My two euro cents on Futurama:

Futurama seemed to suffer some teething problems in that it thought its principal characters were more interesting than they actually are. Fry (the twentieth century pizza delivery boy) and Leela (the one-eyed alien girl) just don't have much going for them as characters, although Bender (the robot) is a pretty solid comic creation.

The Simpsons went through something similar, not really hitting its stride until its writers realised that Homer and not Bart was the show's central comic anchor. Futurama has learned to make up for unengaging central characters through sheer comic brute force, in some ways matching The Simpsons for density of gags. However, it will probably not rival The Simpsons for lasting greatness until it delivers enduring comic creations along the lines of the characters that inhabit Springfield.

See the soon-to-be-created node: Simpsons Characters of Unimaginable Comic Genius.

Futurama is simply one of the best science fiction TV shows out there. No, really. The understanding of the issues, the use of futuristic technology, the character development, the production values all are really the work of a really good TV show.

And it's damn funny. It needs to run long enough to go into syndication, and then we all need to watch it in the afternoons or late nights every day of the week. We need Futurama videotape or DVD collections to enjoy at our leisure. We need Fox to use it as filler when they cancel one of their crappy sitcoms. We need more excellent websites like The Futurama Outlet to satisfy our need for sounds and images.

There's enough going on in each episode to enable you to look at each multiple times for references to all sorts of other pop culture icons. Look in the backgrounds and you'll almost always see something you haven't before.

So, make sure you spend time with Fry, Leela, Bender, Professor Farnsworth, Hermes, Dr. Zoidberg, Amy, Nibbler, Zapp Branigan, Kif, Morbo, Calculon, Richard M. Nixonand all the rest every week, and whenever you can after that. You'll be glad you did.

(this has not been paid for by the Futurama Sycophants Association, but it should have)

(early 2002): Thanks a lot, guys. The show's on hiatus now. It may never come back. You've ruined me.

Matt Groening's Futurama shows us all his two cents about the future, in his own ironic way. But General Motors did that first... somehow!

"Highways and Horizons" -- also known as "Futurama" -- was the name of GM's exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair, held in New York. The 1939 edition of the Fair's theme was "Building a Better Tomorrow", so GM had shown their visionary solutions for motor traffic regulation, superhighways and pedestrian facilities. The Fair's visitors could sit on some moving chairs (think escalators) and see a tour showing scale models of the superhighways and such.

Close to the end of the tour, there was a full-scale street showing how their plans would look like in real life. The project was designed by Norman Bel, and its architecture was conceived by Albert Kahn, Inc.

25 years later, GM has shown a totally revamped version of their Futurama pavillion at the 1964 World's Fair, once again at New York. And with time, their exhibit had become even more, erm... visionary: the moving chairs were back with a vengeance, and the futuristic scenarios too! The urban setting -- aptly named The City of the Future -- featured moving sidewalks, midtown airports, undertown conveyor belts for freight, the usual high and towering skyscrapers, nothing you couldn't see in Blade Runner -- now I wonder if the Pan Am building was on that model too...

You've got a lot of dry, desertic terrain? No problem! According to their exhibit, it was nothing that using desalted sea water couldn't tackle. You could leave your crops at the hands (er, hands?) of remote-controlled machines and bingo, they would bloom just as good as anywhere else!

If only Greenpeace were paying attention: in jungles, huge machines would chop down trees using laser beams, and then build multi-lane highways to transport the processed timber and chemicals extracted from natural sources to the big city. Greenhouse effect, anyone?

The tour also showed scaled models of underwater resorts -- even featuring people riding the so-called aqua-scooters -- and submarine trains freighting minerals to the surface.

And if conquering the Earth's cities, deserts, jungles and oceans wasn't enough, there was a scenario showing the Moon's surface, full with manned lunar crawlers (some kind of vehicle) and commuter space ships.

