Is Fox giving their golden
boy the runaround?
It seems that no matter how famous
you get or how many millions of fans you have, someone's always
out to rain on your parade. Even Matt Groening, the man behind The
Simpsons and Futurama who has brought nothing but critical success
and high ratings to Fox, has to deal with the crappy end of the
Fox is anything but grateful. Groening
may lay the golden eggs, but all they're giving him in return are
rotten timeslots. He's convinced that, despite his successes, his
rather independent business methods are getting him in a whole heap
of trouble. Mmmm, troublicious.
"At Fox," Groening says, "there's
an atmosphere of scrambling to repair the failures of their previous
decisions. There's no anticipation of success."
Fox's fear of failure is one possible
reason that Futurama was moved from the best timeslot in the universe
- Sunday night, between The Simpson's and The X-Files - to a much
less glamorous 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night slot. This doesn't make much
sense to us, of course. It seems a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It's one thing to be afraid a show will fail, but what's the point
of setting it on the path for certain doom? If anything, find a
spot where the show will thrive, especially if it's a show by the
man with an enormous built-in fan base. Plus, everyone knows that
Tuesday night is laundry night - what other weeknight of TV can
you afford to miss?
But the move to Tuesday may have
been precipitated by more than just the quivering knees at corporate
headquarters. Word on the street has it that what's really getting
Groening into trouble is the unconventional manner in which he does
"There's an atmosphere now in television
of giving notes, of interference," says Groening. These notes, which
are possible revisions and critical suggestions given to show producers
by network executives (those creative geniuses who would create
shows of their own, if they only had the time), are not appreciated
by Groening and his team. "We don't do that on Futurama or The Simpsons."
Most fans are more than familiar
with Groening's protective nature when it comes to his creations.
You'd think the network execs would understand that and give him
free reign; after all, the man seems to know what he's doing.
"When they tried to give me notes
on Futurama, I just said: 'No, we're going to do this just the way
we did Simpsons. And they said, 'Well, we don't do business that
way anymore.' And I said, 'Oh, well, that's the only way I do business.'"
You go! That's the type of attitude we respect around these parts.
"And I think it shows. I think when
you let creators have a vision without compromise - not to say that
it works every time, but my two times at bat, it seems to have worked.
If anything, I think I should be giving the network notes." And
amen to that, brother.
A look at the ratings shows that,
if anything, Fox knows how to shoot itself in the foot. On its first
Sunday airing, Futurama achieved the impossible. It got better ratings
than The Simpsons - something no other show has ever done. Futurama
drew 19 million viewers the first week and 14.2 million the second.
But when it was moved to Tuesdays, to round out the (compelling)
all-cartoon line-up, it dropped to 8.85 million viewers.
The arrival of the new Fox Entertainment
President and resident programming brainiac, Doug Herzog, may have
given Futurama another cheerleader, but that's not going to do much
when the show is stuck in the Tuesday night wasteland. "He's a good
guy, a nice guy, and he's new here," Groening says, "but he is the
one who put us on Tuesdays."
Groening and his team have finished
the 13 episodes of Futurama which will be aired this season, and
they've already begun working on next season.
"We haven't even been picked up
yet," he says, "but I assume we will be."
So do we. But if it doesn't - hey,
Matt, you can always release episodes through daily tv!