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Espousing a Future for Futurama
by Alexandra R. (Randi)

It's Sunday night, 7 p.m. You flip through the channels on the television to examine what exactly is on the tube. "Hollywood Squares? Nah. Dateline NBC? Too boring. Gilmore Girls? Too predictable!" are the thoughts that pound your mind. All of a sudden, you stumble on to a fascinating, sarcastically witty program. The humor, the plot twists, the characters! You can't believe a show like this has been on the air for years and you've never heard of it! As you stare blankly into the set, you become more and more engrossed by the second. Just before your eyes are allowed to view the exciting conclusion, static can be heard as wavy lines appear throughout the screen. You bang the television-no use-the show is gone and can't be brought back. Who could have committed such a horrible act? You notice that the cord protruding from the television set is unplugged, and wrapped tightly around it are cold dead hands-the cold dead hands of FOX Broadcasting Company. Who dares to support a company that will "pull the plug" on such a great show as "Futurama?" I know I certainly don't.

Why should FOX keep the show on the air? "Futurama" provides quality entertainment with a touch of sarcastic humor similar to that of "The Simpsons," also created by Matt Groening. The program has a one-of-a-kind plot based in the future, covering a wide range of topics, from sewer mutants to talking crustaceans to robotic presidents. A show rich in satire, "Futurama" creates a world where one can suspend the reality of the surrounding world and enter a world in which almost anything is possible. Its creative plot and diverse characters plays into the imagination of the viewers as they become a part of the show. It's no wonder so many people from all over the world have come to praise this fantastically developed show.

Over the span of only five seasons, "Futurama" has gained too many fans to cancel it now. Literally hundreds of websites are dedicated to the show and fans exist from all over the globe. A petition was even brought to life in order to persuade FOX Broadcasting to keep "Futurama" on the air. Currently, over 163, 000 viewers have signed this online petition ("A Future For Futurama") Comments like, "Why take off a quality show?" "Don't give up on a great show!" and "Please do not take this excellent show off the air" appear abundantly throughout the petition. Another loyal viewer remarks, "I have found "Futurama" to be one of the most intelligent and truly witty social satires that I have seen on TV in many years" while similarly another viewer notes, "The show is one of the few intellectual gems on television." One loyal fan even went so far as to say, "Canceling this show is a blasphemy to entertainment." In addition to the petition, fans from various parts of the world partake in active "Futurama" communities, such as message boards and chatrooms. On one message board, an avid viewer from England comments, "Ever since the first time I saw it on Channel 4 in the UK I was hooked. I thought this was a great, witty and original show" ("Futurama: Comment to Fox, and We'll Send it to Them"). Another fan, descended from Scotland, declares, "Although Futurama is broadcast sporadically over here, I still tune in every single time it's on. Canceling this show would be a HUGE mistake". Based on these commentaries, it is obvious that the show "Futurama" has indeed gained much popularity from fans all over the world. The problem, however, lies within the FOX network. FOX Broadcasting Company is neglecting the viewers their desires and, in ignoring the petition, denying that a Futurama community of fans even exists.

For more than a month, the FOX network has aired three episodes in a row of either "King of the Hill" or "The Simpsons." While these shows are popular with the public, FOX chooses to show the same episodes over and over again, repeatedly, nonstop, until the episodes are engrained in everyone's brains. FOX aired all these extra episodes of the same program because it had extra "space" in its schedule, which is quite the contrary. Within an hour and a half of television, FOX still refuses to air new "Futurama" episodes as opposed to tired old episodes of its other shows. I am almost positive that a refreshingly new episode of "Futurama" would gain higher ratings and more support than a couple of rerun episodes crammed together to take up time on the program schedule. By rerunning old episodes of other shows, the public will soon come to the point where they are sick of those programs and will be exasperated by the decisions FOX has made concerning its programming preferences.

If "Futurama" is taken off the air, then what show will replace it? Another one of those irritating reality shows? The FOX Network has plenty of reality television series that appear and disappear. The viewer population on those reality shows fluctuates; one show might attract many viewers while the other one does not. FOX is simply experimenting with the different series to find out which one gains the most ratings. These shows are not permanent, though; some shows have to always be present in the FOX program schedule. There will always be a place for classic, satirical comedy on television. Futurama needs to be on television because the viewer population for that show will never change, as it does with reality television shows. The popularity among the show will always exist, and as long as FOX decides to air the show (with advertisements), the size of the viewers will not change and would probably gain even more viewers as the years passed, as is the case with "The Simpsons."

