So Wednesday night saw the season premiere of Futurama and, apparently, the start of its last season.
I’m rather upset at this because this isn’t just the end of one of the great sci-fi comedies of the past decade, but also one of my favorite shows of all time and one that’s meant so much to me over the years.
I suppose I should give a recap of the show’s air history for the unfamiliar: premiering on Fox in 1999 with the highest ratings in the network’s history at that point, the show ran in primetime over creator Matt Groening’s objections and was preempted for football so much, the four production seasons turned into five on-air seasons. Due to low ratings–I wonder why they got those?–Fox stopped buying the show in 2003.
But, like Family Guy before it, it was a combination of DVD sales and reruns on Adult Swim that ultimately saved the show; after the syndication deal with Adult Swim expired in 2005, Comedy Central picked up the rights and announced the production of four direct-to-video films, which were broken up into half-hour chunks and aired on TV (as season 5 production-wise). In 2009, newly produced episodes began airing on Comedy Central, with a 26-episode season broken up and aired in two blocks of 13 over the last couple of years. (This makes the episodes airing right now the back half of Season 7.) It was announced in April that the show would be cancelled, as its ratings have steadily declined from year-to-year since being brought back.
This is important to me for a couple of reasons really: 1. It seems like this show, more than The Simpsons, was Groening (and co-developer David X. Cohen’s) passion project; in an interview on the first season boxset, Groening enthuses how in Catholic school, he got in trouble for drawing rocket ships in class and now here he was making a TV show with them. So yeah, that thrill is gone.
And 2? Well, 2 is that this is not only one of my favorite shows, but something that’s enriched my growth as a consumer of entertainment and as a writer. But the main reason is well, this show was there for me.
I didn’t have too many friends for most of my life, so I found solace in TV. I had some vague memories of watching this show in middle school on Fox and, a year or two later, when I discovered Adult Swim and found out it reran Futurama not just a night, but EVERY NIGHT, I was hooked; I watched it over and over again. And it’s a point of pride for me that I own the original four seasons in their original boxsets–not the slim cases but the HUGE boxsets they used to make for shows on DVD back in the day, when every disc had its own case and they all fit into a slipbox–and I rewatch them frequently. Heck, I’ve probably seen every episode of the first three seasons at least four times each.
As a consumer, as someone who turned to television to reflect the world, I learned so much about satire and about good comedy and what that can mean. And as a writer? Well, it’s a bit of a bold claim to say that, I suppose, but I feel this show did teach me something about how to develop well-rounded characters and a good fictional universe that can also be ludicrous and funny.
So yeah, I’m gonna watch every one of this last run of episodes. And when it comes to Netflix, I’ll watch it again. Heck, I’ll probably buy the DVDs of all these Comedy Central seasons at some point, along with the movies (even if I only really like two of them). The point is, this is one of the best comedies and best animated shows in the history of television; even when it’s not great, it’s still been much better than most shows out there, even its predecessor in The Simpsons.
If you’ve never seen this show before, it’s on Netflix like I said and it’s also out in syndication now so check around for reruns. You won’t be upset.
And remember…”You still have Zoidberg. You ALL still have Zoidberg!!!”