Futurama IV: A New Hope

When it comes to Futurama junkies, I can out-bend most.

At the risk of sounding like a total dork, a risk I am all too willing to take, I am currently ranked 4th out of 66483 people at Futurama trivia on Facebook.  Suffice to say I have a keen interest in the latest news coming out of California regarding 20th Century Fox’s call for re-casting the four principal Futurama actors: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, and Maurice LaMarshe.

Bender is a violent drunk
Futurama voice actor avatars: John DiMaggio (Bender), Billy West (Fry), and Katey Sagal (Leela).

I shouted “Wimmy-wam-wam-wazzle!” when I heard that Comedy Central was putting the show back on the air.  It’s my favorite, and like many fans, I felt evil TV executives put the show in an early grave.  Possibly next to John Laroquette’s spine.  The four straight-to-DVD movies were quite admirable – retaining the quirks and attention to detail, if not quite the same amount of funny – but nothing is quite like putting the whole shebang back in production.

This is a big deal to me.  Quite literally, it’s like watching your favorite child come back to life.  You’re bursting with love, but also kinda nervous that the end result will be some bastardized brainless automaton of what you once cherished most.  That said, in short order the issue at hand should be resolved. How so?  To me, there are three primary indicators:

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  1. Futurama has a panel at Comic Con this weekend, where it’s possible they announce that FOX Network (not to be confused with Futurama’s production company 20th Century Fox, though they have the same ownership: check out a really great piece articulating the difference between the two on The Fien Print blog here), will pick up Futurama alongside Comedy Central. This might be the idealist in me, but they would be sure not to hamper this good news and the impending triumphant return with the miasma of unconcluded casting quarrels.  Right?
  2. This is a hardball tactic.  Everyone knows it.  They did it to The Simpsons, they did it to Family Guy, and now they’re doing it to Futurama – and I’d like to point out that in both of the former shows’ cases, the cast got hired as planned and with large amounts of money stuffed in their pockets.
  3. Finally, logic it out.  What, they actually bring in brand new voices?  Show fail.  Bring in low-rent imitators?  On top of frustrating most the show’s fan base, why not just hire Billy West himself to imitate his cast mates?  The guy can do anything!  No, no, none of those options would do.  The bottom line is you can’t bring a show back on the strength of its fan base alone and then stab it in the heart.  Futurama isn’t a pilot.  It’s not out there on air to pick up a whole new generation of fans.  It is there because DVD sales proved it still is a profitable show.  Fans resurrected the show, and if you butcher it at the last minute, you say “antiquing” and detonate the whole project.
Futurama Freedom Dance
Fry and Zoidberg perform the traditional Freedom Day dance for their friends and co-workers.

I cannot see a way that Futurama’s return can remain profitable if  they re-cast.  It works in nobody’s favor if no one watches the show’s rebirth, and alienating the fans is the best way to cause this eventuality.  Please, us fans are beset!  We’ve been put through so much already with cancellation, years of return rumors, and straight-to-DVD patched-together episode-movies, that we really don’t need this last minute trauma.  Scalpel. Blood bucket. Priest. Next patient!

So expect the news of the re-casting to be overturned in short order.  In the next month it will be swept under the carpet and promptly forgotten.  That’s what I predict.  To put it in Futurama-fan terms, they will do to the rumors what the Decapodians did to the Squash People of the Squash Planet – squish them!

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