A Brief History Of ‘Futurama’

This week, Futurama returned to TV. Fans new and old will know that this isn’t even the first time the series has been revived from the dead. It’s actually the fourth time this has happened, which is a testament to how much people love the show. Before we all travel to the year 3000, however, I decided to look back on the show’s beginnings and highlight what makes this show such a beloved classic in the first place.

Now, I’ve written before about how (and why) I prefer American Dad! over its predecessor Family Guy. That comes from my belief that I just think it’s an overall better show with better characters. It’s kind of a similar situation with Futurama, which is a show made by the same creators as The Simpsons. Now, I like The Simpsons. Don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t even born until after the show hit its heyday. So I never really felt connected to it. With Futurama, as a seven-year-old who watched it on Adult Swim (when I should’ve been in bed), I feel like I was at perfect spot in life when I discovered it.

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Futurama first premiered on FOX in 1999. It tells the story of Phillip J. Fry, a pizza delivery boy from the (then) present day who is frozen and wakes up 1000 years later in the future. There he meets Leela, a female cyclops he falls in love with, and Bender, a scheming robot who becomes his best friend. He also goes to work for his long-lost descendant, a mad scientist by the name of Professor Farnsworth. Basically, the show is a workplace comedy revolving around the characters and their jobs at a futuristic delivery service. From the very first episode you get a taste of the unique future the show has built. Robots are everywhere, even on TV as actors on a daytime soap opera. The heads of famous celebrities are preserved in jars. And aliens are newscasters.

Like any great comedy ,what keeps you invested more so than the jokes are the characters. Fry is a kind person who means well but he’s also very dumb and lazy. As a kid it was easy to go “Ha, that guy’s an idiot.” But now, as a 25-year-old adult, he feels a little too real. Despite being a drunk and selfish robot who insults everyone, Bender was the breakout character. It’s probably due to the terrific voice acting from John DiMaggio. But Bender also had a sensitive side, especially when it comes to his friendship with Fry. Leela is the captain of the crew and Fry’s love interest. Their relationship is a true “Will they? Won’t they?” But it’s so genuinely sweet that you constantly root for them. While Leela’s backstory is a bit of a mystery, the more we learn about her the more the audience begins to fall in love with her too.

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Futurama didn’t have a lot of great luck initially on Fox. While it did go on for four seasons, its release schedule was constantly changing and eventually the network cancelled it. The show later found a second life when it aired in reruns on Adult Swim which also led to an increase in DVD sales. This is what led to it’s first revival in 2008 in the form of four direct-to-DVD films. These movies later aired on Comedy Central broken up into several episodes. The final film ended on a note as if it would be the end of the series. However, Comedy Central was so happy with the success of the films that they made a deal to pick up the show for a proper new season. Again, unsure of the show’s future the creators made another episode that could function as a series finale, but they were renewed for another season. The prepared for a potential cancellation again by making yet another “season finale” in 2013. And they were unfortunately proven correct when Comedy Central stopped asking for new episodes that year.

To this day, Futurama might actually hold the record for the show with the most “series finales.” It’s almost like a weird tradition now.

For a while it seemed like that the end in 2013 was finite. That is, until it was announced that Hulu would be bringing the show back for yet another new season. The very same season that is available to stream now.

Futurama is an underdog show in a lot of ways. On top of constantly being overshadowed by its sister series and several other animated shows throughout the years (Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty, etc.), its production has always been fluid. As a result, many of the actors and writers just don’t know what to expect or if a planned last episode will really be the finale. But it’s been kept alive by the strength of its loyal fanbase, Hopefully that will be enough to keep it around for well, the future.

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