For many people, Futurama” is one of the best series in history and can be considered the pinnacle of Matt Groening’s work. The story of a pizza delivery guy, Fry, who accidentally froze himself for 1000 years and found a new life in the future has long captivated the whole world!
The project of one talented person, who was put “sticks in the wheels” during his entire existence. “Futurama” was closed twice, in 2003 and in 2013. But a decade later, a sequel of this incredible show premiered on July 24, 2023, on the streaming service Hulu. We offer to recall why this series is so special and whether it is worth watching the new season. We tried to make the article interesting both for fans of the series and for people who have never watched it.
There will be little spoilers in the text. Let’s go!
History of creation and broadcasting of “Futurama”
Matt Groening really wanted to call the series Doomsville or Aloha, Mars. Kudos to Hypnofrog that none of the team liked these options. And this is not surprising, because the word Doomsville hints at death and destruction, which is not suitable for a comedy series at all, and Mars, although present in the series (especially in the episodes dedicated to Amy Wong), but not so much as to bring it all the way to the name of it.
The end result, Futurama, was inspired by the 1939 General Motors Exhibition Pavilion of the same name, which was dedicated to our lives in the future at the time in 1959. If you compare this exhibition with our reality, you can find similar moments in architecture, because the presented New York resembles Dubai, but the design of cars and clothes did not match the one shown in the pavilion. In the first series, there is a reference to this event in the form of a phrase from a scientist who greeted Fry: “Welcome to the world of tomorrow!”.
Matt Groening himself (dubbed “Gruning” in our country) is a very famous person in the world of animation. He created the longest running and most popular animated show in American history – “The Simpsons”. And this work later almost killed his second “child” – “Futurama”.
It all started in the mid-1990s, when the Fox channel offered Matt to create a new animated series to repeat the success of The Simpsons. He brought in David Cohen, who had worked with him on the “yellow family” and they decided to create their own science fiction series, but it had to be different from their previous project.
Later on, the authors showed their ideas to the TV channel, and it was very dissatisfied with them, although it ordered 13 episodes. Fox was expecting “the second Simpsons”, and got literally their complete opposite, even more controversial. Suicide booths, Dr. Zoidberg’s characters, and Bender’s work worried the channel, and they tried to change the vision of Groening and Cohen already at the production stage of the first season.
But the authority of the creators of “The Simpsons” allowed the series to be as similar as possible to the original concept. Groening even bought the rights to use the 30th Century Fox logo and displayed it at the end of each series, despite the studio’s protest.
Here are the fathers of the series – Matt Groening and David Cohen, from left to right
We are sure that suicide booths in the year 3000 will look like this! Does it look like a phone booth?
In total, all the screenwriters of the animated series had three doctorates, seven master’s degrees and a total of more than 50 years of study at Harvard University. One of the screenwriters of the series stated that “we seem to be the most educated cartoon writers in history.” In addition to their own invented language, the creators left in each series dozens of interesting mathematical and scientific problems and jokes, as they actually said, “for nerds.”
Here are some of them:
Bender is the son number 1729. The number 1729 is the Ramanujan-Hardy number, and is the smallest “taxi number” that can be expressed as the sum of the cubes of positive integers in two different ways: 1729 = Ta(2) = 1^3 + 12^3 = 9^3 + 10^3.
In one of the episodes, Fry and a robot policeman stop Professor Schrödinger, who was carrying a box with his cat and poison gas. After a little interrogation, the cat still attacks Fry.
When Fry and Amy are cruising around Mercury and see these signs, 4,750 miles each way is effectively half the length of the planet’s equator.
Or how in one of the series a bloody inscription appears on the mirror, which from the binary code = 666 and causes Bender great fear!
The humor in Futurama comes in all possible variations, from the simple carnal to the surreal or ironic, which many viewers may not understand. A joke about “Snoo-snoo” and a complex academic joke about the use of quantum mechanics are literally a few seconds apart. This approach ensures the maximum coverage of the audience with the most diverse senses of humor.
