If you're intrigued by the rather nice movie-style poster picture accompanying this piece, allow Rogue Pun to explain. That poster is promoting the new show by energetic trio The Pretend Men, which is touching down at London's Vault Festival later this month, and beyond.
Police Cops In Space is... well, let's ask The Pretend Men's Nathan Parkinson, who's also a big fan of Futurama, so we got him to talk us through his top five episodes, too. And he did, at length, which is enlightening even if you're not a fan of Fry and friends.
First though: his own crew.
How did The Pretend Men get together - did you all have aspirations of acting superstardom?
We all met at East 15 drama school on the Acting and Contemporary Theatre course. And yeah, acting superstardom was basically first thing on the agenda, except for Tom who merely wants acting stardom.
Tell us about Police Cops In Space - why space?
Basically our first show was called Police Cops and we had a lot of leftover merch, so we thought if we did a second show with a similar name we could just stencil 'in space' on. $$$
Could you give us a quick plot synopsis?
After his father is murdered by an evil robot, Sammy Johnson must team up with alien pilot Ranger and his rusty sidekick C9 as they embark on an intergalactic adventure across the universe on a mission to find Earth, avenge his father and become the best damn police cop in space.
What's your favourite bit?
Fave bit: sitting on the side watching Tom scared out of his life doing an improvised musical number.
Did you do lots of bad sci-fi binging as research?
We did some homework yeah, and then when the bullies left without beating us up we watched some movies in prep for making the show. Total Recall was our fave, and, no, not just because of the three boobs bit.
I love the poster...
We took inspiration from a lot of movies: Blade Runner, Akira, the three-boob bit in Total Recall. Guy J Sanders did the design, he's a genius.
Futurama - when did you get into it, and why do you reckon you did?
I was about 9 or 10. I just think it's really, really well written.
It's always been more niche than The Simpsons - is that because it's sci-fi?
The Simpsons' humour and plot derive a lot from the domestic, family values with humour and heart. Its relatable. Whereas Futurama deals with belonging and acceptance, it speaks more to those who consider themselves on the outskirts of society. That's what I think anyway.
Nathan Pretend Man's Futurama Top Five
S1, E1 - Space Pilot 3000
The first ever episode of Futurama. From the get-go the series launches with the same high stakes adventure, witty writing and intricate narrative detail that future fans of the show will exhibit in the courtrooms of online sci-fi forums as evidence that Futurama is the greatest, most intelligent, animation ever made. And looking back you can see why they might be right.
The episode opens on December 31 1999 in New York City and follows series protagonist and overall loveable loser Philip J Fry as he accidentally falls into a cryogenic freezing pod and awakes 1000 years in the future. It's not long before he meets his loveable sidekick alcoholic robot Bender and the always 'level headed' (although loveable) object of his affections Leela.
Although a little slower paced than other episodes, the series debut demonstrates the vast potential of the show with more than an alien's handful (more fingers) of laugh-out-loud moments, a plot that foreshadows the entire seven season narrative and an ironic twist at the very end that's just stupidly funny.
S2, E16 - Anthology Of Interest 1
Many an animated show over the years has featured a mid-season formulaic shake up in the form of a collection of short stories. From The Simpsons 'Treehouse of Horrors' to Rick And Morty's 'Intergalactic Cable', every series has its own unique spin on the format but Futurama's is defiantly one of my favourites.
The episode makes it in my top five because of its heavy featuring of Professor Farnsworth, and anyone who's ever seen a Pretend Men show knows how we love an insane Old Man character.
It opens with the Professor showing the crew his new invention 'The Fing Longer' (essentially just a glove with a pointing stick attached to one finger) which he uses to turn on his other new invention the 'What If Machine', a device that allows you to ask any 'what if' question and watch a simulated version of what would happen. That's just a straight up recipe for success and what follows is three bizarre but hugely entertaining stories that flex the writers' creative muscles.
But what always gets me the most is the twist at the end in which the crew having watched the stories deem the 'what if' machine stupid and useless but on the other hand congratulate the Professor on the brilliance of 'The Fing Longer'. Only to then reveal the whole thing has been a fictional scenario created by the 'What if' Machine as the Professor lamentably watches and says "so that's what it would have been like if I had created 'The Fing Longer'. A man can dream though. A man can dream."
S3, E2 - Parasites Lost
When a regular character in a cartoon suddenly has an episode plot based around them encountering some surface level change, like Homer Simpsons gets ripped or Moe Syzlak gets plastic surgery, it's usually a sign than the writers are running out of ideas, and resorting to shallow devices that are generally quite cheap and generally amusing for about five minutes.
However once again Futurama breaks the mould with this zero-to-hero cliché and create a complex, relationship based narrative that serves its overarching plot, packs plenty of original, well written jokes and is also genuinely touching. Oh, and it's also a parody of the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage for all those diehard sci-fi fans.
S4, E15 - The Farnsworth Parabox
For an animated show to truly hold its own amongst the titans that came before it, such as The Simpsons and South Park, it has to combine killer wit, rich meaningful character dynamics and bold creative premises and this episode epitomises all three.
The concept is genius; the Professor creates a box containing a parallel universe which himself and the crew ultimately fall into, allowing them to come face to face with themselves. The only difference between the two universes is the outcome of coin tosses. By doing this, the show develops and deepens the ongoing unrequited romantic relationship between Fry and Leela, allows for a captivatingly absurd storyline and bangs out some super high quality jokes.
For example, when the parallel Fry and Leela explain to the original Fry and Leela that they dated:
Parallel Fry: "That was our first date. One year later I proposed to Leela by giving her a diamond encrusted Scrunchie and we were married."
Original Fry: "One year later I got beat up at a Neil Diamond concert by a guy named Scrunchie."
S3, E4 - The Luck Of The Fryrish
Everyone remembers that one episode of any series that was THAT episode; the unfortunate one that the network absolutely rinsed and every time you switched on and saw it start you thought "Not this one AGAIN!" but then you still watched anyway because it was so good.
Well, this isn't that episode. No just kidding it is. And although it was replayed by Sky 1 over and over again I still absolutely love it. Because it has to be one of the greatest, saddest and most profound episodes of the series. And yet never feels maudlin or overly sentimental.
It has a brilliant dual narrative flashing between the latter half of the 20th century and the usual setting of the 31st century and unravels the intertwined nature of the two stories delicately and beautifully and the twist at the end is wonderful; I feel there's been too many spoilers in this top five already so I'll say no more than at the end Fry dies.