In 2003, disaster struck. After airing for four seasons and capturing the hearts of fans in the process with its incredible mix of bizarre humor and undeniable heart, Fox pulled the plug on the David X. Cohen/Matt Groening-created animated series "Futurama." Hopes were reborn in 2007 when direct-to-DVD movies were announced for later airing as a pseudo fifth season on Comedy Central. But the real coup came in June 2009, when Fox announced that Comedy Central had picked up the show for 26 all-new episodes. The new batch begins tonight, with two episodes airing starting at 10 p.m.
"I didn't see it coming seven years ago, so it's a pretty pleasant surprise," Cohen told MTV in a recent interview. "We've had a real roller coaster on this show. We went off the air in 2003 on Fox and went our separate ways, and really didn't have any hope at that time of coming back. It's just not something that happens much in television. But then, lo and behold, these reruns went on along with 'Family Guy' at 2 a.m. on [Adult Swim] and people started to report to us that they were getting high ratings in the middle of the night, to our surprise."
"That was really the very first bit of hope we had at that point," he continued. "And then 'Family Guy' blazed a trail, going to a direct-to-DVD release and then back to episodes, and that's really when our hopes went up another notch. And sure enough, we then got the call to do some direct-to-DVD releases and subsequently these episodes. So [it's been] a long road, but we're pleased to be here."
Cohen admits that the call for more episodes came after the four "Futurama" movies were released to the world, being rabidly consumed by fans who still yearned for more. Before that, it was just more of the same waiting and hoping.
"It remained typically dramatic in terms of our cancellation and rebirth history," he said. "We actually finished all four of those movies not knowing we were coming back and we once again closed up shop and went home. Now in this case it was pretty quickly after that that we heard we were coming back, but we did not know yet. So I think they were really waiting to see how all four of those DVDs did before they went ahead and put us back on the air."
The end of the four movies certainly has a feeling of finality to it. "Into the Wild Green Yonder," the last of the four, sends the series' main players flying off into the great unknown, as Cohen says, "perhaps never to be seen again." He added, "That was entirely representative of our own knowledge of our fates at that point."
Of the new season, he promises that, as strong as things start off — Comedy Central sent out tonight's premiere episodes to press, and yes, they're great — things just keep getting "better and better."
"It's a relief to be back in our native half-hour format here, and I think we had a lot of stuff to get off our chests, so there are some really good episodes coming," he said.
But just because the team works best in their "native half-hour format," that doesn't mean Cohen doesn't think the show could go bigger. Forget the direct-to-DVD movies, which are designed to be broken into individual episodes. Like "The Simpsons" a few years back, Cohen sees plenty of potential for a proper "Futurama" movie.
"I actually think 'Futurama' is really ideal for a feature movie just because of the epic setting and the outer space opportunities and space battles — it seems better-suited for a feature movie than 'The Simpsons,' for example, which had a very successful movie," he explained. "So if any Fox executives are reading this, yes I am available for that job!"