Tuesday 12 February 2013

Damien Presents Futurama: The Show That Just Won't Stay Dead!

By Damien.

Few people in the world have written more than one series finale. Ken Keeler did. He wrote three episodes that were designed to be the final ones. All of them for Futurama. And there's probably going to be a fourth.
Three times already, Futurama could've ended for good. It came pretty close the first time, when Fox decided to stop buying episodes after the 4th season.

The First Run
The first season was basically about setting up the world, introducing us to the crazy cast of characters. But that's true for any animated sitcom; where Futurama differs from its older sibling, The Simpsons, is that the writers planned several twists from the get-go.
Plots are developed throughout the seasons - not in a major way like a live-action drama would do, but if you watch Futurama chronologically, you'll want to find out where Leela's homeworld is. Is she really the last of her kind? And what about that weird shadow in the pilot episode, when Fry gets frozen?
This and more questions have been answered in the original run of Futurama - some of them in the fourth season.
This is a great touch for a comedy show. You expect that kind of things for big sci-fi shows, a la Lost - and sometimes you don't even get the answers you're waiting for. (This is me being nice to Lost by the way.) But it's amazing in an animated sitcom. Even better in that the reveal is often surprising and makes sense - more sense than in Lost, anyway.
But then Fox said it had to end, and Ken Keeler wrote his first series finale: The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings.

"Good News, Everyone!"
Comedy Central bought the rights to Futurama, and ordered 4 direct-to-DVD movies. As you would imagine, they're not all equally good. Movies 1 and 3 are clearly the best, as their complex stories require the length of a movie. But movies 2 and 4 have stories so thin they would have worked better as 20 minutes episodes.
The movies can be seen as the fifth season of the show, as they aired later on Comedy Central as sixteen episodes.
Ken Keeler wrote Part 4 of the last movie, Into the Wild Green Yonder, thinking it would be the end of the show.

But it wasn't. Apparently Comedy Central was happy with the quantity of DVDs the Futurama movies sold. So, the show was back in the summer of 2010.
While the show still features some good twists, the not-so-great news is that it wasn't planned from the beginning. Yes, it still works, but you're not as curious with something that just popped up as you were with a question you've been dying to know the answer to for years.
Ultimately, it doesn't really matter, because you care about the characters. Sure, Bender wants to kill all humans occasionally, but you feel he has some sort of heart behind all the metal. Futurama can be so good sometimes that it makes people cry. Yes, an animated sitcom.

Now what?
When Ken Keeler wrote the last canon episode of season 6, Overclockwise, Comedy Central still hadn't renewed the show.
But then it did, and as I'm writing this, we're in the 7th season. Comedy Central didn't order an 8th yet - I learned today the title of the season finale, which will air this summer: Meanwhile. No writer has been announced, but I want to bet it will be Ken Keeler.

Coming soon: The Art of The Adventures of Tintin Review


  1. I love the Simpsons but I watch Futurama from beginning to end about once or twice a year. This show is great and I hope it gets renewed for another season. Some of these new eps haven't been as great as the original run but alot have been just as good if not better. I especially love the novely anthology episodes at the mid-season and end of season breaks. I like seeing these characters in settings I could never see them in normally, I suppose that's what the what if machine did originally but you can't keep mining that well (well maybe one more time they could).

    But great article, I love seeing other Futurama fans. Especially fans who can recognise the tear-jerking ability of the show, I'm not ashamed to admit that it's gotten me well up on more than one occasion.

    Long live Futurama!

  2. Thanks ! Yeah, I think the best episodes are still from the first run (including my all time favorite, Luck of the Fryrish - which makes me cry every time). But the rebirth has also given us some great ones (The Late Philip J. Fry, The Prisoner of Benda, Reincarnation...).

    And I don't want it to be over soon.

    1. Great article Damien! I'm a big fan of the first four seasons but I haven't watched a lot of the new seasons or TV movies.