Futurama: In the realm of animated television, few shows have managed to capture viewers’ hearts quite like “Futurama.” Created by the genius behind “The Simpsons,” Matt Groening, this American animated science-fiction sitcom took audiences on a hilarious journey through time and space. From its origins on Fox to its revival on Comedy Central and Hulu, “Futurama” has left an indelible mark on animation.
Created by: Matt Groening
Original Network: Fox, Comedy Central, Hulu
First Premiered: March 28, 1999
Revival Premiered: July 24, 2023
Futurama is an American animated science-fiction sitcom that follows the adventures of slacker Philip J. Fry, who is cryogenically preserved for 1000 years and revived on December 31, 2999. Fry finds work at the interplanetary delivery company Planet Express, working alongside one-eyed mutant Leela and robot Bender.
- Philip J. Fry (voiced by Billy West)
- Turanga Leela (voiced by Katey Sagal)
- Bender Bending Rodriguez (voiced by John DiMaggio)
- Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth (voiced by Billy West)
- Hermes Conrad (voiced by Phil LaMarr)
- Dr. John A. Zoidberg (voiced by Billy West)
- Amy Wong (voiced by Lauren Tom)
Futurama is set in New New York at the turn of the 31st century, in a time filled with technological wonders. The city of New New York has been built over the ruins of present-day New York City, which has become a catacomb-like space referred to as “Old New York.” Various technological advances and societal changes have transformed the world.
Futurama was created by Matt Groening and developed with David X. Cohen. The series was conceived in the mid-1990s and went through a process of pitching and development before premiering on March 28, 1999. The show has been revived multiple times, with the latest revival premiering on Hulu in 2023.
Futurama is known for its diverse styles of humor, including satire, black comedy, off-color humor, and references to science and pop culture. The show often features in-jokes, mathematical humor, and references to classic science fiction, making it appealing to both casual viewers and nerdy audiences.
The theme music for Futurama was created by Christopher Tyng and is known for its distinctive tubular bells. It has been remixed and altered in various episodes to fit specific themes and jokes.
The Birth of Futurama
The genesis of “Futurama” can be traced back to the mid-1990s when Matt Groening was already a household name for creating “The Simpsons.” Eager for Groening to work his magic again, Fox approached him to develop a new series. Groening teamed up with David X. Cohen, a writer and producer from “The Simpsons,” together, they began crafting the futuristic world of “Futurama.”
In April 1998, Fox greenlit the series, ordering thirteen episodes. However, the network soon had concerns about the show’s themes, particularly its dark humor, suicide booths, and Bender’s anti-social behavior. Groening and Cohen, adamant about maintaining creative control, managed to secure their vision for “Futurama,” and Fox relented. This marked the beginning of a show that would blend comedy, science fiction, and social commentary uniquely and unparalleled.
The Premise of “Futurama”
At its core, “Futurama” is a workplace sitcom set in the distant future. The series revolves around the misadventures of the employees of Planet Express, an interplanetary delivery company. The small but eccentric crew of the Planet Express ship often finds itself in absurd and hilarious predicaments as they navigate the bizarre landscape of the 31st century.
The central characters include:
- Philip J. Fry (voiced by Billy West): Fry is the show’s protagonist. This lovable but immature pizza delivery boy gets cryogenically frozen on New Year’s Eve in 1999 and wakes up a thousand years later. He joins Planet Express as a delivery boy and is known for his endearing idiocy.
- Turanga Leela (voiced by Katey Sagal): Leela is the no-nonsense, one-eyed captain of the Planet Express Ship. Abandoned as a baby, she grows up believing she’s an alien but later discovers her origins. She becomes Fry’s primary love interest and eventually his wife.
- Bender Bending Rodriguez (voiced by John DiMaggio): Bender is a foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking, kleptomaniacal robot with a disdain for humanity. Despite his flaws, he’s Fry’s best friend and roommate. Bender’s antics often drive the show’s humor.
- Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth (voiced by Billy West): The elderly and forgetful founder of Planet Express, Professor Farnsworth is Fry’s distant nephew. He’s a brilliant scientist but prone to moments of senility. In “A Clone of My Own,” he creates a clone named Cubert to carry on his legacy.
- Hermes Conrad (voiced by Phil LaMarr): Hermes is the Jamaican accountant at Planet Express, known for his obsession with bureaucracy and paperwork. He’s also a former Olympic Limbo champion and has a family, including his wife, LaBarbara, and son, Dwight.
- Dr. John A. Zoidberg (voiced by Billy West): Zoidberg is a Decapodian, a lobster-like alien, and serves as the neurotic staff physician at Planet Express. Despite claiming expertise in human biology, his knowledge is often hilariously inaccurate.
- Amy Wong (voiced by Lauren Tom): Amy is a wealthy but accident-prone intern at Planet Express. She’s an astrophysics student and eventually earns her doctorate. Her romantic involvement with Kif Kroker is a recurring subplot.
The Futuristic Setting
“Futurama” is set in New New York at the turn of the 31st century, a time filled with technological marvels, peculiarities, and societal quirks. The city is built atop present-day New York City ruins, which has become a catacomb-like space known as “Old New York.” Mutants inhabit parts of this underground maze.
The show masterfully satirizes contemporary issues by exaggerating them in the future. Global warming, bureaucratic red tape, substance abuse, and more have a 31st-century twist. The depiction of everyday life in this future world provides ample fodder for the show’s humor and social commentary.
In the world of “Futurama,” technology has advanced dramatically. The Head Museum, where famous heads are preserved in jars, allows historical figures and celebrities to appear. The fully immersive and sensory experience on the Internet is filled with pop-up ads, pornography, and “filthy” chat rooms. Robots are ubiquitous, and their exhaust contributes to global warming. The wheel has been replaced by hover cars and pneumatic transportation tubes. Earth remains plagued by environmental issues, including greenhouse gases, although these are sometimes humorously mitigated.
Religion is also a prominent aspect of society, with a satirical take on various faiths, including the First Amalgamated Church, Voodoo, Oprahism, and even a banned religion based on Star Trek fandom. Holidays feature robots associated with them, such as Robot Santa and Kwanzaa-bot.
The series uses these exaggerated elements to delve into various subjects, including predestination, prayer, salvation, and religious conversion.
The Unique Brand of Humor
What truly sets “Futurama” apart is its brilliant and multi-layered humor. The show combines various comedic styles, including self-deprecation, black comedy, off-color humor, slapstick, and surreal humor. However, its primary source of comedy lies in its satirical depiction of future society and its clever parodies of contemporary culture.
Groening and Cohen aimed to create a show that, on the surface, appeared goofy and lighthearted but contained underlying “legitimate literary science fiction concepts.” This blend of lowbrow and highbrow humor allowed “Futurama” to tackle complex themes while keeping audiences entertained.
The show is rife with in-jokes and references, especially those targeted at “nerds.” Mathematical jokes, science humor, and nods to classic science fiction are scattered throughout the series. Whether it’s a reference to the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics or a playful take on Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment, “Futurama” delights in its intellectual humor.
The series also pays homage to classic science fiction, notably “Star Trek,” through soundbites and references. The show’s treatment of quantum mechanics, space exploration, and futuristic technology mirrors the best traditions of the genre.
The Legacy of “Futurama”
“Futurama” received critical acclaim throughout its run, earning numerous awards and nominations, including Annie Awards and Emmy Awards. It was praised for its wit, creativity, and ability to blend science fiction with comedy seamlessly.
The show’s legacy extends beyond television. “Futurama” inspired tie-in comic book series, video games, calendars, clothing lines, and figurines. In 2013, TV Guide ranked it among the top 60 Greatest TV Cartoons of All Time, solidifying its place in animation history.
Despite facing cancellation and revival multiple times, “Futurama” remains a beloved and influential series. Its unique brand of humor, memorable characters, and thought-provoking social commentary continue to resonate with fans around the world.