“Futurama” was released on March 28, 1999 and immediately became very popular. As many as 19 million people watched the premiere episode. Matt Groening insisted on an 8.30pm slot on Sundays between The Simpsons and The X-Files, as this would ensure the new show had good ratings early on.
But Fox didn’t like the concept of “Futurama”, they didn’t want this animated series to live long, so after showing two episodes on Sunday, they put it on Tuesday night, at an inconvenient time. As a confirmation of the fact that the channel was fundamentally against the animated series can be considered the situation when the show won the “Emmy” award, but no representative of Fox congratulated the creators on the victory.
“Futurama” had a very unstable broadcast schedule, which was scaring new viewers away, and after the third season, it began to be “choked” by broadcasts of sports events, which brought huge money to the channel. Ratings fell to 4-5 million people, which was reason enough for Fox to close the show in 2003. As a result, the animated series lived for 4 seasons, 72 episodes. It is these seasons that most fans consider the best.
The final, by the way, was open and very beautiful. Fry played a melody for Leela on the holophon, where he foreshadowed their potential future as a couple, ending the series.
There’s always room for great shows, this is why Cartoon Network bought the rights to broadcast Futurama on its adult channel called Adult Swim. The reruns were very successful and Fox’s direct competitor, Comedy Central, began negotiations in 2005 to acquire the rights and the possibility of creating new episodes of the show.
In 2006, it was announced that 4 full-length movies would be released simply on DVD. Here is their list:
- «Bender’s Big Score»;
- «The Beast With A Billion Backs»;
- «Bender’s Game»;
- «Into The Wild Green Yonder».
These films had to be structured in such a way that they could be broadcast as separate series, 4 episodes per film. Groening intended “Into The Wild Green Yonder” as the finale of the entire animated series (the second one, yes). The ending is open again, where the heroes fly into a black hole. Meanwhile, the writers agreed with Comedy Central for one more season of 26 episodes.
The original cast returned to work, but the writing team was already smaller. The broadcast began on June 24, 2010 and it helped the channel get the highest rating in its history. But Comedy Central was in no hurry to order another season, so the 25th episode of the 6th season became the “another” end of the animated series.
In the story, Bender got superintelligence and wrote the future of Fry and Leela on paper. They read it and judging by the final reaction, they will be together in the future. The 26th episode became an experiment with different animation styles, and the 25th episode showed the show’s “ultimate finale” at the time.
Comedy Central has renewed the series for a 26-episode 7 season. But the quality of the episodes has dropped because it seems that Groening and Cohen are “tired” of Futurama, as 26 episodes per season is enough to maintain good quality throughout the episodes. Number of viewers was becoming smaller and smaller and the channel decided to close the show for the second time.
Despite the fact that the last season was objectively weaker than the previous ones, because there were more mediocre episodes than usual, the authors ended the animated series with one of the best finales in history. We will not describe it, you should see it.
It turned out to be funny, dramatic and incredibly heartfelt at the same time. But there was an open ending again. Groening reiterated that the series may return in the future because “we still have a lot of stories we want to tell.” Rumors about the continuation of the project have been circulating for the past 10 years.
Last year in 2022, it was announced that Futurama would receive an 8th season on the streaming service Hulu. In the new season of 20 episodes, it was divided into two halves and the first one was released on July 24.
We suggest to recall why we fell in love with “Futurama”, analyze the trailer of the new season and conclude whether it is worth watching.
Why did we fall in love with “Futurama”?
After the story of the difficult fate of the series, only one question arises, why Matt Groening, David Cohen and all the voice actors are happy to return to the series even with limited funding or an unclear future of the project? The answer can be found in the uniqueness of “Futurama”.
In this world of the 3000s, anything is possible, any situation, the animated series is a sincere flight of fantasy that captivates with well-thought-out plots that evoke a wide variety of emotions. You can watch it in the year 3000 and have a lot of fun because Futurama offers an experience you can’t get anywhere else.
