It’s important to preface this with the following: I love Futurama. It is one of my favourite shows and I think it is empirically better than the Simpsons and is Matt Groening’s masterpiece. David X Cohen was the perfect collaborator for Groening’s work. There was justifiable furious outcry when it was first unjustly cancelled and the rapt audience waited seven years for more Futurama, leading to new seasons and four films.
Then, the show ended. It’s canon ending was good and felt right, creating a perfect ouroboros of sentimentality for the viewer. And it was okay that it ended, because it ended the way the creators intended, on their own terms, and us – the audience – felt satisfied.
So, why are they making twenty more episodes on Hulu?
The only answer I can think of is “cynical cashgrab” and “no one has any new ideas”, and I’m fairly certain it’s not the latter. There are people pitching shows every single day, creators young and old who have been trying for years to get worthy shows off the ground only to be told there’s no money for them because the network went with a reboot of Walker: Texas Ranger, a continuation of Full House or Dexter, or a new show they want to make into the new Game of Thrones. And now Futurama is added to that list of shows taking money away from what could be some rad new sci-fi animation with something new to say (RIP Final Space).
And make no mistake, the new Futurama won’t be saying anything new, it will be more of the same. And these could be some of the best Futurama episodes ever produced, but it’s still a mistake to constantly dip into the well of old properties ostensibly for ‘nostalgia’ but more likely because there’s an in-built audience and there’s money to be paid.
Give that money to literally anyone else. Who knows? They could be the next Squid Game or Stranger Things or whatever. Sure, any new show is a risk and could be a flop, but that’s part of the whole deal! It’s hard enough for new screenwriters to break into the industry without being blocked at every corner by reboots and remakes and revivals.
I know that when you like a thing it’s hard to be impartial. There’s a part of you that says, “I love it so much and I want more!” I get it. I wanted more episodes of Firefly after it got unfairly canned. Then I got Serenity and was happy to let it go. Community got picked up again to end on their own terms. The Expanse was allowed more air time on a different service to finish out what it wanted to say. Futurama got like six extra chances to make more stuff. It ended nine years ago; there are 140 episodes. As much as it pains me to say it, we don’t need twenty more. It’s okay to let it die.
We need to learn, overall, how to allow things to end. The lifespan for a good TV show is anywhere between five and seven seasons. Or, as Abed from Community liked to say, “Six seasons and a movie.”
It’s why Supernatural started sucking almost immediately after the end of season five. The story series creator Eric Kripke wanted to tell spanned only that first five seasons. He was happy to let the show go, but network The CW wanted more. So it ended in 2020 after fifteen seasons and 327 episodes. I loved that show, but I’ll be first to admit it was mostly trash from season six onwards; enjoyable trash, but it was good episodes mixed into a sea of bad seasons. Nothing can be good for 327 episodes. The Simpsons notoriously started getting bad after twelve seasons. A lot of people say the decline was sharp after season eight, but I maintain there is some solid content until the end of season twelve. Fight me.
The issue at large is not with Futurama itself, it’s with the industry. Production companies are not willing to take risks on new ideas because there’s no guarantee of success. So they remake the same stuff, or do spin-offs, or make new stuff look like old stuff to try and mass-market appeal to everyone. It’s okay to make new stuff, to take a chance on something, even if it turns out not to be a success. Everyone wants to make something successful, but the pressure is so great that a lot of new shows don’t have the right room to breathe before they’re either cancelled, or run off the rails by network notes, or – and this is the most likely scenario – cancelled because long-running series’ don’t bring in new subscribers.
I don’t really know how to end this piece, so I guess I’ll just leave you with this, “In 2020 alone, Netflix [canceled] 18 original series. Of those, 14 had only one season.”