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MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The “Reincarnation” of Futurama

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The "Reincarnation" of Futurama

EDITOR’S NOTE: The sci-fi cartoon’s season finale spoofs 1930s cartoon shorts, early arcade games and badly dubbed anime.

BY Matt Zoller Seitz
Press Play Contributor

Animation geeks and design buffs shouldn’t miss Thursday’s sixth-season finale of Futurama (Comedy Central, 10 p.m./9 central). Titled “Reincarnation,” it’s an anthology episode that re-imagines the series in three radically different modes: 1930s black-and-white animation, early, early arcade videogames, and anime from the ’70s and ’80s. This modest but brilliant show from David X. Cohen and Matt Groening has always been as pop culture history-conscious as Groening’s better-known The Simpsons, but this episode takes that obsession to a new level. Packed with Easter egg-style visual gags, it’s an orgy of nostalgia and visual invention, so densely imagined that it demands repeat viewings.

The first installment, “Colorama,” is ostensibly about dimwit Fry’s attempt to pulverize a comet made of a precious material called Dimonium so that he can use a tiny piece of it to make an engagement ring for his beloved Leela. But the segment is really a tribute to early theatrical shorts — the kind that were scored with wall-to-wall perky swing music and had all the characters bouncing in time to the rhythm. Fry, Leela, Bender, Zoidberg, Farnsworth, Hermes and all the other characters never stop dancing, even when their lives are at stake. Sometimes the rest of the universe joins them. In a panoramic shot of Leela and Fry standing on a balcony over looking New New York, the whole cityscape bobs merrily along with the characters. Even the sun is dancing.

You can read the rest of Matt’s piece here at Salon.

A critic, journalist and filmmaker, Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for and the founder of Press Play.

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