to enjoy Futurama and was hoping it world make a comeback. I mean if Family Guy can do it, I knew this show should have it’s second chance too. I’m glad that it’s coming back in June. The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings is probably my fave episode on the top ten list, however, I do have a girly spot in my heart for The Sting episode, even though Leela and Fry becoming an item would throw everything off kilt and the closest thing we got to that was “The Farnsworth Parabox” eposode, alaso season 4. I guess I like season 4 episodes most.

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