More adult-minded animation hit a renaissance at the start of the 21st century. Other shows such as Family Guy, Major Dad, and Rick and Morty began to capitalize on the worldwide popularity of The Simpsons; there was clearly an appetite for something unique and daring in the world of animated series television. This informal and informative documentary makes a case for why Futurama deserves praise as a singular standout among these titles. It's essentially an exceedingly well-informed fan film.
The show was created by Matt Groening, the primary figure behind The Simpsons over 30 years ago. But while The Simpsons has endured as the longest running animated series in television history, Futurama suffered production stops and starts, a change in networks, and two cancellations. The film explores the genesis of the show's premise, its unique strengths, the specificity of its outlandish characters, and the factors that might have contributed to its unfortunate fate.
Futurama was incredibly self-assured right out of the gate. The world and characters were well defined, actual scientists were members of the writing staff, and its premise was an odd and striking combination of science fiction, morality play, and cunning comedy. It was also not nearly as mainstream an offering like The Simpsons before it, so its audiences were bound to be more limited from the start.
Through unpredictable time slot shifts and repeat postponements due to NASCAR events, ratings were an endless struggle. Network executives seemed indifferent at best to its continuation. After Fox dumped the series in 2003, its cult of followers and booming DVD sales inspired a pick-up from Comedy Central five years later. Four direct-to-video features were also spun from the series. The film outlines this complicated history, and reviews the merit of each of the show's iterations.
Avid fans of the show are likely to be the most enthused by the documentary's deep-in-the-weeds approach to its subject. But the knowledge and full-throated advocacy of the narration is sure to infect even the most casual fans, and its visuals consist almost entirely of the impressive animations taken directly from the show. It's good, nerdy fun.