For David X. Cohen, celebrating Futurama’s 100th episode already happened. No, the animated sci-fi series’ co-creator and supervising producer isn’t travelling in time. It’s more a matter of the entire animation process.
“It does feels like I’m stepping back in time, actually,” he jokes from his office at Fox Television. “We’ve actually been working on this episode for nearly a year. We actually had our in-house celebration a while ago. At this time, we’ve largely finished our 114th episode. We’re operating so far ahead of our air date I often have to remind myself that we actually wrote that episode ten months ago or something like that. I guess the best way to say it is we are getting to celebrate our 100th episode a second time.”
Then again, Futurama fans do have cause to celebrate. The on-again/off-again history of the series Cohen created with Matt Groening (The Simpsons) is starting to rival the stalwart Doctor Who for lives. Since its debut, it has been canceled at least three times (all on Fox), went on to repeats and incredible success at Adult Swim, and now is settled on Comedy Central.
With the stable schedule on Comedy Central, the series has prospered. According to the network it now draws ratings that rival South Park, Steve Colbert and John Stewart.
This new episode sounds like it’s just the type of things stalwart show aficionados should surely enjoy. Entitled The Mutants Are Revolting!, Mark Mothersbaugh, leader of Devo, guest stars as the mutants who live in New New York City decide it’s time to give those living above the city a little payback..in a manner that would make the late Abbie Hoffman smile.
“It’s very pleasing,” Cohen admits. “What’s especially pleasing is after all the work we do on this series we really want people to see this. It feels really good to know that they are actually watching it. We’ve also gotten very good comments from Comedy Central and Fox (who still produces the series-ED). Two years ago, I never would have thought that we’d be doing our 100th episode. There’s still part of me that says I’ll believe it when I see it on the air.”
Cohen also admits that of the past episodes he has a personal highlight.
“I really loved the forward time machine episode, The Late Philip J. Fry” the admitted science fiction geek acknowledges, “the one where the Professor builds a time machine that can only go forward in time and there’s no way for them to get back. I’m kind of happy how we managed to tell a good science fiction story and at the same time tell a pretty emotional story. We often try to tell two stories at the same time, and I think we did it on both counts.
“It was also an animation tour de force thanks to the guys at Rough Draft, especially director Peter Avanzino. We got to see so many different versions of Earth that all have a different look to them. We really ground the animators down on that one. Peter is also the supervising animator on the series. He is also directing the season finale. “
Otherwise, the future looks bright for Cohen and company. Futurama’s now hard at work on the second half of his contract with Comedy Central, producing a second set of 13 episodes that will air next year. Not that fans will be totally deprived though.
“After the 100th episode we will have a holiday special which will air in November. It will feature Al Gore and Coolio. Of course, Robot Santa will be there. In all, it will be our musical/environmental/holiday special, with Peter Frampton! We’ve done a few of these before. We call them ‘anthologies of interest.’ This will be one of those. It will be a little surreal, even by our standards.”
He’s also finishing up the next DVD collection, which should be on the market just in time for X-Mas.
“We’re working on DVD extras,” says Cohen. “One of them will be a comic book actually drawn by Fry, and even voiced by him. It will be drawn very much in the style that Fry did in the comic book convention episode, Lrreconcilable Ndndifferences. It’s a true Billy West tour de force as he does all the voices in the comic book, all the while as Fry.”
Otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board for the Futurama crew.
“This is more than a fulltime job for me,” says Cohen. “I’m looking to wind down this production through April. Then I will start thinking about the next season. They are scheduled for next year, and by that we’re assuming for next summer, 2011, I think the episodes are only getting better.”
This gives something Futurama fans something they can truly look forward to.