Works fine for me, but here let me breach the copyright for ya.
By TERRY MORROW
Scripps Howard News Service
April 19, 2002
- LOS ANGELES - Animator Matt Groening - creator of "The Simpsons" - knows what's happening 1,000 years from now, but it's the uncertainty of today that frustrates him.
His creation "Futurama" (7 p.m. Sundays, Fox), airing its season finale on Sunday, lives in perilous times.
The 4-year-old show has never had stellar ratings nor been a cultural phenomenon like "The Simpsons."
Although "Futurama" will be back next season, the show's fate beyond the 2002-2003 season isn't clear.
Groening says comparisons between "The Simpsons" and "Futurama" are unfair. Stylistically, the two shows are worlds - uh, make that centuries - apart, he says.
Set 1,000 years from now, "Futurama" follows the adventures of Phillip Fry, a 25-year-old pizza delivery boy from 1999 who awakens after a deep freeze.
In New York City of the future, he befriends Leela, a one-eyed mercenary; Bender, a sarcastic robot; and Professor Farnsworth, who is Fry's descendent.
Actor Billy West, who does multiple voices for the show, stars as Fry and Professor Farnsworth; Katey Sagal provides the voice of Leela; and John DiMaggio is Bender.
Sagal is best known for her role as Peg on "Married ... With Children."
West's voice is familiar to longtime animation fans. He provided the vocals for "Ren & Stimpy" and the Cheerios bee, among others.
Sunday's finale reunites most of the remaining cast of the original "Star Trek" series - including William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. The story centers on a 23rd century Earth on which "Star Trek" fans are out of control.
"Futurama" is also ahead of its time from a production standpoint. Work on all of next season's episodes is nearly complete, says Maurice LeMarche, one of its voice actors.
So it's not hard for Groening to make predictions about where the show will be going creatively.
"Season four takes on more of a heart," he says. "It has more of an empathetic center, whereas the other seasons were kind of smart, kind of cynical and kind of hip."
Even with that, Groening says, not everyone is in on the "Futurama" joke.
"I am not sure if enough people understand we are making fun of science fiction," he says. "There are fanatics who understand it ... but some people think it is just another science fiction show."
Such plots aren't over the public's head, Groening claims, but "it is too smart for the average TV executive. At Fox I don't think they understand it."
Those who do get it: Al Gore, Sigourney Weaver, Hank Aaron, the Beastie Boys, Beck and Roseanne, who have loaned their voices for past episodes.
Understanding it is one matter. Finding it is a whole other issue.
West, who does the voice of Fry, says the network shifting "Futurama" to different time slots has hurt it. In its current slot the show is often interrupted because of sporting events airing before it.
"No one could find it," he says. "You gotta have your show as part of your dialing habits. If people don't know when to expect it, then they won't find it."
"Futurama" attracts enough of the right demographics (mainly young men) for the Fox network to keep it around. It has a loyal fan base, too, Groening says.
"We have our core audience who totally gets it," says West, "but I am thinking for the most part we play for the general public who has movies made for them (because) they don't understand irony or sarcasm.
"And all that is left are parody and (gas) jokes."
The humor is edgier and more adult than "The Simpsons."
"It's a combination of 'The Simpsons' sensibility with a techno premise," says co-executive producer Ken Keeler. "We are not a family show. Most animated shows tend to be about families, and that's not the case here either."
LeMarche, who provides the vocals for Kif and other secondary characters, says the show works because, at the very least, everyone in its production understands it.
"If you put really complex music in front of an average musician, then it doesn't make any difference. He won't be able to interpret it," LeMarche says. "I think we have really smart actors who get all the little notes.
"In a show like this, that is very important. The humor can be very smart sometimes and have curves. Those curves make it what it is."
(Terry Morrow of the News-Sentinel in Knoxville, Tenn., can be reached at morrow2(at)knews.com.)