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Archive for Thursday, September 2, 2010

‘Futurama’ reaches a major milestone

September 2, 2010

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“Futurama” (9 p.m., Comedy Central) ends its sixth season and celebrates its 100th episode with a story as timely as the contemporary immigration debate and as vintage as H.G. Well’s “Time Machine.”

As Fry (Billy West) and company prepare to celebrate the Planet Express Crew’s 100th delivery, Fry inadvertently reveals that Leela (Katey Sagal) is secretly a mutant living illegally above ground. She’s quickly consigned to the sewers where she must dwell in squalor with other “freaks.”

This injustice inspires her to form a rebellion against the more privileged surface dwellers.

Created by Matt Groening, “Futurama” has never developed the following or pop cultural resonance of Groening’s “Simpsons.” But 100 episodes — even when spread over several networks during the course of a decade — is nothing to sneeze at.

• In search of the next great product to sell on unending infomercials, “Pitchmen” (8 p.m., Discovery) host Anthony Sullivan takes a detour to Las Vegas for a “focus group” comprised of 50 beauty pageant contestants. The notion of getting marketing advice from women trained to speak in the most banal platitudes may strike some as odd, but it makes for mild, if unintentional, satire.

Elsewhere, Sully discovers that a new pitch involves a ravenous grizzly bear and a semi-famous cable personality proposes a new idea to help Dr. Drew Pinsky keep contraband under lock and key during his many rehab programs.

Am I the only one surprised to see Billy Mays’s black-and-white image still showing up on infomercials? Mays was the co-host of the first season of “Pitchmen” and died last June during the show’s first run.

The decision to include him in these ads is a curious one. The folks who scrupulously market-test infomercials must have concluded that an endorsement from beyond the grave remains a positive note. Episodic television tends to deal with the death of a cast member and then move on. “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” ran for two season after the death of its star, John Ritter, in 2003.

In other creative endeavors, death is no barrier to enhanced popularity and even legend status.

The Elvis industry rolls on decades after his passing, and a more cynical writer than me once noted that dying young was rocker Jim Morrison’s most brilliant career move.

Tonight’s other highlights

Note: coverage of local NFL preseason action may delay or pre-empt scheduled network fare.

• A cabin burns, leaving remains from different centuries on “Bones” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Langston becomes a murder suspect on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).

• Michael’s antics get him thrown out of a bar and puts him on the manager’s radar on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Teens may have been killed by shape-shifters on “Fringe” (8 p.m., Fox).

• Evidence casts new light on Andy’s father on “Rookie Blue” (8 p.m., ABC).

• Leslie takes a stand on “Parks & Recreation” (8:30 p.m., NBC).

• A violent crime too close to home on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).

• A murder suspect claims to he was too drunk to remember anything on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (9 p.m., NBC).

• “Nightline Prime: Secrets of the Mind” (9 p.m., ABC): Follow a neurosurgeon into the operating room.

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