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Scott D. Pierce: Back to the ‘Futurama’

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"Bender's Big Score" airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on Comedy Central.

“Bender’s Big Score” airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on Comedy Central.


The second-best animated series ever aired by Fox is back — but it isn't on Fox anymore.

Four of 16 new episodes of "Futurama" air Sunday at 9 p.m. on Comedy Central.

"It just won't stay dead!" proclaims a graphic on the opening credits of the show, which Fox canceled in 2003.

Actually, Matt Groening ("The Simpsons") and Co. have produced four "Futurama" movies, which will each be cut up into four half-hour episodes. The first movie, "Bender's Big Score," which has been out on DVD since late last year, makes its TV debut on Sunday.

And it begins with a reference to "Futurama's" premature cancellation.

"You're all fired," Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth tells Fry, Leela, Bender, Zoidberg, Amy and Hermes. "In fact, you were fired two years ago. That's when we were shut down by the delivery network."

At which point we cut to an exterior view of a building with a neon sign proclaiming "BOX NETWORK." Only, oddly enough, part of the "B" keeps shorting out so it reads "FOX NETWORK."

"Yes, I'm afraid the brainless drones who run the network canceled our license," the professor says.

And then we're shown three of those brainless drones acting in a way that, in less politically correct times, we might have called, um, "retarded."

It's really funny stuff. And it's funnier still if you consider all the irony involved.

And not just the irony involved in the fact that Fox is still producing "Futurama," and stands to make lots of money from both licensing the new episodes to Comedy Central and from DVD sales.

One of the "brainless drones" at Fox was none other than Comedy Central president Doug Herzog. As president of Fox Entertainment from January 1999 until March 2000 — when he was unceremoniously fired — it was Herzog who made it tough for "Futurama" from the start. As yours truly wrote at the time:

Fox ... which for a decade now has benefited greatly from its animated hit "The Simpsons," has chosen not to reward the man who created the show by stiffing his new series. Instead of giving Matt Groening's "Futurama" the post-"Simpsons" time slot on Sundays, Fox Entertainment President Doug Herzog has handed that plum to "The Family Guy." "Futurama" will be relegated to the far-less-favorable post-"King of the Hill" slot on Tuesdays.

Nobody ever said network TV was fair, but this is a slap in Groening's face.

"Futurama" aired twice after "The Simpsons" and did great ratings. Shipped to Tuesdays, it never recovered.

I'm still a little steamed about it eight years later.

Apparently, so are Groening and Co. Shortly after telling everyone they'd been fired, Professor Farnsworth takes a phone call.

"Good news, everyone!" he says, "Those asinine morons who canceled us were themselves fired for incompetence.

"And not just fired, but beaten up, too. And pretty badly. In fact, most of them died from their injuries. And then they were ground up into a fine pink powder."

So what does this mean for us and our many fans?" Leela says.

"It means we're back on the air!" the professor says.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com