The Triumphant Return of Futurama

futurama3000No longer a rumor, a spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Television has confirmed that the cable network Comedy Central has ordered 26 new episodes of the beloved cult animated comedy, Futurama. This will no doubt please fans, who have flocked to the program like the series’ paeans are drawn to the Hypnotoad. The decision to bring Futurama back had long been in the rumor mill and hope sprung eternal after Comedy Central picked up the syndication rights to air the original episodes. The show even featured in a series of feature-length DVDs, which were hour-and-a-half movies capable of being split into four separate episodes for television viewing. But with Comedy Central aboard for two thirteen-episode seasons, the show is still very much alive. They will begin airing sometime in 2010.

“There is nothing like new, self-contained episodes week to week,” said David Bernath, Comedy Central’s Senior VP of Programming, “This is all about reinvigorating the franchise, giving it a new burst of energy.” I couldn’t agree more—while the DVD movies were all respectable and better, they were a bit too plot-heavy in an effort to sustain a ninety-minute story, and the laugh quantity suffered calculon(though a mediocre Futurama episode still trumps 99% of anything else on the boob tube). Now that they can get back to more manageable bites, I see no reason why it can’t return to its peak years, even if the writing staff is substantially different. Only fear: look what happened to The Simpsons during the formative years of the sci-fi comedy; I can only assume different writers were responsible for the downward trend.

This, of course, isn’t the first time that a show has been saved from a premature grave. Another Fox animated program, Family Guy, also saw its worth escalate dramatically after cancellation, and thanks to strong DVD sales and solid ratings on cable, was brought back to the primetime lineup. And Futurama isn’t nearly as controversial as Family Guy—I know just as many people who hate Seth MacFarlane’s show as those who love it, and I’m torn myself, since it’s sometimes brilliantly funny and other times painfully uninspired. But I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like Futurama, making its return all the more exasperating after all this time (i.e., what took them so freakin’ long?).

zappkiffAs part of the deal, 20th Century Fox still has the option to license the new episodes’ original runs to a broadcast network (most likely Fox). A move like that would reduce Comedy Central’s licensing fee. Bernath adds, “It’s a deal we’re all happy with. It’s a bigger win for us promotionally if we wind up going first…but if we wind up in second position, then the economics work out for us as well.” So whether or not you can watch them on cable or on a broadcast network, the rumors are over; now it’s official. As series co-creator Matt Groening joked, “We’re thrilled Futurama is coming back. We now have only 25,766 episodes to make before we catch up with Bender and Fry in the year 3000.” By that point, television will probably be reduced to just Futurama and the show that will never end, The Simpsons. Oh, and Everybody Loves Hypnotoad.

Matt Medlock


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