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Future to the Back

The new season of Fox’s Futurama is actually last season’s leftovers, damn it!

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The deep-pockets corporate juggernaut that is Ron’s Tube Town of Apopka, Fla., proved too formidable a foe: The Rock Springs River inner-tubing giant effectively out-maneuvered this column’s defense team last week, finally bringing to an end a bitter four-year legal battle for ownership of the Tube Town name. In the wake of the stunning defeat—which echoed the recent upset of the World Wildlife Fund’s courtroom victory over the World Wrestling Federation for the acronym WWF—a lawyer for The Only TV Column That Matters™ commented, “It was a stupid name, anyway. … Do they validate parking here?”


Bottom line: A new title for your favorite television news source is in order and, after much soul-searching and a subsequent hangover, the column shall henceforth be known as True TV—at least until some jag-off with a Zenith repair shop in Kennewick, Wash., decides he wants a piece. Dry those tears and adjust the fan websites and bootleg merchandise accordingly (though it wasn’t chosen specifically for this reason, True TV does fit more elegantly on the front panel of thong underwear than Tube Town ever did—ditto wife-beaters).


As this fine slice of TV pseudo-journalism enters its fifth season, so does Futurama (Fox; season premiere Sunday, Nov. 10), whether anyone knows it or not. Apart from a few ill-advised weeknight shifts, the Matt Groening cartoon has languished in Sunday-at-6 limbo, a lousy timeslot even when not being bumped for sports programming—which, as those who haven’t given up entirely on Futurama know, happens with maddening frequency. In fact, it occurred so much last season that this one will simply be made up of 14-odd episodes that never got the chance to air. According to Fox, Futurama isn’t technically canceled, they’re just not ordering any new installments because of the backlog they already have to choose from. Maybe next year, they say.


Now, if you’re an Emmy-winning animator or in-demand writer for a seemingly disowned TV show that “might” be invited to come back and get screwed around by NFL Sunday football all over again “if” the Fox brain trust who green-lighted Girls Club (now canceled after two Monday airings, where it was … beaten … by … UPN) give the thumbs-up, how do you reply?


Does the phrase “Kiss my shiny metal ass” ring a bell?


It does to fans of Futurama antihero Bender, the rightful (and robotical) heir to Homer Simpson’s cartoon crown in a just TV world. Creator Groening, who theoretically should be granted godlike carte blanche by Fox for giving them The Simpsons, has been banging his head against this wall for years. “We think that any programming genius would figure out that a show like Futurama, which is sort of part The Simpsons, part The X-Files, I don’t know, could go [between them on] Sunday at 7:30,” he grumbled at a press tour in ’99. “We’ll probably have to wrestle for it.”


Never happened. Apart from a couple of—highly rated, mind you—post-Simpsons outings here and there, Futurama has dutifully remained in its impossible timeslot. Even now, with The X-Files gone and Fox’s Sunday-night lineup reshaped into a three-hour comedy block, it’s still screwed in pre-primetime. What does a sharp sci-fi comedy about a pizza-delivery boy who’s accidentally frozen in the 20th century and reawakened in the 30th to coexist with mutants, aliens and robots (as well as the occasional preserved celebrity head in a jar) have to do to get a little mainstream love?


There are the usual Internet petition outlets (such as the geek-exhaustive GotFuturama.com website), but cable’s Cartoon Network has provided perhaps the ultimate lifeline: Beginning January 2003, Futurama repeats will air Monday through Thursday as a part of the channel’s edgy Adult Swim programming. Remember how extra exposure from USA Network reruns of NBC’s Wings saved that misbegotten sitcom years ago?


Never mind, we’ve all kind of blocked it out …

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