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'Futurama' given a new future on Comedy Central [Updated]

June 9, 2009 |  4:37 pm

Futurama

Death isn't what it used to be for animated TV shows.

Comedy Central has struck a deal with Twentieth Century Fox Television to air 26 new episodes of "Futurama," the animated comedy from "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening that was canceled by the Fox network in 2003 after a four-season run. The first new half-hour episode of the comedy about a 20th century pizza delivery boy who wakes up in the 30th century will air in mid-2010.

Its rebirth mirrors that of fellow Twentieth animated series "Family Guy," which was canceled by Fox in 2002 and then revived by the network in 2005 after proving a major hit on DVD and in cable.

"Futurama" has enjoyed similar success, initially on reruns on Carton Network's Adult Swim from 2003 until the end of 2007, then on Comedy Central starting last year.

In addition, Twentieth Century Fox produced four straight-to-DVD "Futurama" movies last year, three of which have aired on the cable network. [Updated at 4:48 p.m. Sept. 11: An earlier version of this post said all four of the stratight-to-DVD movies had aired on Comedy Central. The fourth did not air until Aug. 30.]

Comedy Central may not be the only home for the second life of "Futurama." Twentieth's deal with the cable network gives it the rights to sell the newly produced episodes to a broadcast network as well -- given the series' history and the networks' corporate ties to the studio, Fox would be the most likely candidate.

Revivals of canceled series are extremely rare and, as evidenced by the fate of "Jericho" on CBS last year, usually don't result in better ratings. But for animated comedies with a devoted core of young male viewers who devour reruns on cable and online, death is turning out to be a temporary state of affairs.

Because they don't take much time from the actors who do voice-over work, it's also much easier to bring back cast members who might have moved on to other projects.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: "Futurama" movie "Bender's Big Score." Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Television

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