Circumstantial flummery from a would-be spoonbean hustler.

bite my shiny metal ass

Seriously, go ahead and bite it! (

In a move that I don’t think anyone was expecting it seems like Fox television is actually considering more episodes of Futurama. To be honest, I find this absolutely astounding. Not because it’s a phenominal show run by a stellar cast and well established crew. Not because it has a huge and loyal fanbase right in that juicy 18-25 Male slice. And not because the high calibre writing on the show is a punctilious example of quality animation production- 5 nominations, 3 Emmys. The reason I can’t believe it is because Fox never seems to show sound judgement when it comes to their programming. It’s completely out of character and quite suspect.
I ran across this news late last night, and verily I considered it might just be a dream, or perhaps a hallucination spawned from yet again watching Criminal Minds in the hope it would suddenly become tolerable. It still isn’t and Mr. Patinkin is looking a little worse for wear from Holiday comestibles. But getting over my initial amazement and distrust, I conceed it’s still pretty great news, for animation fans, heck for any fan who’s show has been canned unjustly. The thing with Fox and Futurama was that they treated the show like utter shite. Originally they gave it the lead in on Sundays at 7:00, which I think they thought would be prestigious for it, what with King of the Hill and The Simpsons. But with Football, and the fluid structure of Fall schedules it always got bumped. Always. I would tune into football games I had no interest in, just to catch the promos, because for example, if the game ran over, which it always did, they wouldn’t re-join the show, they’d just skip the broadcast completely. Then they’d move on to the next production # or air the missed show on Tuesday nights, and this was when Fox didn’t have a weekly Primetime lineup. Pre-Idol. And more often than not, no marketing, no weekly promos like Simpsons got, just nothing. It was hard work to be a Futurama fan when they originally aired, because you had to hunt to watch the episodes.
I think Fox never really ‘got’ Futurama, because it wasn’t The Simpsons and when they gave Groening another show, they were probably expecting another Simpsons. But Futurama was immediately, to Sci-fi and pop culture fans, what Simpsons had become over the course of so many seasons. It was sharper, it was a little bitter, and it was funny as hell. An amazing cast of misfits, the Universe as a backdrop and some very clean and enjoyable animation, what’s not to love? So of course Fox kills it. The success on Cartoon Network, never surprised me, because I knew how happy I was just to see those episodes I’d missed, and I knew CN was likely to treat the show with a lot more respect than Fox ever did. Adult Swim has dropped the ball on shows in the past, but when they managed to get Futurama and Family Guy, they really did the right thing, and treated the shows as the meat of their lineup. And man, they were some killer episodes. I still think “Jurrasic Bark” (5×02) is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever watched. I love these characters so much, and the structure of that story suckered me in, and as the credits were rolling, I remember thinking- “Don’t do this to me, Futurama, you’re not supposed to make me cry!” but there I was, because it was so horribly sad, but at the same time, so great. And there are touches like that in most every episode, especially as you start moving into the later seasons. Seasons 4 and 5 is where the show really hit it’s stride and made some amazing stories that blended tragic and comedic elements.
Master of comedy that Futurama is, it does that, they punch your buttons. You know, if you’re going to make your audience cry, if you’re a comedy, and you’re going to throw that out, and really show that line between comedy and tragedy, you gotta do it right or you end up looking dumb or mean spirited. There’s a great bit of philosphy on that subject in Dead Like Me (another excellent Comedy, dead before it’s time)- Rube says, “Charlie Chaplin defined that thin line between comedy and tragedy. Say you see some poor slob get hit in the head with a bucket of wet cement. From 20 feet away that’s funny as hell. But you get too close, you get close enough to feel that pain and…and it’s no longer funny.” – and to me, that’s the essence of comedy, laughing at pain, being able to step back, shrug it off and smile. Comedy and tragedy are so intrinsically linked that if you ignore the hurt too long, if you don’t acknowledge it just a bit (and maybe that’s where that ‘every joke has some truth in it’ comes from) the comedy gets insincere. Hateful. But the writers on Futurama get that, and they manage some great wit and true heart with those characters.
I have to hope this is the beginning of a trend, what started with Family Guy and what I really hope continues with Futurama, bringing shows back, maybe not being so quick to can them. With Fox though, it’s been worse than others. It used to be a show would get booted around from timeslot to timeslot trying to get the equation right. Fox has been so much about the snap judgement, I swear they must go through twice as many shows as the other networks. At some point someone has got to realize it’s quality over quantity. Also for God’s sake-NO MORE AMERICAN IDOL! If Futurama comes back, then there’s hope for things like Arrested Development. If you’ve never seen an episode of Futurama and you’re wondering why I’m ranting at length about it, give it a shot.