Matt Groening’s ”Futurama” was like a shooting star: It was very bright, but you had to really look for it. Fox hid the cartoon sci-fi comedy on Sunday nights at 7 p.m., rarely promoted it, and so often pre-empted it that fans didn’t know where to find it. But now, with its final episodes just released on DVD (”Futurama: Volume Four”), we asked Groening to reflect on his creation, the funniest show of the 31st century.
What do you think ”Futurama”’s legacy will be?
What I like about the show is that it continues to be discovered by new fans every day…and in about 1,000 years I think it will finally be properly appreciated.
Reruns get great ratings on the Cartoon Network. Any chance of a ”Family Guy”-like resurrection for ”Futurama”?
We’re trying to figure it out. If we can do more episodes, we’d love to. It’s a very ambitious show, and it’s very expensive. That’s been a sticking point. What [co-developer] David Cohen and I would love is to continue many of the stories we worked out in advance. All science-fiction epics have an underlying theme, which is ”things are not what they seem to be,” and that was certainly the case with ”Futurama.” David and I worked for a couple of years [planning the show] before we even pitched it, and we haven’t revealed all of the secrets that are embedded in it. There are even characters that we created back in the beginning of the series that we never got around to introducing. It looks like a goofy cartoon, but the underlying science-fiction ideas are pretty good.
The episode ”Bender Does Not Belong on Television” (where Bender ends up on the robot soap ”All My Circuits”) really eviscerates TV execs. Was this targeted at the Fox suits who buried ”Futurama” at 7pm?
It was frustrating to have a show on Fox at 7 on Sunday night when Fox’s slogan was ”The fun begins at 8!” I got the feeling that they didn’t even realize we were on the schedule. We had the guillotine hanging over our heads from before the show went on the air, so we were always happy that we got to do any episodes at all. The executives never understood the show and I was not able to explain it to them to their satisfaction.
What was their problem with it? It seemed like if Fox had aired it after ”The Simpsons,” it would have had a much better chance of being a hit.
I think they were annoyed because they wanted to give the shows notes like they do with all their other shows — except ”The Simpsons” — and we wouldn’t take them. We tried to, but the notes were contradictory and ill-informed, so after trying to appease the execs, we just decided to make the show we wanted to make. And I’m proud of it. I’m as proud of ”Futurama” as I am of ”The Simpsons.”
Would you ever do another show for Fox?
Sure! I’ve got lots of ideas for shows. Or anyone else who wants them! It’s not easy selling a show [LAUGHS].
Like ”The Simpsons” DVDs, ”Futurama”s have commentaries for every episode. How do the sessions for the two shows differ?
”The Simpsons” commentaries are mostly done by the writers, and a few of the actors sit in. But on ”Futurama,” we have Billy West (Fry), John DiMaggio (Bender), Maurice LaMarche (Kif), Tress MacNeille (Mom), and all the other voice actors sitting in. They’re peppy and outgoing, whereas writers tend to be laconic and depressed, so the ”Futurama” DVD commentaries are like attending a very wild party.
”The Simpsons” is still going on strong, now entering its 16th season. How long will it keep going?
We’re gonna do at least two more years, and maybe two more after that. It’s hard for me to imagine the show ever ending. The goal with ”The Simpsons” is to continue to surprise ourselves, and so far, that’s happening. I don’t see any reason for it to end.
So I guess you don’t agree with Harry Shearer, who recently complained that the show hasn’t been funny since Season 4.
I think that’s just God’s way of punishing us for taking the lord Jeebus’ name in vain [LAUGHS]. Back in Season 4, which he liked, that’s when we stopped our mandatory group hug at every table read. Maybe we’ll have to bring that back.