Posted by Brian on 06/09/2009
20th Century Fox TV plans to produce 26 new episodes of Futurama to air on Comedy Central in mid-2010. Creator Matt Groening said he and co-creator David X. Cohen already have potential storylines that they never got around to producing during the show’s original incarnation. “It’s sweet, and basically everybody who has worked on the show wants to come back,” Groening said. “I choose to believe it’s more than the economic situation. People had a good time working on this show.”
“We discovered that, like ‘Family Guy,’ there’s a passionate core audience and a tremendous pent-up demand to see more ‘Futurama,'” said 20th Century Fox TV chairman Gary Newman. It took cable channel Comedy Central airing all 72 off-net episodes of as well as the DVD episodes in January 2008 to get Fox’s attention. “The animation on ‘Futurama’ has always been so intricate, and there are costs associated with that,” Newman said. In order to make the deal work costs were trimmed — leading to a smaller writing staff and shorter delivery schedule, among other changes. “Across the board, everyone is doing a little belt tightening,” Newman said. “That’s what’s necessary to get this thing into production … no one is going to make a big payday on the show, including the studio.”
As part of the deal, 20th still has an option to license the new episodes’ original runs to a broadcast network (such as Fox). If the show does go to broadcast, Comedy Central’s license fee will be reduced. “It’s a deal we’re all happy with,” said Comedy Central programming senior VP David Bernath. “It’s a bigger win for us promotionally if we wind up going first … but if we wind up in second position, then the economics work out for us as well.” Comedy Central’s rights run well into the next decade, which is why the net was so invested in the production of new episodes.
Writing has already begun on the show. Groening said he was inspired by Star Trek and that the updated Futurama may take a similar approach to explain the re-launch. Voice actors Billy West (who played Philip Fry), Katey Sagal (Leela) and John DiMaggio (Bender) have all signed on to return.