The Planet Express ship will soon make its final delivery.
Comedy Central has decided not to renew Futurama, which means that the 31st-century-set animated comedy will end its 140-episode run on Sept. 4. The final 13 episodes, which represent the second half of season 7, begin airing on June 19 at 10 p.m.
Futurama is no stranger to cancellation, of course: The series aired from 1999 to 2003 before Fox sent Fry & Co. into oblivion. After thriving in reruns on Adult Swim, Futurama was relaunched in 2007 with four-direct-to-DVD movies that Comedy Central ran in half-hour increments as a 16-episode fifth season in 2008-09. Comedy Central subsequently ordered a sixth season of 26 episodes, which aired in 2010-11, and a seventh season of 26 episodes, the first half of which debuted in 2012.
The news did not come as a shock to executive producer David X. Cohen and creator Matt Groening, who had thought their space explorations were ending three previous times (after the Fox run, after the four movies, and after Comedy Central’s first 26-episode order). “I felt like we were already in the bonus round on these last couple of seasons, so I can’t say I was devastated by the news,” Cohen tells EW. “It was what I had expected two years earlier. At this point I keep a suitcase by my office door so I can be cancelled at a moment’s notice.”
The series won the Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program twice, in 2002 and 2011. It has declined in the ratings, though, averaging 2.6 million viewers in 2010, 2.3 million in 2011, and 1.7 million in 2012.
Comedy Central’s EVP of Programming Dave Bernath views the network’s decision as “the natural end” to the show’s improbable comeback. “That’s a helluva run that few shows achieve, and especially given the fact that it came back to life, it’s really an amazing story,” he says. “I’m more thankful and feel a sense of gratitude toward the whole process — and that we found a way to keep going for 52 more episodes — than I really am even thinking about the ending. It’s a blessing that it came back and lasted so long.”
The producers say that they are exploring options for a new home for the show, but there are no serious talks at this point. “We’ve been in this situation before and it’s tempting when you’re doing episodes that are as good or better than anything you’ve ever done to continue doing it,” Groening tells EW. “We’re catching our breath and seeing what the fans have to say. The experience of this show has been so much fun from the very beginning to now — everybody is so happy to work on this show — that it’d be a shame if we all went our separate ways… We would love to continue. We have many more stories to tell. But if we don’t, this is a really great way to go out… I think these episodes are the best ones we’ve ever done.”
Cohen calls the final run — which features such guests as Larry Bird, Sarah Silverman, George Takei, Adam West, Dan Castellaneta, and Burt Ward — “our best ‘last season ever’ ever,” noting that there are “a bunch of episodes that I think are going to be classics.” In one installment, Futurama is “reincarnated as various cartoons of your youth, not legally resembling but somehow quite reminiscent of Scooby-Doo, Strawberry Shortcake, and G.I. Joe,” he says. (SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT) And the series finale, which features a wedding between Fry and Leela, is “a tasteful, emotional gorefest,” he raves. “There’s a lot of death but there’s also a lot of time travel, so that makes for an interesting combination.” Adds Groening: “It’s a really satisfying ending. It’s an epic ending. If indeed it’s the ending.”
If, indeed. Somehow we’ll see Bender shout “Bite My Shiny, Revived Metal Ass!” down the road, right? “Perhaps Futurama will return in another form, on the Internet, or as a puppet show in the park,” says Groening. “Or maybe as a puppet show in the park on the Internet.” Deadpans Cohen: “As I said three times before, this is definitely the absolute end of the show. I don’t know why nobody believes me when I say that.”