I just bombarded Futurama's co-creator David X. Cohen with some very important questions, including what he would name his Roomba, why he's not afraid of robots and what Futurama's chances are for renewal. (Spoiler: 50/50.)
Mouth: dry. Stomach: queasy. Head: racing. Not only is David X. Cohen the co-creator of one of my favorite shows of all time, he's a fellow Berkeley computer science alum, fellow nerd, and a tremendously funny guy. He also holds the dream job—comedy writer and creator of a successful Sci Fi TV show. After fully preparing myself by watching the latest Futurama movie—Into the Wild Green Yonder—I had hours worth of questions for the man, but he only had 30 minutes.
I had to get the most important question on everyone's minds out of the way: Will Futurama be coming back to Fox for a 6th season? Although Fox has indeed been making noises about the show's return, Cohen said DVD sales of the fourth movie may be a deciding factor in whether or not the project would be profitable. Basically, we need to go out and buy the DVD and Blu-ray if we want to bring Futurama back. Cohen also revealed that although there is a fifty-fifty chance of the show returning, he has yet to hear more concrete details about it from Fox—according to him, though, "No news is good news."
But how is the movie? In a word, good. In two words, very good. Into the Wild Green Yonder feels as if the Futurama writers used the first three movies as practice for getting back into the groove of writing Futurama episodes and was a final coda to the series. That's not to say that the first three movies were bad—they were just different.
If the Bender-focused, first half hour of the movie were its own episode, it would solidly land in any "top ten funniest Futurama episodes of all times" list, hands down. However, because the next 58 minutes covered some very familiar, classic Futurama-esque territory, it made Into the Green Yonder feel like the one movie—out of the four—that connected the most with the series. But why this movie, why now?
Bringing this movie back to the feel of the series, as Cohen revealed, was somewhat intentional. For each one of the Futurama movies, the writers decided that they would cover one major area of Sci Fi. The latest one, like the series itself, is more of a large space opera that comfortably cradles you back into the company of the Futurama characters you grew to love. Cohen also pointed out that a scene in the newest movie—the one where Leela is giving out space coordinates—is probably one of the "most hardcore things they've done" in terms of showing respect for actual science.
It's these science fans as well as the more hardcore viewers that would have noticed when Futurama's writers give shout outs to real-world physics in their jokes—such as when the Professor invoked the observer effect after a horse race. This ability to mix humor with scientific intelligence is one of the greatest benefits of having so many smart writers on staff. The other benefit? The ability to actually have an interesting vision of the future.
And it's this future that Fry's trying to save once again. This could be why the Green Yonder felt like it was slightly retreading old territory. If you've seen some of Fry's Nibblonian episodes, I'm sure you're familiar with the basic premise—we get it: Fry's special and he's the only one who can save the universe. But that's not to say there weren't some great moments to be had during these 88 minutes. This is more akin to strolling down a familiar street you haven't seen in years, examining which stores have changed and which haven't, and reveling in the fact that you're lucky enough to be back once more.
As the series draws to a (temporary) close, we wonder if we've learned the entirety of Fry's origin story and how he came to be in the year 3000. Not to worry, Cohen assures that he is not finished with that tale quite yet. When asked how much of it was left—after the Nibblonian saga was finished and the "Lars" adventure in the first DVD movie—he responded that there is "one sentence," uttered in the series that was left unaddressed. But it's up to superfans to figure out which sentence, not to mention which episode, he is referring to.
Because David X. Cohen helped create the entire world and backstory of Futurama, he's given a lot of thought to the future. Our future. Because he didn't want to go to extremes and create either a utopia or a dystopia, Futurama's universe is only about 50% realistic, according to Cohen. It does, however, borrow some ideas from our own world for both comedic and dramatic effect.
So what, if anything, in our real world future is David X. Cohen most afraid of? It isn't robots, surprisingly enough. It's stuff like nuclear bombs. Wars. And technology that kills people, fast. Things that—when taking the fact that Cohen grew up in the cold war and studied physics at Harvard into account—makes a lot of sense. But robots? Nope.
You would think that because Cohen is such a fan of robots, it would make sense that he'd own a Roomba. But he doesn't. He laughs that Matt Groening gives him shit for this fact (if anyone should have a Roomba, it would be Cohen).
Is there any Futurama left to tell? Cohen thinks so. Besides further expanding on Fry's origin story, he's got plans to make the Planet Express crew exhibits in an alien zoo (among other things). However, beyond little ideas here and there, what's currently occupying Cohen's mind is how to escape from the crazy corner they've painted themselves into at the end of Green Yonder. Given Fox's recent interest in bringing back the show for another season on television (50/50 chance!), it's one mess Cohen will likely have to bend his way out of.
As for the Roomba, if Cohen ever were to get one, he'd name it Browser.