Futurama's Back, Baby: another new season


The science geekiest show on broadcast television was once Futurama, an animated series co-created by The Simpsons' Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, a Simpsons writer and showrunner. The show has competition now from programs as varied as broadcast's Big Bang Theory, cable's Mythbusters and Eureka, and Felicia Day's Web network "Geek & Sundry."

But, good news, everyone! Futurama is back for another season, starting with two new episodes on June 20 on Comedy Central, where it premiered the last two seasons as well. Thirteen episodes will air on Thursdays at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Central). It's possible the final episode in this season…will be its last! Or…will it?

Cohen, who spoke from a sound-recording studio in Los Angeles on Thursday that was nearly a Faraday cage as well, said, "These are really good classic Futurama episodes, as good as any we've ever done. There are perhaps a few more flying body parts." He said the arc of this season through next summer is Philip J. Fry, the show's hero-idiot-lover, will try to win the one-eyed Turanga Leela's heart for good.

Courtesy of Comedy Central

The show has survived more cancellation attempts than perhaps any show in history. Cohen said in the podcast interview linked below that writer Ken Keeler has penned each of the four "final" episodes of the program. He's getting pretty good at them.

Fans keep bringing the show back. After four seasons of Fox's broadcast division bumping and preempting the program on Sundays due to sports conflict and a strange hostility (were Fox execs all jocks, and giving Futurama a wedgie?), the program went off the air in 2003. Cohen says the show aired at 7 p.m. on Sundays for much of its run, and Fox's slogan was, "The fun begins at 8!"

Re-runs started on Cartoon Network, where it built an audience, and following Fox Home Entertainment's successful release of a Family Guy direct-to-DVD movie, had four of its own DVD releases. That led to Comedy Central taking on the program's re-runs and commissioning a whopping 26 episodes, which aired in 2010 and 2011.

Cohen's sister is an old friend, and I was invited to attend the table reading for episode 26 of that run of shows at which point it was still unclear if Futurama would be picked up yet again. (BoingBoing ran an item and some links from the table reading back in 2010.)

But it's back, baby, large and in charge, starting with a pair of episodes: a surprising sweet case of Bender becoming a robot daddy, and an ancient doomsday prophecy coming true. Morbo says, panic, puny earthlings. Futurama has, for reasons that are unclear to Cohen, amassed 22 million likes on its Facebook page, reflecting the show's global audience. (That puts it among the top 10 shows on Facebook including broadcast programs.)

In the interview embedded in this post, we talk about Futurama's tangled production history, the science and math nerds who make up the staff, the emotional heart that developed at the center of the show, and what the coming season will bring.