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Futurama

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Fox’s Futurama—the first new project from cartoonist Matt Groening since The Simpsons—achieves a terrific blastoff.

“You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do” is the ominous motto for Futurama’s America in the year 3000, as 1999 pizza-delivery boy Fry (voiced by Ren & Stimpy’s Billy West) discovers when he cryogenically defrosts in the future. He befriends a grouchy, beer-guzzling robot, Bender (John DiMaggio), and a one-eyed alien female, Leela (Married…With Children’s Katey Sagal), and with them, he explores a sleek but still-screwed-up country in which the citizenry are implanted with “career chips” that define the rest of their lives. While the Simpsons-esque animation is eye-poppingly cheerful, the message Groening is sending out is subversively bleak. (Instead of phones on the corner, there are ’’suicide booths,’’ in which you can off yourself for a quarter.)

Groening, deeply influenced by the paranoid fantasies of writer Philip K. Dick, the dystopian surrealism of the Firesign Theatre, and every cornball sci-fi movie, creates an airy atmosphere ripe for satirizing our love of computer technology. Fry is like a post-adolescent Bart Simpson, his anarchic tendencies a little worn down, but still plucky. All this, plus jabs at Richard Nixon and a police force armed with Star Wars-style lightsabers with which to pummel the public—ahh, it’s too bad sci-fi fan Stanley Kubrick didn’t live to see Groening’s gloriously vibrant deconstruction of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A

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