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What is Futurama?

Phil Shepley
Phil Shepley

Futurama is an animated television series created by Matt Groening, who also created the popular animated series The Simpsons, which originally ran on the Fox television network from 1999 to 2003. The show is a science fiction comedy that revolves around the life of its main character, Philip J. Fry, who is cryogenically frozen at the end of the year 1999, only to be revived in a drastically different world (and universe) in the year 3000. Futurama derives much of its humor and many of its story lines from the disciplines of math and science, and draws influences heavily from many other forms of science fiction, including television shows, movies and books.

Groening’s inspiration for Futurama came from being a big fan of science fiction literature as a child. He enlisted the help of David X. Cohen to develop a cartoon series that used the conventions of science fiction in the style of The Simpsons. The name “Futurama” was derived from a pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Among other ways, Futurama differs from The Simpsons in its utilization of a storyline that carries loosely from episode to episode rather than being “reset” for each episode, and features a completely different cast of characters.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

The main characters of Futurama work for an interplanetary shipping company named Planet Express and are the crew on the company’s ship of the same name. They include: Fry, who becomes a cargo delivery boy aboard the ship; an obstinate alcoholic robot named Bender Bending Rodriguez; Fry’s one-eyed love interest, Turanga Leelah; the somewhat senile owner of the ship and company, Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth; and staff physician, the lobster-like Dr. John A. Zoidberg, among others. The plot of each episode usually involves the parodying of some different aspect of science fiction, and sometimes parallels the plot of a popular science fiction storyline. Interspersed throughout the series are many precise references to mathematical and scientific theories, which have allowed Futurama to gain a large cult following, especially among a college-educated crowd.

The show's treatment by the Fox network led to its early cancellation after only five seasons in 2003. High DVD sales, a large Internet following and a revival on the Cartoon Network, however, gave Futurama a new life. The show was acquired by Comedy Central, and eventually the series was reincarnated as four made-for-DVD movies, beginning with Bender’s Big Score that were aired as half-hour episodes beginning in 2008.

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Discussion Comments


Yay! People are still thinking about Futurama in December, 2014 even though it was canceled last year! I want futurama back because its my favorite show, and in my opinion, there's no better cartoon, if not show on television today.

The futurama creators want it back, the fans want it back, and TV needs it back! Bring this amazing series back to life! I'm looking at you Netflix, FOX, TBS, Comedy Central, and- ah, you get the point.


How could you guys forget Zap Branigan? He is the single funniest cartoon character ever! I still remember this episode where he was steering towards that "blackish, hole-lish thing." God, I laughed for so long.


@animegal - When I started watching Futurama the one character that always appealed to me was the robot Bender. There is nothing better than a booze guzzling, wise-cracking, smoking robot to keep the humor in the show. I really loved that they made the Futurama movie: Bender's Big Score.

The flick was hilarious, and I would recommend it if you are in the market for any Futurama DVDs, though I did see the movie again when it was on TV awhile ago.

As far as episodes go, I loved "Hell is Other Robots," which takes a really interesting look at the idea of religion for robots. You'll love watching Bender's fight against addiction to electricity. Too funny! I have to say, my favorite episode ever.


Futurama has to be one of my favorite shows on television, well, after The Simpsons that is. I love how it manages to have the same quality of humor that made The Simpsons great while adding a great, geeky, sci-fi feel to everything.

The show is well-written and offers those who watch it a whole cast of characters that are quirky and charming in their own ways. I love Futurama's Leela because she is such a sarcastic and stern character. Her entire vibe and how she handles situations just makes me laugh out loud.

Does anyone else have any favorite characters or episodes from Futurama?

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