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Futurama is to return with 26 new episodes, six years after Fox first cancelled the animated show.

Comedy Central, which previously commissioned four feature-length specials, will begin screening the new half-hour shows of the animated series on US cable TV next year, following the agreement of a deal between Fox and Comedy Central announced on Thursday.

Futurama charts the adventures of dimwitted pizza delivery boy Philip Fry, who gets cryogenically frozen for a thousand years by accident only to be revived in the much-changed world of 2999. Key characters include misanthropic robot Bender and mad scientist Professor Farnsworth, proprietor of the Planet Express delivery service that employs all the main characters.

The show is the brainchild of The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and David X Cohen, who expressed themselves as delighted with the return of their long-shelved project. "We're thrilled Futurama is coming back," Groening enthused. "We now have only 25,766 episodes to make before we catch up with Bender and Fry in the year 3000."

Strong DVD sales of the specials and interest in re-runs of the original four series of 72 episodes on cable led to the decision to pull Futurama out of the deep-freeze.

Similar reasons led Fox to resurrect another once-cancelled animated comedy, Family Guy, which returned in 2005 following a three-year hiatus. ®

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