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.
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.