Who: “Futurama,” an animated, science fiction situated comedy, that aired on the Fox network from 1999-2003 and on cable network Comedy Central from 2008-2013 (it was in syndication from 2002-2007).
What: Created and produced by Matt Groening, who also created The Simpsons, Futurama follows the adventures of a late-20th-century New York City pizza delivery boy, Philip J. Fry (voiced by Billy West), who, after being unwittingly cryogenically frozen for one thousand years, finds employment at Planet Express, an interplanetary delivery company in the retro-futuristic 31st century. Each episode follows the exploits of Fry and his motley band of Planet Express co-workers.
On December 31, 1999, after accidentally tumbling backward into a cryogenic freezing chamber upon answering a prank call for pizza delivery to a cryogenics company comprised of bored scientists, Philip J. Fry (West) wakes up 1,000 years in the future, confronted by a very different Earth. He manages to secure a job – as a delivery boy – at interplanetary delivery service Planet Express. His co-workers include mad-scientist/inept boss and his distant nephew, Professor Hubert Farnsworth (also voiced by West); the employee doctor, an alien crab that emits foul odors and who has no understanding of human anatomy, John Zoidberg (also voiced by West); Farnsworth’s graduate student intern, a sexually promiscuous, highly clumsy heir to the primary land holders of Mars, Amy Wong (voiced by Lauren Tom); the resident bureaucrat and personnel director, a Jamaican former Olympic medalist in limbo with a penchant for Manwiches and grass, Hermes Conrad (voiced by Phil LaMarr); the Planet Express ship’s captain, a one-eyed suspected alien, confirmed sewer mutant, who becomes Fry’s primary object of his affection, Turanga Leela (voiced by Katey Sagal); and an anti-social, suicide-prone, drunken criminal robot bending unit who encourages people often to bite his shiny metal ass, Bender Rodriguez, voiced by John DiMaggio. The series follows their many exploits in what is, ultimately, one part science fiction homage, one part workplace comedy, and one part adult cartoon.
When: The series’ tumultuous airing history goes like this: Futurama began on Fox, also home of The Simpsons, from 1999 to 2003, before ceasing production and being canceled by the, then, cancel-happy network. Futurama was then revived in 2008 as four direct-to-video films, the last of which was released in early 2009. Cable network Comedy Central then entered into an agreement with Fox to syndicate the existing episodes and to air the films as 16 new, half-hour episodes, thereby making a fifth season. In 2009, Comedy Central picked up the show for 26 new half-hour episodes, which began airing in 2010 and 2011 as a sixth season. The show was then renewed for a seventh season, with the first half airing in 2012 and the second in 2013. Comedy Central then canceled the show themselves; the series finale aired on September 4, 2013, officially ending the series (…for now?).
Where: The show is set in New New York at the turn of the 31st century, in a time filled with technological wonders. The city of New New York, in this universe, would be built over the ruins of present-day New York City, which occupies New New York’s sewers, referred to in the series as “Old New York.”
Why: Listen to the podcast for the panelists’ individual stories on how they found Futurama.
How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS
Good news, Everyone! Futurama has always been one of Chief Couch Potato/Frequent Moderator Kylie’s favorite shows since it began its roller coaster, scavenger hunt-esque run of airing/being preempted/being canceled/being revived by various interested parties (my squinty eyes are staring pointedly in the direction of Fox; it was an ill-advised time for them, since 2003 was also around the time when they canceled Firefly). A recent re-watch on Netflix inspired me to tag this enduring, future-minded cult comedy for podcast discussion as an experiment – after all, CPU! covers scripted TV. Why wouldn’t an animated sitcom like Futurama qualify?
Thus, as things happen around here, I quickly invented a time machine and sought out a mostly familiar panel of past and future but altogether prospective Planet Express ne’er-do-wells and fellow Couch Potatoes, including two familiar voices and one brand new voice, to chat about whether Futurama inspired them to great scientific heights, to stand in line for a suicide booth, or to generally live as they would have if they had remained in the twentieth century. The resulting discussion reveals differing albeit overlapping nostalgia for this quirky but ultimately beloved sitcom. This podcast was recorded in February 2016, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as we cover significant plot points as well as sight gags, successful and unsuccessful jokes, and Easter Eggs that occur throughout all seven seasons. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!
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Futurama is recommended to anyone who enjoys The Simpsons as well as to anyone who enjoys adult cartoons, satire, and nerdy/geeky/dorky humor. In fact, the podcast panel universally agreed that Futurama may not be for everyone because Futurama might actually be a bit more sophisticated than comparable adult cartoons, including The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park. The entire panel, though, believes that the show is quality and (mostly) survived against some hefty odds and a seeming lack of initial network support, and while there may be some episodes (or, at least, jokes) that swing and miss, there is, usually, something for everyone to love. The panel also universally agrees that Futurama’s cast of voices is one of the most talented ever assembled, making the show what it became. The entire series is available on Netflix or at Comedy Central’s website. If you love lots of riffing on things that nerds and geeks (such as my fellow panelists and I) enjoy, you’ll love this show.