Bad News, Everyone: Futurama Canceled Again, Again

The entire universe in blog form
April 22 2013 3:45 PM

Futurama Canceled Again. Again.

Futurama: No Longer For Human Consumption

Image Credit: Futurama TM and © 2012

There is a hypothesis—out of favor now, but it had its heyday—that the universe was cyclical. Big Bang, expansion, slowing, stopping, shrinking, Big Crunch … and then kaboom, another Big Bang, and here we go again.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Art imitates life. The TV show Futurama exploded in to the geek community, rose in popularity, then was canceled. Then it was reborn, only to be canceled again. And then for a second time it was reborn from its ashes.


But this cycle may be the last. Perhaps it’s entropy. Perhaps it’s a network executive who thinks Scruffy hits too close to home. Whatever the underlying mechanism, Futurama has seen its last cosmic expansion. It’s been canceled again. Again. And probably for no raisin.

Futurama Farnsworth
My sentiments exactly.

Image Credit: Futurama TM and © 2012/Cheezburger

To say I love Futurama is like saying Nibbler loves to eat, and that Popplers are tasty. How often do you get a geeky, hugely scientifically based cartoon that is also incredibly funny? And it wasn’t just funny, it was smart. But that’s no surprise, given that executive producer David X. Cohen has degrees in both physics and computational science. Many of the writers had degrees in science and math, and that was reflected in the show.

Not that is was all science all the time. When was the last time an animated show made you cry? If you answer “never,” then you have either never seen “Jurassic Bark,” or you have had your soul surgically removed. Chunks of granite weep openly at the end of that episode.

Over its long run, Futurama has had way too many incredible scientific joke and plot points to point out individually. It is one of the few TV shows to actually respect the edicts of time travel. (Heck, it set up a massive later time travel plot line in the opening scene of the pilot.) It featured black holes, exploding stars, galactic governments, and more.

But if I had to pick one that idea laser-focused itself directly into my brain, it would be from “The Late Philip J. Fry”. The basic plot line is that mad scientist Professor Farnsworth invents a time machine but it has no reverse: It can only travel into the future. Fry, Farnsworth, and the robot Bender wind up going ever farther into the distant future. And when they do, what they find is surprisingly scientifically accurate.

They travel to the year one billion, where the Earth is a scorched desert. This is predicted by stellar astrophysics: The sun is slowly getting hotter. You wouldn’t notice day by day, or even century by century, but over tens of millions of years it makes a difference. In about a billion years, the sun will be about 10 percent brighter, enough to raise the Earth’s temperature 10 degrees F. The Earth will cook.

Futurama year one billion
999,996,990 years in the future.

Image Credit: Futurama TM and © 2012

They jump forward again, this time to the year 1 x 1035. Professor Farnsworth notes this is the time when all matter will cease to exist, and again, that’s about right: A current idea is that protons themselves, a constituent of essentially all normal matter, can spontaneously decay. The process is agonizingly slow and may very well take as long as Farnsworth noted. Give or take a factor of 10 or 100 in the age of the universe, but after that point in time, all matter will have disintegrated into a thin, ethereal soup.

Finally, though, as they watch from inside the time machine, a second Big Bang occurs, forming a universe identical to this one. They keep moving forward in time and wind up stopping at precisely the moment they left (more or less, but … spoilers).

I practically vibrated out of my chair watching this episode. I wrote a book, “Death from the Skies!”, which describes all this in detail. I never was able to find out, but I have to wonder if any of the writes of Futurama read it …

Oh, that show. And sure, I felt a personal connection with it, but still, it was brilliant. It spawned an actual mathematical theorem, has a character named after an obscure piece of orchestral music, did the funniest Star Trek parody ever created, invented its own alien language cypher, and was, quite simply, one of the best science fictions programs ever aired. I will miss it profoundly.

Oh well. We’ll always have Zoidberg.

Dr. John Zoidberg
Dr. John Zoidberg

Image Credit: Futurama TM and © 2012


War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.


It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Use Facebook to Reconnect With Old Friends, Share Photos, and Serve People With Legal Papers

  News & Politics
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 11:00 AM Google Exec: Climate Change Deniers Are “Just Literally Lying”
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?