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Jun 092009

At 20th TV, it’s back to the ‘Futurama’ – Entertainment News, TV News, Media – Variety.

In another case of an animated primetime series resurrected from the dead, 20th Century Fox TV plans to produce 26 new episodes of “Futurama.”

Comedy Central will begin airing the new episodes in mid-2010. Voice actors Billy West (who played Philip Fry), Katey Sagal (Leela) and John DiMaggio (Bender) have all signed on to return.

Created by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, “Futurama” originally aired on Fox from 1999 to 2003.

Twentieth Century Fox TV later produced four new “Futurama” segs for DVD, which first spurred talk of a series revival. But it took Comedy Central to seal the deal. The cabler acquired the rights to all 72 off-net episodes of “Futurama,” as well as the DVD episodes, in January 2008.

Since then, both 20th and Comedy Central have been kicking around ways to make a “Futurama” order make financial sense for both the studio and cable net.

As part of the deal, 20th still has an option to license the new episodes’ original runs to a broadcast network (such as Fox). If the show does go to broadcast, Comedy Central’s license fee will be reduced.

“It’s a deal we’re all happy with,” said Comedy Central programming senior VP David Bernath. “It’s a bigger win for us promotionally if we wind up going first … but if we wind up in second position, then the economics work out for us as well.”

Comedy Central’s “Futurama” rights run well into the next decade, which is why the net was so invested in the production of new episodes, Bernath said.

“One of the things that excited us even at the time when we bought the initial 72 episodes was the possibility of new production and new episodes,” he said.

Twentieth Century Fox TV has called shows back from the grave before: “Family Guy” returned thanks to that show’s strong DVD sales. And although not nearly as dead and buried as “Family Guy” and “Futurama,” the studio’s “King of the Hill” was also canceled and then uncanceled by Fox at least twice in its lifespan.

“Futurama” follows the tale of Fry, a pizza delivery boy who winds up accidentally frozen — before waking up 1,000 years later. He befriends one-eyed alien Leela, as well as cranky robot Bender.