Animated Shorts - Back to the Future(rama)

In his last interview with Newsarama last March, Futurama co-creator David X. Cohen acted like he was getting ready for some vacation time.

“I have a two year-old now. I think I’ll just be a dad,” he said at the time. “That can definitely keep me busy for a long time.”

Apparently, by Cohen’s standards, a long time is only three months, because on June 10th, Fox Studios and Comedy Central announced the incredible science fiction-animation series is back in production. There will be 13 new episodes, with Cohen and partner Matt Groening again taking control of the Planetary Express and its crew. The new episodes will be available in mid 2010 to be shown on Comedy Central. Twentieth Century Fox Television retains the option to license the original runs of the new episodes to a broadcast network.

“We're thrilled Futurama is coming back,” said Groening sardonically. “We now have only 25,766 episodes to make before we catch up with Bender and Fry in the year 3000."

"We're excited and amazed that the show is coming back, perhaps due to some sort of mysterious time loop,” added Cohen with equal aplomb. “We look forward to working with Comedy Central and 20th (Century Fox) Television to make this the best iteration of the loop yet!"

As many know, the series originally started airing on Fox back in 1999. From there, it seemed the series changed time slots as often as the network changed studio execs. Both were quite often. Finally, Fox “cancelled” the series in 2003, just when Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block decided to pick it up in reruns.

The series took off in its new home, becoming a staple of the AS schedule. Whether this caused more execs at Fox to lose their job is hard to determine, what is known is in 2006 they struck a deal with Groening and Cohen to produce four direct-to-DVD additions to the Futurama saga. Entitled Bender’s Game, Beast with a Thousand Backs, Bender’s Big Score and, finally, Into the Wild Green Yonder, Cohen stated the DVDs are to be considered a whole season in their own right, totally 16 new episodes.

At the same time, Comedy Central, sniffing a solid compliment to its other hit animated series South Park, outbid AS for the rights to the reruns, where the series has been flying high ever since. To top it, it appears the DVD sales made the latest round of Fox executives decide that, particularly since Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy went through a similar half-life only to come back bigger than ever, new Futuramas might not be that bad an idea.

"When we brought back Family Guy several years ago, everyone said that it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing - that canceled series stay canceled and cannot be revived," commented 20th Century Fox TV Chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden in a press statement, two men who sound like they’re going to keep their jobs at least a little longer. "But Futurama was another series that fans simply demanded we bring back, and we couldn't have been happier when Matt and David agreed that there were many more stories yet to tell."

So, it looks like Cohen’s dream of Futurama becoming the next Star Trek just became one step closer.

“That is my favorite thing, at least in my fantasies, to compare Futurama to,” he told Newsarama. “Whenever I worry about the show coming back on the air or not, I remember that after the original show went into syndication we also had the animated Star Trek in 1972 and the first movie in 1977. We haven’t done Futurama: The Next Generation or Deep Futurama 9, but I’m open to it...this being science fiction, there’s always some way, a twist of the rules of physics or gizmo that can bring everything back. We’re certainly ready to go."

And one shouldn’t be surprised if there’s more than enough fans who will want to go along with Groening, Cohen and the entire cast of the Express, too.

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