News Column

Trippy: 'Futurama' is history -- again -- as time-traveling toon ends latest run [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA)]

September 1, 2013

YellowBrix

Futuristic delivery guy Philip J. Fry (voice of Billy West) finally gets his happy ending with the lovely Leela (voice of Katey Sagal), albeit with dire consequences for the rest of the universe, as "Futurama" ends its long run Sept. 4.

"We wanted to push the Fry and Leela relationship to its conclusion," explains executive producer David X. Cohen, who created "Futurama" with Matt Groening of "The Simpsons." "If this really is our last episode, we wanted to have a payoff for this story that has been bubbling on and off for the last 13 years. We decided to give fans Fry and Leela's wedding, although, of course, in a twisted sci- fi way."

If Cohen sounds uncertain whether his show is really ending, you have to cut the guy some slack. This animated series -- which premiered on Fox in 1999, then found new life via direct-to-DVD movies before eventually landing at its most recent home on Comedy Central in 2009 -- has come back from the brink before.

"It's never that good a sign if you've gotten really good at writing series finales," Cohen says, laughing. "That means something has gone wrong, and this is literally the fourth episode that we have written with the expectation that it was going to be our series finale. We probably have the most experience at writing series finales as any show."

This time feels different, though, he says, and series star West - - who voices several characters in addition to leading man Fry -- says it hit him that the end was in sight during the cast's recent appearance at Comic-Con in San Diego.

"It hit me on that Saturday that this was it," recalls West, a veteran voice actor who calls "Futurama" his favorite gig in his long career. "I was very emotional. ... The thing is, I was never emotional about the seeming end of 'Futurama' those times before, and this time I was, and that must mean that I'm prepared."

It helps, of course, that a long-rumored crossover episode between "Futurama" and "The Simpsons" finally is going to occur during the coming season of the latter show, penned by former "Futurama" writer-producer J. Stewart Burns.

"Al Jean, who is the show runner (on 'The Simpsons'), approached Matt and me and asked our opinion," Cohen explains. "Matt was all for it, because the animation styles are basically the same, and it also would be a nice tribute to 'Futurama' after all the work that had gone into it. I agreed, so it's really happening."

Futurama" has won several Emmys and other awards.

Cohen points to a Season 3 episode called "The Luck of the Fryrish" as a fan favorite

"It was an episode where Fry learns more about his brother, whom he had left behind in the year 2000," he says. "Many viewers said we gave them a tear in the eye. ... I felt really proud that we had gotten people invested enough in the show that they could be moved."

John Crook writes for Zap2it.com.

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