Want a peek into the future? Buy a crystal ball. Want a peek into ”Futurama”? Read on. EW.com asked the show’s executive producer, David X. Cohen, to give us an inside look at the show, which returns for a third animated season on Nov. 5 (Fox, 7 p.m.).
How about some plot teasers for the coming year?
We’ve loosened up a little bit. And we’re spending a lot less time explaining who the characters are and spending more time goofing around with them. It has really let us relax a little bit, and the stories are a lot better for that. We have a bunch of slightly kookier stories with Bender this year. We’re also going a little deeper into the possible romance between Fry and Leela. And we’re developing some of the more minor characters: Dr. Zoidberg is becoming one of our favorites; he has a couple of big episodes this year.
All right, come clean on this ”possible romance.”
In one episode, Fry eats an egg salad sandwich that he buys in the bathroom of a space truck stop and his body becomes overrun with these worms that make him a lot smarter and stronger and basically do wonders for his chances with Leela. Later in the season, Fry and Leela actually get to the altar — but may or not get married. I refuse to divulge what happens at that point but it does involve the Harlem Globetrotters in a major way.
And what about these bizarre Bender episodes?
Bender is run down by a mysterious car in the Robo Hungarian Empire, and when he returns to New York, mysterious things start to happen and people are being run down each night by a murderous car. The signs point to the possibility that Bender has come down with Were Car Syndrome. In another episode, Bender and Fry are arrested. Their defense is to plead insanity and they both end up in a robot insane asylum due to a clerical error. The pressure of being around all of these insane robots drives Fry insane, whereas Bender thrives and feels pretty much at home.
Who’s on the guest voice roster?
We’ve recorded Lucy Liu for an episode that’s a big commentary on the Internet. In the future, you can actually download a celebrity, and Fry downloads a simulation of her. Things turn weird when he meets the real Lucy Liu’s head and she has objections. Lucy Liu appears as herself, the Lucy Liu hologram, and as an army of evil Lucy Liu robots that rampage through the city.
Any other big names?
We just recorded Beck. Bender suffers a serious accident with a can opener and his body is ruined and he’s given up hope on life until he meets Beck, who’s in a similar fate because his head has been preserved in a jar. Beck inspires Bender to share his feelings through song and Bender goes on the road with Beck and there’s this big duet with Bender and Beck. Beck turned out to be a really good sport — he was extremely on board with making fun of his incomprehensible lyrics.
How tough has it been for this show to emerge from the shadow of Matt Groening’s other series, ”The Simpsons”?
We were obviously hoping and fighting for success, but we didn’t think we were going to be ”The Simpsons.” You can be the first thing in a genre once. That said, obviously we would’ve hoped that we’d be in a more high profile time slot and more people would see the show. On the bright side, the show has turned out really well and it’s continuing to get better. And it also seems from the feedback that we get and the general buzz on the Internet that the people who do watch it are real die hard fans. I think that’s part of the appeal of Matt Groening’s sensibility: Not only do his shows have a broad appeal, but when someone sees some really obscure reference that they know about, they become a lifelong fan. You get this enthusiastic core of people who will watch the show, even if it’s on at 4 a.m.
Considering that you guys have already seen way into the future, what cool things will we see in the next few years?
I think people will have glasses where one lens is a screen so that instead of the small screen you see on your Palm Pilot, you will see what appears to be an entire room full of information on just one lens of your glasses. So you’ll be driving with one eye and you will be buying something on eBay with the other eye.
Anything futuristic that we WON’T be seeing?
I saw an article in Wired magazine about a smell attachment for your computer — you’d be able to go to a website and it would release smells into your house. I’m going to go on record as predicting that it’s NOT going to succeed.