Showrunner David X. Cohen has seen his and creator Matt Groening’s series Futurama through seven seasons—and 14 years of cancelations, syndicated success, direct-to-DVD resurrection, provisional renewal and, finally, a new lease on life at Comedy Central. That lease expires this summer, after the show’s eighth and (most recent) final season. When Adweek caught up with Cohen, he suggested we make a chat about Futurama an annual tradition “because there’s always a cancelation to report on.”
So what’s next?
Well, we still have our season coming on. I’m in kind of a tricky position where I have to tell people, “We’re canceled, and we’re on the air!” Matt Groening believes it’s our best season ever. That’s what’s immediately next for this year. Then the rioting starts. I don’t endorse violence, so I’m asking for padded rocks.
How is this Comedy Central cancelation different from all the other cancelations?
When it got canceled on the Fox network, it got canceled after 72 episodes, and we were kind of bitter because we thought, “Oh, we almost made it!” Now I feel like we have a good life’s work behind us.
With all the hoopla over alternative distribution, are you going, “Hey Netflix, how ’bout us?”
We’re talking a little bit behind the scenes about it. Everybody’s said, “Well, let’s take a break first.” When we got picked up by Comedy Central, we had to take a broadcast show and somehow produce something that was better quality at less cost, and a lot of the cost came from cutting our writing staff. I think we’re all happy to take a couple of months now.
With fragmentation, it’s odd to look back at ratings on your last few Fox-era episodes, given how high they’d seem these days.
One thing that was a little more depressing, but also gratifying to look at, is the retention we had of our lead-in. When we ran on Sunday nights after The Simpsons, it was 87 or 88 percent, which has been very difficult for Fox to achieve in all of the 13, 14 years it’s been since then.
It’s amazing how many different lives the show has had.
Everything’s possible. That’s the summary of what the media landscape is right now—if you want to do something weird, you can do it yourself and put it on the Internet. There are a million options that weren’t there when the show started in 1999. We’ve explored two of them: moving a fairly high-budget show to cable and direct-to-DVD. There are no discussions going on at the moment, though.
What can we expect this season?
The end of the season is super epic, being as it is another of our last seasons ever. And we’re going to see a very scientific resuscitation of Calculon that looks a lot like a Satanic ceremony—but trust me, it’s very scientific. We had a 3-D printer that [Ken Keeler] and Patric Verrone designed from a kit, and it was running pretty much 24 hours a day, making little Benders and Hypnotoads and busts of people who worked on the show. When people ask what inspired this season’s episodes, I tell them the hot plastic fumes.
What does the Hypnotoad actually want? He’s omnipotent, and yet all he seems to want out of life is to win dog shows and have a sitcom.
Well, wait a minute. You’ve just named two things that everyone wants.
Please get canceled at least one more time.
You don’t get to use that compliment very often, do you?