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December 03, 2001

Futurama Premiere

Microwave popcorn and a supernova combine to send the crew of the Planet Express back to the future
Futurama—"Roswell That Ends Well"
Starring the voices of Billy West, John Di Maggio and Katey Sagal
Created by Matt Groening
Developed by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen
Written by J. Stewart Burns
Directed by Rich Moore
Premieres the week of Dec. 9 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT
By Kathie Huddleston
As the final series to premiere this season, Futurama and the crew of the Planet Express travel into the past to mess with history in "Roswell That Ends Well." As the episode opens, Fry and the crew are waiting for a supernova. It's a once-in-a-lifetime event and "anyone who misses this will regret it the rest of their life." So, of course, Bender (voiced by Di Maggio) sends Fry (voiced by West) off to make popcorn.

In a hurry, Fry puts the metal Jiffy Pop popcorn in the microwave just as the supernova takes place. When the blue from the microwave radiation meets the red of the supernova blast, the Planet Express crew find themselves 1,000 years in the past in the year 1947. Unable to get control of the ship, they crash-land in Roswell, N.M.

The ship doesn't suffer much damage, but Bender does. He refused to wear a seat belt and ends up flying through the windshield. Fry finds Bender's head, Doctor Zoidberg (voiced by West) begins picking up Bender's other pieces, and Leela (Sagal) finishes fixing the ship. Unfortunately, their crash landing attracted the natives, and the Army shows up to capture Zoidberg and the pieces of Bender's body.

As Professor Farnsworth (voiced by West) figures out what's happened, the crew develops plans to get back to the future. They have only 24 hours to get back Bender's body and find a new microwave oven before their trip back becomes impossible. Leela and the Professor, dressed as locals, head off to try and get a microwave at an appliance store. In the meantime, Fry and Bender's head go to the local Army base to try and find Bender's body. Fry figures he can also visit his grandfather, an army private who was stationed on the base. The Professor warns Fry not to interfere with the past or he might end up never existing.

The crew has never faced a tougher challenge as Leela faces life as a woman in the '40s, Zoidberg enjoys meeting new people while he's being autopsied, and Fry tries not to kill his grandfather or be attracted to his grandmother. Now it's a race against time for the Planet Express crew to get back through the space hole before it closes and they are trapped in the past forever.

Another totally twisted adventure
Futurama once again proves that nothing is sacred, this time skewing time travel in a wonderfully funny, twisted and inventive episode. It's a great start to the fourth season, which promises to take on Star Trek, Sigourney Weaver and Santa Claus (in a sequel).

During its first trip into the past, "Roswell That Ends Well" embraces time-travel theory, television shows and movies and spins it all sideways to create a half hour of pure entertainment. The exceptional animation, wacky characters and talented voice cast meet with the inspired writing and direction to take this consistently good series places no other series can go.

The only negative thing to say about the series is the lack of support and promotion it appears to get from Fox and the horrendous timeslot that insures it will be preempted for sports nearly as often as it will be shown. Last season, Fox aired only 15 new episodes of Futurama. The only good programming note is that the long-awaited episode "A Tale of Two Santas" is finally scheduled to air Dec. 23. The episode was pulled last year because it was deemed too intense for 7 p.m. audiences. The episode will air in a later timeslot this year. It seems Fox still hasn't discovered that this is an adult show.

Groening and Cohen have continually pushed the envelope to keep Futurama fresh and funny. Along with The Simpsons, it's no surprise that new adult animated shows have such a hard time surviving. Groening and his team have set the bar very high, and living up to the high standard of these shows is a very difficult task indeed.

"Roswell That Ends Well" is the perfect way to start off a new season for Futurama. Of course, the series won't really get started in any serious way until next year. In the meantime, we'll just have to settle for the occasional gems Fox is willing to part with and hope for some really short football games. — Kathie