The series, just like the exhibition pavilion of 1939, depicts our life in the 31st century, but with a lot of satire, because the problems of humanity have not disappeared anywhere or have changed their essence a little. For example, if earlier people discriminated against each other, then in the progressive world of the future, aliens, robots, and especially mutants, who are not even allowed to leave the sewers, get it. The basic human vices have only multiplied: poverty, xenophobia, greed and inequality seem to be with us even in the year 3000.
Mat Groening and David Cohen have shown us that technology will not change this world as much as the classic science fiction writers imagined, because every good idea is faced with human ignorance. For example, robots differ from people only in their metal body, because they even adopted alcoholism from their creators. In addition, the authors of the series were able to guess and quite accurately show the emergence of such know-how as Hyperloop and VR.
Many really interesting sci-fi and dramatic plots were created based on this powerful satire:
Episodes where intelligent life appeared on Bender, who was drifting in space, and he understood what it was like to be God. As the Professor, Fry and Bender traveled through time and reached the “end of time”. Meeting with his copy from a parallel universe, which is different from the result of the fall of an ordinary coin.
Fantasy of how people will celebrate Christmas in the future, as well as very funny parodies of the movies “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “The Minority Report”, including a whole episode dedicated to the Star Trek series. A sea of tears was shed while watching the episodes “Jurassic Bark” and “Frayish Luck”.
But no satire or interesting plot is possible without really living characters that develop throughout the series. While the characters of other long-running series, such as The Simpsons, have not developed for 30 years and become pale copies of themselves, Futurama has always had its own approach. Let’s not list all the characters but focus on the main ones.
The main character, named Fry, is presented as an average loser boy who often behaves like a teenager. His way of life can be described with his own quote: “I will cease to exist?! But existing is basically all I do!”
But in 7 seasons, he completely gets used to life in the future and begins to understand that although he knows nothing in many situations, the areas where he feels like a professional often saved his and his friends’ lives. Despite his peculiarities, he finds love, friends and experiences a lot of interesting adventures. It is through this character and his perception of the future that we get to know the world of “Futurama”.
Bender, the robot responsible for the most satire of anti-social behavior throughout the series, increasingly finds humanity in himself over time. He begins to value the friends he has and is even ready to sacrifice himself for them.
The story line of Lila, who grew up in difficult conditions and became a really strong and independent woman. Her parentage was a mystery during the first seasons of the animated series and the drama of “the last of her kind” eventually changed to “accepting her parentage” as we learned the truth about her parents. She perfectly complements Fry, their relationship is very interesting to watch. We got as many as 4 dramatic series endings thanks to this storyline!
Characters are one of the main strengths of “Futurama”! The viewer can associate himself with each hero, because they are all very bright and give us both many jokes and dramatic moments!
In today’s world, the popularity of a series can be measured by the number of memes it creates. Futurama has spawned so many memes that even people who have never watched the animated series have definitely seen characters or situations from it.
In particular, iconic phrases: “Glory to robots! Kill all humans!”, “Empty out of the payroll”, “Above the nose, piece of meat!” and billions of other memorable quotes!
«All glory to the Hypnotoad!»
Should you watch the sequel?
When the trailer for season 8 was released, fans of the series were divided into two camps. Some were very happy to see the return of their favorite show, others believe that the finale of season 7 perfectly ended the story, and the new series could spoil everything.
You can understand both sides. On the one hand, the creators of the series and absolutely all the voice actors are returning, and the trailer features the trademark humor of the animated series. But the announced series dedicated to the coronavirus or the planet of cryptocurrencies cause negative emotions in many even before their release, because “Futurama” has always been great at telling us stories that relate to eternal themes, while episodes dedicated to current trends have always had the lowest evaluation from the audience. Viewers seem to fear that the project will lose its “soul” and turn into another endless series like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” (or “The Griffins”).
But while writing this article, we realized one very important thing. Futurama’s path has never been easy. She always fought for the opportunity to tell us an interesting story, satirize the flaws of our society and sometimes just cheer up after a hard day. This project was closed twice, but each time the series returned and found a way to give us many different emotions. Therefore, we hope that Mat Groening and the team will surprise us and we will see many more interesting adventures of the “Planet Express” team!