As we reflect on the time-traveling odyssey of “Futurama,” we can’t help but appreciate the show’s enduring impact on animation. It’s a testament to the power of satire, creativity, and the boundless possibilities of the future. So, whether you’re a fan of Bender’s one-liners or Leela’s adventurous spirit, “Futurama” will always hold a special place in viewers’ hearts, both in this century and the next.
FAQ about Futurama
1. What is Futurama?
Futurama is an American animated science-fiction sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series follows the adventures of Philip J. Fry, a slacker who is cryogenically preserved for 1000 years and then revived in 2999. He works at the interplanetary delivery company Planet Express alongside one-eyed mutant Leela and the foul-mouthed robot Bender.
2. Who are the main characters in Futurama?
The main characters in Futurama include:
- Philip J. Fry (voiced by Billy West): The show’s protagonist, a pizza delivery boy from the 20th century who wakes up in 2999.
- Turanga Leela (voiced by Katey Sagal): The competent, one-eyed captain of the Planet Express Ship.
- Bender Bending Rodriguez (voiced by John DiMaggio): A foul-mouthed, cigar-smoking robot known for his heavy drinking and kleptomaniacal tendencies.
- Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth (voiced by Billy West): The elderly and eccentric owner of Planet Express, Fry’s distant relative.
- Hermes Conrad (voiced by Phil LaMarr): The Jamaican accountant of Planet Express, known for his love of bureaucracy.
- Dr. John A. Zoidberg (voiced by Billy West): A neurotic staff physician of Planet Express, a lobster-like alien.
- Amy Wong (voiced by Lauren Tom): An intern at Planet Express who is incredibly rich, ditzy, and accident-prone.
3. When was Futurama originally aired?
Futurama originally aired on the Fox Broadcasting Company from March 28, 1999, to August 10, 2003. After its initial cancellation, it began airing reruns on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block from 2003 to 2007.
4. How many seasons does Futurama have?
Futurama has a total of seven seasons. It initially had four seasons during its original run on Fox. After being revived, it had three more seasons on Comedy Central.
5. When was Futurama revived, and on which network?
Futurama was revived in 2007 with four direct-to-video films and later in 2010 by Comedy Central. Comedy Central aired the movie as 16 new, half-hour episodes, constituting a fifth season. The show continued with new episodes on Comedy Central until its final season in 2013.
6. Are there any plans for future episodes or revivals of Futurama?
Yes, on February 9, 2022, Hulu announced that it had revived Futurama with a 20-episode order. The new episodes premiered on Hulu on July 24, 2023.
7. Has Futurama received any awards or nominations?
Futurama received critical acclaim throughout its run and was nominated for several awards. It was nominated for 17 Annie Awards, nine of which and 12 Emmy Awards, winning six. The show also received other accolades, such as Writers Guild of America Awards and Environmental Media Awards for specific episodes.
8. What is the setting of Futurama?
Futurama is set in New New York at the turn of the 31st century. New New York is built over the ruins of present-day New York City, which has become a catacomb-like space known as “Old New York.” The show’s setting is filled with technological wonders, global warming, inflexible bureaucracy, and a mix of familiar, mutated, cross-bred, and extraterrestrial animals.
9. What are some of Futurama’s recurring themes and humor styles?
Futurama blends various humor styles, including self-deprecation, black comedy, off-color humor, slapstick, and surreal humor. Its primary source of comedy comes from satirical depictions of everyday life in the future, parodies of the present, and numerous references to classic science fiction. The show is known for its in-jokes and references to mathematics, science, and pop culture, making it appealing to many viewers.
Yes, Futurama includes hidden messages and codes in alternative alphabets. Alienese, a substitution cipher from the Latin alphabet, is often used in the background of episodes. The show also features complex modular addition codes, providing additional jokes for fans who decode the messages. These codes can be seen throughout the series in graffiti, advertisements, and warning labels. Additionally, the show often includes mathematical and scientific jokes for astute viewers to discover.
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