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Futurama’ cancelled again

Will Neal | Tuesday, September 10, 2013

“Bad news, everyone!” 

For the second time since its inception, the beloved sci-fi animated comedy, “Futurama,” has been cancelled

While I’m sure most of you saw “Futurama” as just another ridiculous cartoon to overlook and let run its course, there are many out there (like myself) who have long-admired this show since its humble beginnings in 1999. But before a man named Matt Groening (The Great and Powerful) brought this show to life, there was another beloved series of his that paved the way for “Futurama.” 

Back in the late 1980’s, Groening was an aspiring cartoon artist and animator with a fascination with the American family. After pitching some fun characters and snagging a spot on the “Tracy Ullman Show,” a primitive version of “The Simpsons” was born. 

After gaining popularity with his “Simpsons” shorts and signing a deal with FOX, the iconic, dysfunctional and yellow family was reincarnated onto the small screen once more, and the rest is history. 

Fast-forward to 1999, as Groening’s team is about to make history once more with another award-winning concept. “What I’ve done to the American family with ‘The Simpsons,'” says Groening, “we’re going to do to science fiction with ‘Futurama.'” 

That year, the world was introduced to a pizza delivery boy with a go-nowhere life named Phillip J. Fry, who on New Years Eve is accidently (or not?) cryogenically frozen until he’s awoken in the year 3000 and the “world of tomorrow.” 

Exploring the city of “New” New York (Why new? Because aliens annihilated the Old New York, of course), Fry realizes his terrible life of the past is no more, and the world and new faces in front of him means a new start. Now, toss in a purple-haired and one-eyed beauty (Leela), an alcoholic and loud-mouthed robot (Bender), a 150-year-old mad scientist (Professor Farnsworth), a lobster/crab monster with a PhD (Dr. Zoidberg), a Jamaican bureaucrat (Hermes) and a ditsy intern (Amy) and you’ve got yourself an animated force to be reckoned with: The Planet Express team. 

With Fry, Leela and Bender working for an intergalactic delivery company in order to fund Professor Farnsworth’s crazy inventions, there’s been a lot of fun to be had over these past 13 years. 

We’ve seen news-reporting monsters (“Prepare to exchange pleasantries!”), hypnotic toads, robotic after-life, giant Amazonian women/feminists, fossilized canines, Zapp Brannigan (“You want the rest of the cham-paggin?”), Harlem Globetrotters, a lot of aliens, plenty of time-traveling, a load of celebrities (well, the heads of celebrities) and Richard Nixon’s rise to becoming president of Earth. 

But while there has always been a focus on comedic, out-of-control antics and storylines from the Fry and the gang, it’s the show’s intelligence, wit and heart that have really made “Futurama” the beloved animated series it’s become. The science is factual (mostly), the jokes are memorable and at the core of the show is the romance between Fry and Leela – the first continuous romantic arc on an animated series. 

It’s surprising and refreshing to find a cartoon that has the ability to be so deep. Episodes such as “Godfellas” have explored God, religion and the meaning of life, while storylines such as “Luck of the Fryish” and “The Sting” has shown audiences that the love of a family or the love between soul mates knows no bounds of time or space. Fans could agree that “Futurama” was something truly special. 

In 2003, however, the show was cancelled on FOX, but the Planet Express team managed continued to live on with a series of new DVD releases. 

After the success of these extended episodes, Comedy Central revived the series for another four seasons in 2008. While the new seasons featured several lack-luster plotlines, fans were joyous to see the return of their favorite interstellar travelers. Plus, four seasons after a five-year cancellation is nothing to shrug off. It stands as proof that these are characters that not only still keep audiences laughing, but also characters we still care for. 

Thankfully, the series ended with “Meanwhile …,” an episode that tied up the loose ends of Fry and Leela’s romance in a beautiful way. While “Futurama” faces another cancellation, there’s still a crossover with “The Simpsons” planned for next year. And who knows? Maybe another network will give this dysfunctional sci-fi crew another shot. Until then, let’s remember “Futurama” for what it was: a show with humor, heart, mind and a never-ending strive to reach for the stars. 

Contact Will Neal at wneal@nd.edu