Futurama

In what may be the most anticipated animated return to television since Family Guy, Futurama finally debuts brand new episodes on Comedy Central (Thursday, 10/9c).

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"In my heart of hearts, I knew this show was too good to die," says Billy West, who actually sounds like an older version of Fry, the character he voices on the animated series.

"The amount of times the show has been revived from the dead is unbelievable. I love working on zombie Futurama," jokes John DiMaggio, who plays Bender.

There was a moment, though, when it seemed Futurama would be up-ended after a salary negotiation snag last summer. Fortunately, the core cast is returning, and Katey Sagal insists it was "just one of those things that happen" in Hollywood.

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"The show has been consistently intelligent and funny. To me it's always been one of the best-written shows that I've ever been on," says Sagal, who quickly corrects herself, laughing, "besides Sons of Anarchy."

Sagal and Lauren Tom both say they had to listen to recordings of Leela and Amy Wong to get the right pitch again. But it seems the characters haven't missed a step. Fry and Leela are still "knocking about," says Sagal, while West notes that Fry and Bender continue to be a solid comedy team.

However, this season won't just be about taking potshots at pop culture in the 21st century. "There's a bigger emotional core than ever there was in a season," insists Maurice LeMarche, who voices such characters as Kif, Calculon and Hedonism Bot. "This season we have more shows that may leave you with a little tear in your eye or make you say, 'Wow, that show really said something.'"

The Futurama looks bright as Comedy Central revives 'toon

That's not to say they won't go after films such as Avatar, and of course, take on Comedy Central itself. The animated series had been known to take a shot at Fox now and again, though LaMarche says, "we don't bite the hand that feeds us, we nibble it lovingly."

And just because Futurama has moved to cable, that doesn't mean the show is turning X-rated. "We're not trying to push it to the extreme because I definitely want it to feel like it's the same show," says executive producer David X. Cohen. "We'll push it somewhat, but there's a self-imposed line we could cross."