When the ride was through, the visitors got to the Avenue of Progress, where GM's space age technology was shown: solar powered machines, turbine engines, the new usages for plastic, metal and fabric, and so on...

And -- last but not least -- there were some stuff about automotive design. But who was interested in that after seeing the future?

Oops, I've got to go. Someone's jacking my aqua-scooter. In the meantime, here are some pictures and the source of this info for your viewing pleasure...

Futurama at the 1939 World Fair:
Futurama at the 1964 World Fair:

Thanks to Jeffrey Stanton for the reference, the folks at Columbia University... and Norman Bel Geddes and Matt Groening, of course!
Futurama has spent most of its life being shifted from timeslot to timeslot on FOX and has suffered more pre-emptions than any other show in recent memory. While initially FOX had hoped the show would be a companion to Matt Groening's other animated production, The Simpsons, FOX seemed to have lost interest in the show sometime around Season 2. The network began holding episodes off the schedule and placing them during football season, allowing the NFL games to shove the show out of the way. Before the show wrapped production in 2002 the creative team completed 72 episodes.

The first season of the show consisted of thirteen episodes. The pilot episode, "Space Pilot 3000", introduced viewers to Fry, Leela, Bender, and the entire concept of the show. This episode aired on Sunday, March 28, 1999, at 8:30pm ET; before long the show was moved to Tuesday nights at 8:30. FOX aired nine of the thirteen episodes between March and May, where the episode "Hell Is Other Robots" closed out the season. FOX held the remaining 4 episodes over for Season 2.

FOX ordered an additional 19 episodes for Season 2. Adding in the four remaining shows from Season 1 made 23 new episodes available. FOX aired 20 of them between September 26, 1999 and May 21, 2000. It was during this season that the show moved to Sundays at 7:00pm ET; a time slot that was often filled by football. Most weeks the show was preempted by whatever game was going on up until the end of football season. This season closed with "Anthology of Interest I", the Futurama version of The Simpsons's "Treehouse of Horror" episodes. FOX held the remaining 3 unaired episodes for Season 3.

22 episodes of the show were ordered for Season 3, making 25 new episodes available overall. FOX aired 15 of them. This season began on November 5, 2000 (to make way for football, the show was denied a September premiere) and ended early on May 13, 2001. FOX once again held new episodes, this time 10 of them, for the next year. One of these delayed episodes was the Season 3 finale, "Anthology of Interest II", a decision that many fans disagreed with. Another episode held at this time, "The Route Of All Evil", was to introduce a new character: Dwight Conrad, son of Hermes. Finally, the sequel to Season 2's Xmas episode, entitled "A Tale of Two Santas", was also held on grounds that it was too violent for a Christmas episode. It was also around this time that FOX began to air episodes out of production order. While the show does not follow a single episode-to-episode plot arc, often episodes will refer back to a previous event or character. Finally, Season 1's thirteen episodes became available on DVD in Europe. America was denied the set because FOX had yet to sell the syndication rights to the series, and they feared that a DVD release would lower the price they could get for the show's reruns.

FOX ordered 18 new episodes for Season 4, bringing the total of unaired episodes to 28. FOX aired 12 of them (including the "violent" Christmas episode), leaving 16 remaining. The season began late once again (this time on December 9, 2001) and ended on April 21, 2002 with the Star Trek-themed episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". The season premiere, "Roswell That Ends Well" won the Emmy for best animated program, beating out both The Simpsons and King of the Hill. In February 2002 FOX announced it would not be ordering any new episodes for the next season and would instead air the remaining unaired shows. Fans were angry, but not altogether shocked; by this time it was quite obvious that the network did not want the show to succeed for whatever reason. FOX insisted that Futurama was not cancelled and that once the backlog of episodes was empty, they might order new episodes. However, the production team was told at this time to shut down, the paychecks stopped coming, and the staff split up to find other jobs. Season 2's episodes also appeared on European DVD during this time.

