Futurama: Bender's Big Score & r & & r & by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & uturama, a prime-time cartoon from Simpsons creator Matt Groening, went off the air in mid-2003 after its four brilliant seasons were met with low ratings and general network apathy. Fast forward to late 2007. Thanks to Cartoon Network, which airs at least an hour of Futurama reruns a night, I must've seen all 72 episodes twice by now.

Four years and 200-plus viewings later, watching these episodes is still totally satisfying. I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way, which is perhaps why Fox has allowed the old creative team to start making full-length, straight-to-video Futurama movies.

The first, Bender's Big Score, is the rollicking tale of how completely stupid Earth people are. Early on, Hermes, the Jamaican accountant who keeps Planet Express Shipping -- the company all the main characters work for -- afloat, becomes a disembodied head in a freak accident. He's a figure of fiscal conservatism, good sense and authority, so everyone stops listening to him and the company falls prey to a series of online scams perpetrated by a race of saggy-fleshed nudist aliens. Using this foothold, soon they've scammed all of Earth.

The film has the requisite geek factor of the original show (the plot centers around theories of time-travel), a couple love triangles, the requisite parade of large and small characters from the season, and a vague progression of the Fry-loves-Leela storyline, but it feels flabby.

Though the conceit is a funny poke at what trusting morons we all are, this story doesn't require feature length. Requiring a switch from free-wheeling absurdism for something resembling a coherent narrative, feature-length doesn't do Futurama justice. We're stuck with it, though.

Three more films will follow in 2008, then the four films will be divided (God knows how) into 16 discrete episodes airing on Comedy Central as an official fifth season of the show. Whether or not that'll be enough to earn the show a sixth -- hopefully with a return to a short format -- is anyone's guess. If Family Guy found new life (and decent ratings) on a proper network, Futurama deserves at least to muddle around on Comedy Central, the bowels of basic cable.

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