While some embrace the view that second attempts or "spin-offs" of hit television shows have been proven to be second-rate, the truth is that "Futurama" may appear similar to "The Simpsons," but in reality is totally distinct from it. "The Simpsons" is centered on one family of one town, whereas "Futurama" is based on several co-workers who visit many galaxies and planets since they work at a delivering company. Groening states, "This is much more ambitious than "The Simpsons." The show "Futurama" itself is based on what the future would be like and answers the question if indeed there's life on other planets. In "Futurama," basically anything can happen, while in "The Simpsons" some restrictions do exist according to the plot. For example, one wouldn't observe a one-eyed Cyclops in every (or probably any) episode of "The Simpsons." It's this unique plot that allows "Futurama" to appeal to the audience with its sense of creativity and brand new ideas. So, while the two shows may be similar in drawings, they are very different concerning the plot and ideas presented in the show.

Although the show "Futurama" appears Sunday-Thursday at 11 p.m. on Cartoon Network, only those with a cable connection are permitted to view it. There are those who may not be able to afford a cable connection or whose parents do not favor a cable connection. Not even I, the loyal fan who took the time out of her busy schedule to discuss why Futurama should be kept on the air, have cable television, and I am too busy during the week with schoolwork to go to a friend's house to watch the unique and incredibly humorous show. Having a cable connection shouldn't matter, though; the goal of any network, hopefully, is to satisfy the viewers with what they crave, so canceling the show would only decrease the viewer population for FOX Broadcasting.

Even though "Futurama" was placed in the Adult Swim block on Cartoon Network, in actuality it is probably one of the most harmless shows being shown on FOX at the moment. Violence and sex-related scenes appear everywhere in the regular television shows FOX broadcasts. This is, in fact, worse because these shows involve real people committing the acts, while "Futurama" is simply a humorous cartoon. Only one episode was moved back to a later time because, Cohen comments, "FOX, out of its very deep concern for the morality of our nation, deemed it "inappropriate" for broadcast at 7 PM" (Cohen, Interview by Jon). All shows, even "The Simpsons," considered one of the most popular television shows, can be deemed "inappropriate" because, after all, the creator behind the "The Simpsons" is also the creator of "Futurama." Compared with the sex scenes on "Joe Millionaire" and violence in other shows, "Futurama" is suitable for all ages, with clever humor appealing to all aspects of society and life.

While some assert that "Futurama" did not gain the necessary ratings to keep it shown on the air, their thinking is flawed in that the show attracted nineteen million viewers, making it one of the highest rated new shows premiered on FOX. ("The Neutral Planet"). In addition, FOX Broadcasting never formally advertised the show to the public-so unless one had a subscription to TV Guide or an Internet connection, there was no way of finding out what time the show was being aired (if it was aired) beforehand. This, in turn, caused it to become more difficult to view the show at its proper time, since it was nearly impossible to acquire the show's times of viewing when FOX, being a broadcasting company, never broadcasted its advertisements. Thus, the ratings were dropped, all due to the fact that the company never promoted their own hit television show. Another reason as to why the show lost its ratings is because often times it was pre-empted by the NFL game series on the east coast. So, if the football game ran even just a little bit long, "Futurama" would suffer the consequences, since the episode was never given the chance to air. In a recent newspaper article in USA TODAY, it is stated that the reasons "Futurama" faces early retirement is due to inconsistent scheduling and, Groening says, a lack of promotion (Keveney). Similarly, executive producer of "Futurama" David X. Cohen expressed his opinion for FOX Broadcasting Company's lack of concern for its shows in another interview:

    Question: What is the general feeling among the Futurama crew concerning the way Fox treats this show? After all, it's already January 2002 and we've only seen three episodes for Season 4, two of which were originally scheduled to air in Season 3...

    Answer: Frustrated, can guess. Obviously our time slot is a terrible handicap, yet the ratings have not been bad when we are not bumped off by football. My opinion is that the only thing Futurama really needs to be a big success is for Fox to promote it and tell people that it's good. But evidently, they aren't interesting in doing that. Why, I'm not sure. It seems like it would be very much in their interest as well as ours (Cohen, Interview by Georgoulias).

When it comes to FOX Broadcasting, many view it as a necessary evil. It's evil because of the poor decisions they make concerning their programming, yet necessary to keep comical shows like "Futurama" available to the public, especially to those who don't have a cable connection. The colossal popularity of the show alone should be enough to convince FOX executives to let the show live on for at least a few more seasons. FOX must be made aware of all the fans that follow this fantastically humorous show. This is why it's imperative that everyone does everything they can to show their concern for "Futurama." As one loyal fan stated in the "A Future For Futurama" petition, "FOX has a nasty habit of dropping good shows, and I'd like to see that habit break."

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