×

‘Futurama’ Lives on in Syndication, Streaming 20 Years Later

Fans keep going back to “Futurama,” as Matt Groening’s animated series enjoys a healthy life in syndication, 20 years after it began. The day after it debuted on March 28, 1999, Variety carried a story quoting Groening, who spoke of the series as a celebration of science-fiction absurdity: “We’ve taken bits and pieces of all the conceptions of the future in the past 50 years and put them together in one wild show. We’ve loaded it with the kinds of secret jokes and details that fans will spend hours on the Internet debating.” Actually, they’ve been debating it for decades. The 72 episodes aired on Fox through August 2003, followed by reruns on Cartoon Network; from 2007-09, there were four direct-to-video films, later divided into 16 half-hour episodes that ran on Comedy Central; from 2010-13 Comedy Central ran 52 more new episodes, the last new segments of the series — so far. But like the head of Richard Nixon in the series, “Futurama,” now running on Hulu, seems to just keep going and going.

Variety had first reported on March 6, 1998, that Fox Network was about to give a 13-episode order to “Futurama,” described as both nostalgic and futuristic. Fox and every other network had been chasing a new series from Groening ever since “The Simpsons” had become a mega-hit. (Variety said the idea of a “Simpsons” spinoff of Krusty the Clown never got past early discussions.) In less than a decade, Variety reported, the “Simpsons” series “has generated more than $500 million for News Corp. over its lifespan. Clearly Fox is hoping Groening can hit the jackpot again with ‘Futurama.’”

In a story on April 24, 1998, Jason Grode, an exec at Groening’s Curiosity Co., described the upcoming “Futurama” as “artistically difficult but writer-friendly.” The first script was completed and drawings of the lead characters were hanging on office walls, but the show was still in development; it would not debut for awhile because of the “six to nine months of painstaking production required for each episode.”

“Futurama” lives on in syndication. But it can’t match the phenomenal “Simpsons,” which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. When “Simpsons” hit the 10-year mark, Variety included an interview with Groening on Jan. 14, 2000. The story said, “In the early ’80s, the down-to-earth cartoonist lived in a roach-infested Hollywood apartment and had to search under chair cushions for enough loose change to buy a hamburger.” Variety quoted Groening as saying, “My friends and I would ask each other, ‘If or when we make our big mark in the world, are we going to live the way millionaires do on “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous,” or are we going to live the way we do now — except with a lot more comic books, magazines and records lying around?’ ”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content