<I>Futurama</i> Futurama

This, without a doubt, is Bender's biggest score. Comedy Central has ordered 26 new episodes of Futurama, the animated comedy that ran from 1999 to 2003 on Fox.

Series creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen are currently working on scripts for the new episodes, which will premiere on the cabler in mid-2010 and be dispersed over two seasons.

Strong DVD sales of the first four seasons plus a quartet of made-for-DVD movies — coupled with solid ratings from Comedy Central-aired reruns — are to credit for the toon's revival.

Citing the studio's previous success in plucking Family Guy from the ashes, 20th Century Fox TV chairman Gary Newman told the Hollywood Reporter, "Futurama was another series that fans simply demanded we bring back."

All key voice cast members are expected to return, as is the core writing team. "Basically everybody who has worked on the show wants to come back," Groening told Variety. "I choose to believe it's more than the economic situation. People had a good time working on this show." 

Had anyone forgotten, Futurama revolves around Philip Fry, a pizza delivery boy who accidentally froze himself in 1999, then was thawed out 1,000 years later. There in the future, he met up with Leela (voiced by Katey Sagal), a one-eyed alien, and Bender, a cranky (and often drunk) robot.

Following the characters' far-out feature-length forays — the fourth one, Into the Wild Green Yonder, makes its Comedy Central debut in September — the plan is to "go a little bit back to pure comedy, characters and sci-fi," says Cohen.

With Futurama's wheels back in motion, 20th TV has the right to shop the new episodes to broadcast networks, with Comedy Central retaining second-window dibs. Thus far there have been extremely preliminary talks with Fox.

Should Comedy Central in fact wind up as Futurama's lone home, crunching the budget will prove tricky, since "there are costs associated with" the show's intricate animation, Newman explained. To make ends meet, the writing staff and delivery schedule will be trimmed.

"Across the board, everyone is doing a little belt-tightening," Newman said. "That's what's necessary to get this thing into production. No one is going to make a big payday on the show, including the studio."