Futurama

You might have heard about the just completed quote-unquote “television event” on one of the Fox Network’s unruly children, where every single one of the 550-plus episodes of The Simpsons was shown in broadcast order.

I really don’t feel anything particular about it. I’m blessed to live near a wonderful relative who has every single Simpsons DVD there is, so I still treat myself to a classic episode every now and again. Seriously, I was struck a couple months ago with an urge to watch “King-Size Homer”, and I just…did. I felt like a god, I don’t mind saying.

The Simpsons is a classic, so there’s not much new to say about it. I suppose that’s the problem – something can only become a classic after the culture it was made for moves on, and yet it remains, still doing episodes about foodies and World of Warcraft. You can’t help but go “Aww, it thinks it’s people!”

Why do I know that the dog's name is Santa's Little Helper, but not, say, my colleague's last names?

That was a Simpsons quote, by the way. Just in case you didn’t get it.

It makes you think. The Simpsons is slowly being devalued because it just won’t end. What would happen if there was a show that was always ending? How would that work, if every season was the last one? Would it be any good?

Well, yes. Because Futurama, made by a band of Simpsons-writing dweebs and dorks, has been in a perpetual state of almost ending since 200-freaking-2, and it’s quite possibly the most universally-adored science-fiction franchise there is.

Star Wars, Star Trek, even Firefly – none of them compare to Futurama. I’m serious about this. The show has always had a by fans, for fans mentality. At the turn of the millenium this made it unique, but in a time where the highest grossing movie of the year was made by a Troma Films veteran, it begins to feel as if the whole entertainment industry has followed its lead – sometimes literally.

Dammit, I just thought about "Star Trek Enterprise" again! And I was feeling so happy before!

Also, there was the “New New York” stuff from Doctor Who.

And because of this mentality, the show has remained not just popular but fresh. The show’s first season is jarring to watch, considering what a different sort of narrative it had, but that makes sense: Not only was cryogenically-frozen burnout and savior of the universe Phillip J. Fry new to the world of the 31st century, but so were we. But as the show began to get popular, and the various quotable characters seeped into the annals of geek culture, the show became a matter-of-fact ensemble comedy with a very Douglas Adams-inspired flair for making fun of advanced sci-fi concepts.

This all helped make the show the biggest and the best but I think the fact that it’s had anywhere from 2 to 6 final episodes (depending on your definition – the “6” count comes from episodes written as finales for the show) is another major factor. After all, if the show wasn’t under the metaphorical Sword of Doom for most of this run, would they have had the courage to make episodes like a giant tribute to the original Star Trek, a tragic love story through time that remains one of the most well-remembered TV moments of the last decade, or the best Dungeons and Dragons parody since The Colour of Magic?

Just ahead of the Hypnotoad, as it happens.

Seriously, “The Die of Power” is one of my favorite fantasy concepts ever.

Because, like a dead artist, a finished show always seems better than an ongoing one. Maybe it’s the nostalgia, maybe it’s the lack of any bad episodes currently on the air, and maybe it’s the sad fact that any show gets stale if it stays on too long.

And it’s that last point that I feel needs to be stressed when talking about the final season of the show, which ended last year. It’s not feeling completely stale, but there were only four or five episodes of the season that I’d recommend, and most of the ones I don’t like are treading old ground: Bender the robot pursuing his dream of becoming a folk singer, we’ve done. The crew on a seafaring adventure in space, we’ve done. The Omicronians, alien conquerors who parody the standard Ralph Kramden-model household, we’ve done just last season!

So, all in all, though I was sad to see it go, I really hope it actually has gone this time. Honestly, I do – particularly since the disappointing Red Dwarf revival from a couple of years ago.

Seriously. Stop trying to get Firefly back. Right now.

Just look at all those jowls and computer-generated images…Browncoats pushing for a reunion, you’ll be the doom of us all.

l’m pretty interested in the planned Simpsons crossover later this month, because it looks like a good opportunity to get down to the real meat and potatoes of what made the show great. I’m happy to see a riff on Terminator 2 – sure, they already did it in one of the show’s all time best stories, the first movie, but if The Simpsons were interesting enough to maintain eight-to-fifteen years of gold standard TV, I’m sure they can manage a single crossover.

And…that’s about it. Futurama was a great show, and I’m sad, yet also relieved, to see it go. That’s really all there is to say.

Come back next time for…woah, September of 2013 was pretty bone-dry, huh? Too bad the The World’s End review I had planned fell through. See you for Gravity, I guess.

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2 Comments

  1. I haven’t seen Futurama in years and years. My favorite episode was a Willy Wonka parody, where Fry visited the factory to see where they made addictive soda. Can’t remember the brand name–Zorg?–and I’m too lazy to Google it

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