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Comedy Central resurrects 'Futurama'

Apparently it's tough to kill a purple-haired, sexy Cyclops, a beer-guzzling robot, a mutant lobster/walrus that sounds like George Jessel and a dimwitted but sweet delivery man-child.

As well it should be. Comedy Central resuscitates "Futurama" with 26 new episodes beginning Thursday.

Fox ran it for five seasons, bouncing it around the schedule. Repeats were surprisingly popular on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block, which led to four direct-to-DVD movies.

Sticking with its impertinent attitude, the return episode opens with a frog that says, "You will awaken completely refreshed, as if 'Futurama' had never been canceled by idiots and brought back by bigger idiots." The first episode, "Rebirth," mocks its situation and is about being reborn. As usual, it's very funny.

Leela and Fry (voices of Katey Sagal and Billy West) resume their love affair.

"Everybody kind of likes him because he's flawed," West says. "But all of the characters are flawed. I try to keep him as innocent as he can be. He's not afraid to cry."

Fry has a halting, awkward way about him, evident in his voice. But it's Dr. Zoidberg, whose muffled tones are hilarious. West recalls going on the audition for "Futurama" and being shown different drawings. When they got to Zoidberg, he says, "I saw this meat hanging off his face. His speech would be impinged or impaired somehow. I figured a combination of George Jessel and Lou Jacobi."

He explains this while talking like Zoidberg.

But it's Bender's amoral shenanigans that invariably steal the show. In the return episode, everyone is reborn, but Bender needs a new energy source. Naturally they have surplus doomsday devices handy and give him one, but it's too intense. He either parties until he burns off the excess energy, or the world will know from doomsday.

"I certainly enjoy writing for Bender," executive producer David X. Cohen says. "He has no shame. Of all the obnoxious, disgusting things the writers ever wanted to do but had some degree of self-control that stopped them from doing it -- they can do for Bender. He has every vice known to man."

John DiMaggio, who voices the robot that looks cobbled together from 1950s sci-fi movie robot slag, describes him as, "an obnoxious, fun-loving, human-hating, booze-drinking, womanizing scamp. He is egotistical in all the greatest ways you can be egotistical and gets away with it, always. He is always on the take and willing to sell you out."

Bender's voice is a combination of Slim Pickens from "Blazing Saddles," "every sloppy drunk at the end of a bar in the northeastern U.S.," DiMaggio says, and "Ralph Columbino, an old college friend."

Bender is so perfectly corrupt that playing him for so long could have consequences. Does DiMaggio ever think like Bender?

"All the time," he says. "I try not to do that. I usually wind up with my hands behind my back if I do."

For those who hadn't watched the show on Fox, tuned in late on Adult Swim or rented the four movies, it's not like catching up on "The Sopranos." Cohen gives this concise explanation of Matt Groening's creation.

"At first it appears to be a crazy science fiction where anything seems to go," Cohen says. "It is really about a group of people who work together. The only difference is some of them aren't really people.

"The show itself will feel like the same show," he adds. The goal is "definitely to make a show if you liked it the first time, you will love it this time. We're not trying to reinvent the Hover wheel."

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