Set in the year 3000, Futurama’s interstellar sci-fi future isn’t a shiny utopia like The Jetsons or a dark dystopia like Blade Runner. It’s a time that seems wonderful or awful depending on how you look at it â€” just like the present. “On The Jetsons, there’s a machine that ties your tie for you,” Cohen says. “On Futurama, there’d be a machine that tied your tie, but it would malfunction and start strangling you.”
Those kinds of macabre twists would be Futurama’s undoing. Fox was expecting something familiar, The Simpsons in space. Executives certainly were not prepared for the bizarre contours of Groening and Cohen’s brave new world. “The network’s attitude quickly went from tremendous excitement to great fear,” Groening says. “They were very troubled by the suicide booth. They didn’t like the ‘All-Tentacle Massage’ parlor.”
Futurama premiered to strong ratings, but as the show was shuffled around the schedule, viewership slipped. Every season, the renewal notice came late â€” so late that there wasn’t always time to deliver a full slate of episodes. After the fourth season, the people working on the show waited and waited for a renewal notice until they eventually assumed â€” correctly â€” that it wasn’t going to come. “We didn’t get to finish the way we would’ve liked,” Cohen says.