Off the Charts: Fond Farewell to Futurama

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In 1999 a terrific show aired its first episode.  It was smart, yet low brow; classy, yet crude; and cruel, yet hilarious.  I have never before, or since, seen a show that could so span genres and play with emotions, pop culture, and trending topics as well as it did.  It could actually make you tear up in the same episode your sides hurt from laughter.  One of the best shows, consistently, I’ve ever seen.  And now it’s come to an end…….again….

Yes I’m talking about Futurama.

Futurama is a singular show.  You care deeply about the characters, their plights, and their relationships, but can still laugh uproariously when they get heads hacked off (only to be put back on again.  It’s the future, people!)  I started watching Fry, Leela, Bender, Amy, and company from premiere night.  I knew it would be my kind of show, and I’ve followed it religiously since.

Fox never knew how to use the smart writing and thought it should play to the same market as The Simpsons. (Ok to get something off my chest…I LOVE(D) The Simpsons.  I thought it was one of the best shows ever made…from about 1989-1998…  Since then it has become a showcase of Homer’s high-pitched screaming, and nonsensical guest stars…I haven’t watched a new one in years and don’t plan to)  Fox put it on adjacent to its venerable yellow-skinned family comedy and hoped to capture the same crowd.  Unfortunately, by then, the Simpsons’ comedy had become a little “dumber” while Futurama played to a newer “uber-nerd” crowd and was written by math, physics, and computer science PhDs.

The show was pre-empted by sports, moved to and from various time slots, and delayed (and delayed, and delayed) until it was finally “cancelled” in 2003.

After extended runs on the Cartoon Network, Futurama fan outcry was such they creators made four direct-to-dvd movies and eventually found their way onto Comedy Central where they’ve run the past four years.

It was a strange event to see a show cancelled, brought back on DVD, and then renewed on a whole new network.  But I was thrilled to see it back.  It was just as funny and insightful as ever, and without the network TV yoke could add a little extra crude humor to the mix.

All of the voices returned, which is essential as the BEST, seriously people, the BEST voice acting possible can be seen in this show.  Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal, Phil Lamarr, Lauren Tom, Maurice LaMarche, Tress McNeille, Dave Herman, Tom Kenny and the legendary Frank Welker make the finest ensemble cast I’ve ever seen.  And they truly make you appreciate good voice acting, especially when compared to the celebrity-voiced cartoon features cranked out by Hollywood nowadays!

Now the show’s third incarnation will sadly come to an end in September.  Which means one of the greatest shows to ever air must also have the distinction of being one of the most cancelled programs in TV history.

To me this is one of the reasons TV is in the state that it’s in, and why more and more viewers are turning to fan-supported programs on YouTube and other internet sites.  Yes they run on “ratings” too, however with an audience (like me) able to watch and have our ratings count at non-standard times (I’ve found people in my generation may not want to watch the show when the channel airs it, the internet provides us this option!) our views count whether we’re watching on release day or weeks later.  Granted for every Geek & Sundry there is Annoying Orange but both can live in harmony on the internet rather than in competition.  Unlike TV where great shows like Futurama go up against the likes of Honey Boo Boo and somehow come up short.

Though David X. Cohen, the terrific co-creator of Futurama, has stated the show will never again return like it did before, I’m holding out hopes we’ll see something of the characters again.  How about a theater feature, guys?  Your fans will come out to support you!

I’ll still relive the show again and again on DVD (and for those who don’t own them, this is a series that is a MUST buy on dvd.  Don’t think you get the full enjoyment watching it on Netflix.  The audio commentaries for this series are the best ever.  Seriously EVER.  As good as the show without them.)  and hope that Futurama somehow attains more unlikely one-ups than can be found in a 1988 issue of Nintendo Power.

If it doesn’t (which it likely won’t) it will be one show I will truly miss.  It represented the best that TV could put together.  Well-made, well-written, well-acted programming that made you feel the people behind it truly cared about their show rather than just produced it to make a few extra bucks or pander to the lowest common denominator.

So here’s to Futurama.  ::spooky tremolo::  Good bye to the world of tomorrow!  (I hope to see you again out there!)

Give it up for a great show…

Official Website

Great fan page, Can’t Get Enough Futurama

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