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The Televisionist, June 24

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REVIVED: 'Futurama' is back on the air, thanks to Comedy Central.
  • REVIVED: 'Futurama' is back on the air, thanks to Comedy Central.

FUTURAMA: NEW EPISODES
Comedy Central, Thursdays at 9 p.m.

For the most part, there are no do-overs in television. If that series you love gets canceled — no matter how sharp the writing, no matter how great the characters, no matter how dreamy the leads — that's usually the end of it. Ratings are king, and if you can't get those, you're usually out for good. I say "usually," because we're about to see a rare TV Lazarus trick with the return of new episodes for the cartoon "Futurama." The show debuted on Fox in 1999, and looked like a sure thing — especially given that the brain behind it was Matt Groening, who also helms a little show called "The Simpsons." Too, the plot was funny: In 1999 a pizza delivery guy named Phillip J. Fry (voice of Billy West) gets accidentally frozen in a cryogenic chamber, only to wake up 1,000 years later. There in the future, he meets his many-times-great-grandnephew, Professor Farnsworth. Farnsworth, a kind of mad scientist, runs a galactic shipping company. Soon, Fry is making interplanetary comedy with pals Captain Leela (voice of Katy West) and wisecracking robot Bender (voice of John DiMaggio). The show had a decent run on Fox, lasting about 4 years before the network pulled the plug. Reruns of Futurama went to the late night "Adult Swim" block on Cartoon Network. That would have been that, but the show has managed to build up enough of an audience on Adult Swim that cable took a second look. Comedy Central got involved, and now the show will return with 26 new episodes. Next up: my letter writing campaign to Fox, asking them to consider re-firing "The X-Files" and "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." Cross your fingers, geeks. DK

JAMES MAY'S TOY STORIES
BBC America, Mondays at 9 p.m.

Those familiar with the best car-themed show in the world — BBC's "Top Gear" — will know James May, the straight man to TG's more hip hosts Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond. He's in the driver's seat, however, for his new show, an ode to childhood playthings. Every week, May and a group of engineers will take on the challenge of using everyday toys to build something bigger, better or more extravagant than humble beginnings have any right to aspire to. On one show, for example, May and a group of volunteers lay three miles of slot car track to create a replica of a famous raceway — breaking a World Record in the process. Another week, with the help of the company that makes the iconic Erector Set building toys, they bolt together a bridge using only the holey metal strips — which May then uses to cross a canal. How about a life-sized house built from 3 million Lego bricks, a scale train set with 10 MILES of track, or a vividly colored garden built solely from modeling clay? The one I'm most looking forward to, however, is an episode that should bring a smile to anyone (like me) who spent many a childhood hour hunched over the scattered pieces of a plastic jet, meticulously fitting the parts together with model glue: With the help of British model company Airfix, May and friends build a life-sized, all-plastic replica of a Spitfire fighter plane from World War II. Sure, it's child's play, but there ain't nothing wrong with that. DK

TRUE BLOOD
HBO, Sundays at 8 p.m.

Tedium, thy name is the first two episodes of the third season of "True Blood." Sure, some things have happened. Vampire Bill got kidnapped by vampire-blood-addled werewolves. Eric's given Sookie a lot of lusty looks. Sam visited Arkansas, where he enjoyed some brotherly hazing from his shifter sibling, who leaves Sam for roadkill. Well and good all. But as has often been the case with "True Blood," this stuff of crackling soap mystery is served with too many attempts at real pathos that, at their best, transcend into comedy (see Jessica's would-be boyfriend Hoyt, who tries to sell Jessica on a relationship based on fighting their "natures," where Jessica would fight her urge to bite people and drink their blood and Hoyt would fight his urge to be a momma's boy) and at their worst, suggest a mystery soap on TNT. Thankfully, most of the angst is residual, left over from late season plot developments last year. "True Blood" can right its ship by simply getting on with it. More vampire v. werewolf tussles. More vampire politics. More sex. More of the "What Sookie is" revealed, though, so-help-me if she is The One Who Can Fix Everything in the Supernatural World I'm leaving Bon Temps for Sunday night baseball. LM

Read weekly recaps of "True Blood" on Rock Candy.

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