Futurama Is History
It’s dead, Jim. Well, maybe. As any fan of science fiction knows — from Star Trek’s Mr. Spock to Alien’s Ripley — death is always open to re-negotiation.
It’s fitting, then, as the final episode of the sci-fi spoof Futurama is readied for launch, there are signs the show may carry on in one life form or another. Which may explain why it slipped executive producer and co-creator David X. Cohen’s mind that the Fox show’s culminating instalment airs on Sunday.
“I actually forgot this week was our last episode. I scheduled something else — a meeting of my math club,” Cohen says on the phone from Los Angeles. “This group of TV writers, we’re interested in math and we get together to talk about it. But I’m sure I’ll be able to race home to watch it.”
Cohen’s memory loss can be understood, too, when you consider the show has actually been out of production for more than a year. It’s only now that Fox has gotten around to broadcasting its last episodes. “Frustrating is a mild word for the situation,” he says, echoing comments made by co-creator Matt Groening to the Sun earlier this year. “Matt and I and everyone involved were very frustrated by how it got bounced around (from timeslot to timeslot) by Fox.”
Despite that, this may not be the last we see of Futurama’s motley crew of humans, robots and aliens.
“If you had asked me six months ago, I would have said there was no chance, forget it. But just strangely now, in the dying days of the show, it’s suddenly a success on the Cartoon Network (which is airing the series in the U.S.). The ratings have been stellar by cable standards so the subject of bringing it back has arisen. But it’s still an extremely long shot.”
That it has any chance at all is because of the Cartoon Network, not Fox, he says.
“They’ve done a staggering amount of publicity for a cable network. In L.A., there are buses with Futurama painted on the side. They’re on the subways in New York and on CNN. The visibility is pretty astounding when you consider how much more limited the resources of the Cartoon Network are than the Fox multi-industry conglomerate. You think what could have been done if Fox had thrown its weight behind the show. The people making the decisions were not big fans of the show.”
One problem, of course, was the massive success of Groening’s other animated show, The Simpsons, which Fox wanted instantly cloned. “People forget that The Simpsons was not born full-grown, that a lot of things improved. But they wanted Simpsons, Simpsons, Simpsons, money, money, money.”
With Sunday’s finale, Futurama ends after 72 episodes — about the number of shows the original Star Trek had under its belt when it was scrapped by NBC in the ’60s. “Maybe Futurama will be the next Star Trek,” Cohen muses, acknowledging the debt his comedy owes to sci-fi predecessors like Trek.
“Our original idea was, let’s steal our favourite ideas from all branches of science fiction and hodgepodge them together,” he says.
Futurama Is History