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Matt Groening sounds off against Fox

”Futurama” is bumped, and its creator says the network doesn’t know how to nurture original shows

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Matt Groening
F. Scott Schafer

You’d think Matt Groening could get whatever he wanted from Fox, considering he created the network’s longest running hit with ”The Simpsons.” But when it comes to his new show ”Futurama,” Fox’s support has been about as stable as the Springfield nuclear reactor. Trying to buoy a floundering fall lineup, the network announced last week that it was bumping ”Futurama” from the week’s cushiest spot, Sundays at 8:30 p.m., beginning Jan 9 — to make room for its prime-time-hope du jour, ”Malcolm in the Middle,” the new sitcom about a child genius. After being off the air for four weeks, ”Futurama” will return Sunday, Feb. 6, at 7:00 p.m. — the show’s third time slot in less than a year.

Groening, who has grumbled quietly into his beard about Fox programming decisions in the past, is taking a similar approach this time around. ”It’s not the move I would make if I were running the zoo,” he tells EW Online about the decision, but adds, ”I don’t worry too much about any behind-the-scenes business shenanigans because emotionally this stuff is so infantile.”

But in an uncharacteristically joke-free moment, Groening says Fox is no longer capable of fostering programs as original as ”The Simpsons” was when it first debuted. ”They obviously don’t know what they’re doing,” he says about the network that has recently left other envelope-pushing shows like ”Action” and ”Family Guy” floundering. ”They run in one direction, then run in another direction the next moment. There’s no sustained support of anything.”

So could ”Futurama” end up as Fox’s next high-profile casualty? EW television critic Bruce Fretts says the network’s current lack of support may, indeed, prove quite harmful. ”There hasn’t been a half-hour hit in the Sundays-at-7 slot in recent memory. A lot of people just aren’t ready to watch TV that early in the evening,” Fretts says. ”I think the future looks bleak for [”Futurama”].”