Just caught up, but I agree that this is a very strong season opener. It actually felt like the show pre-cancellation with the focus on bizarre plotting, reasonably emotional character scenes, and a good mix of dumb and clever humor. Gives hope that the series is finding its footing with the new production season.
I hear ya. For me, it was doubly fun since I haven't really watched the episodes from the first 4 seasons since before the movies were released. Seeing the 9 "the end is near" guy reappear was a treat. Sure, it treads close to being post-golden era Simpsons over-exposure of bit characters, but he fit very well in Wednesday's episode and was still a bit character.The geek in me was squeeing every time there was a callback. The martians, the stemcell machine, number 9 man...thats' one of my favourite things about Futurama, that they're not afraid to introduce a little continuity every now and then.
Also, the first episode interested me the most because I remember old continuity confusions on where robot babies came from back in the day, and the explanation in this "Bender's Son" episode was so hilariously stupid, yet somehow fit in continuity, I couldn't help but to enjoy it.
Next week's looks pretty slippery though. Political elections and animated sitcoms lately usually lead to pretty generic Straw Man Party vs. White Knight Party sorts of one sided jokes that are often pretty stale and groanworthy. Though I don't think a plot on a "birther" controversy plot has been tried before. "The only real interest is that it will likely affect continuity if Nixon (and the cloned, headless body of Agnew) loses the election, and who the opponent will be (Obama's head? Obama-bot? Horrible Gelatinous Blob?). Will the dream of the founder of Dick Francisco come to an end?