TV: Futurama

By: Matt Groening & David X Cohen
Year: 1999-2003 & 2010-2011
Language: English
Length: 13 + 19 + 22 + 18 + 26 = 98 episodes
Finished watching on: 15/1 (series 1), 23/1 (series 2), 28/1 (series 3), 2/2 (series 4), 22/2 (series 6)

I’ve liked Futurama for a long time now, and having watched the feature-length episodes recently, I decided in January to start watching all the ordinary episodes too, right from the beginning. Futurama was often compared to The Simpsons in its early days, but the presence of a coherent plot if you actually do decide to watch it in order is something that has never quite existed in The Simpsons. It seems to have struck a neat little balance between having episodes that can be watched as standalones or as part of a series depending on the watcher’s choice. But apparently Fox never bothered with the intended order, so there are a couple of different choices of watching orders: is it the production order, or the broadcast order, for instance? I’ve gone with the production order here, because it is simpler to wrap my head around and seems to make things more coherent overall.

It’s a good show, anyway; it’s funny and throws in a geek bonus joke occasionally. But it’s by no means amazing; it does have the feel of trashy TV to it, and it commits just about every sci-fi fallacy in the book… and yet gets away with it because it seems to do so knowingly.

As one of those shows that’s been uncancelled, it has a bit of a complicated history to it. It’s fairly easy to see when you look at the fourth season (the last before the show was originally cancelled) that they were now trying to pull out all the emotional stops and get some resolution to the romance between Fry and Leela especially, and some of the most involving, arresting and tear-jerking storylines occur in this season, quite unexpectedly for a show that used to just be full of crude jokes.

Then they were cancelled, and brought back again, and frankly, when I watched season 6, although I was thrilled to see new episodes to the series, it was like they had lost some sort of direction. There isn’t as much of a sense of will-they/won’t-they? with Fry and Leela anymore, for instance. Some of the episodes just felt like a parade of characters reciting their catchphrases, particularly one in which everyone is gender-swapped for a day.

But in general it is a show that I like, and I very much enjoyed watching it all the way through; it formed a sort of backdrop to my first few weeks in Japan, too.

To sum up, it’s a bit like the Simpsons, but actually has emotions to it sometimes. It’s completely ridiculous half the time, but is an excellent vehicle for the creators to explore all sorts of themes and tropes, and make a wide variety of parodies and satires. I do need to resist the urge to shout out that something that just happened is completely unrealistic sometimes; usually it’s something insignificant, as well.

Anyway, give it a try if you’ve got this far and haven’t seen it!

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