Season 5 began on September 10, 2002 and ran until April 6, 2003. The show was once again flattened out of the 7pm timeslot by football, and FOX's nearly constant preemption of the show for The Simpsons and King of the Hill reruns shows how little they valued the program. Only 8 episodes aired in this season (including, finally, "The Route of All Evil"), leaving 8 remaining episodes unaired. The season finale, "The Why of Fry", closed up a long-running plot thread from the pilot. However, this finale is not the final episode produced. That dubious honor belongs to "The Devils Hands Are Idle Playthings" which was not included in this season. It was also during this season that Cartoon Network bought the cable syndication rights to the program, and in January 2003 they began running reruns in their original production order at 11pm ET Sunday-Thursday, however the episodes from Season 5 were not included in the initial run-through of the series. Season 1's episodes were also finally released on DVD in the USA. Meanwhile, Europe was preparing for Season 3's release on disc during this time.

FOX chose not to order any new episodes in May 2003 and "burned off" the remaining 8 episodes of the series during June, July, and August before removing the series from the schedule altogether. These last 8, along with the other episodes currently unavailable to Cartoon Network, began airing on Adult Swim in November 2003 as a part of the syndication deal. Cartoon Network also announced in May that Futurama would no longer be shown on Sunday nights, and beginning in July would not longer be shown at all until FOX handed over the remaining episodes that were not part of the original syndication package. However, after one week of being absent from the schedule Futurama returned, as ratings took a nosedive without Fry and company's presence. Many have speculated that Cartoon Network would be interested in purchasing new episodes, but this is unlikely due to the show's large budget. On a related note, Cartoon Network's sister network TBS began airing summer reruns of the series weekdays at 2pm ET due to the success of the show in Adult Swim. Matt Groening has declared in interviews that Futurama is far from dead and that the series will return in some format eventually. The Futurama comic books will continue to be published, a video game based on the series was released for the Sony Playstation 2 and Microsoft Xbox, and the Season 2 DVDs were released in August 2003 in the USA. November 2003 saw the addition of the remaining Season 4 episodes to Adult Swim with fans invited to vote for their favorite episode of the series for airing at the end of the year. Season 4 DVDs have already hit Europe with Season 3 DVDs released in March 2004 in the USA and Season 4 in the August after that. Beyond that, what remains to be seen for Futurama is, well, in the future.


Ten Reasons Why Futurama is Better than the Simpsons

I am an avid Simpsons fan, and have been since I saw my first episode of it. When I saw my first episode of Futurama, however, I was an instant convert. Don't get me wrong, I still love the Simpsons, and I am not disreputing it. The Simpsons is an excellent show, however Futurama is even better, and here are my ten reasons why:

10. It is drawn better, and is often rendered in 3D.

9. It's based in the future, and is interesting as simply a point of view on how society will turn out in the future.

8. There are less "on the side" characters that are seen once and never again for another season or two, and even the "on the side" characters they do have are often quite relevant to the storyline.

7. The location is incredibly dynamic. The vast majority of Simpsons episodes are based in Springfield, and quite a lot of them are only based in the Simpsons' home, the Power Plant, the School and Moe's Tavern. Futurama episodes are always based in new locations, although the Planet Express office is in every episode.

6. Like the Simpsons, makes many subtle topical references, but tends to take it further than the Simpsons.

5. Episodes quite often interrelate, and not with the simple method used in the Simpsons, i.e. "Homer, don't you remember last Christmas..." etc.

4. Has a far more mature humour type. The Simpsons generally only uses base comedy, and while incredibly funny, and also utilised in Futurama, the more subtle, sly, mature humour shows through and is often more humorous.

3. Well developed characters that go beyond the Simpsons character development. While there is a degree of it in the Simpsons, it tends only to serve a comedic purpose, without much regard to any central theme as such.

2. A strong central theme that interrelates many of the characters, and actually gives the show an aire of mystery as the plot unravels.

1. When it's not funny, it's often because it's furthering the storyline, but when it is funny, it is funny.

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