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January 5th, 2006


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12:23 am - Ranting about the inconsequential
I understand that what with all of my friends' lives in turmoil (and they are, but it won't be discussed here) you all have better things to worry about than this, but I just read that Fox is considering reviving Futurama. The operative word in that sentence is "considering". "Considering" means that they still need to get the actors back on board, not to mention the folks involved in actually producing it.

I'm talking about Futurama here because I enjoy it (though not to the nearly unhealthy degree which many of my friends do), but I think bringing it back is going to disappoint people. Whenever audience outcry prompts the comeback of a canceled TV show (and it's a very rare occurrence), the new episodes compare poorly to the originals. Twin Peaks is the best example I can think of, but The Family Guy is probably more familiar to you.

Many of my friends were ecstatic when The Family Guy's resurrection was announced, but when the new episodes premiered they griped about the loss of the show's satiric edge. American Dad has the same problem: it looks and feels like a Seth MacFarlane production, and yet the humor tastes watered down. This is not a coincidence. We're talking network TV here. When The Family Guy came back, its creators were at the mercy of Fox -- not the other way around.

The Family Guy was smart and edgy and incredibly offensive to a lot of people. Futurama is also smart and edgy and incredibly offensive to a lot of people. The hiatus gave Seth MacFarlane and his cowriters time to mature (or at least change) their sensibilities. More importantly, Fox had time to scrutinize The Family Guy, figure out how and why it worked, and how it could be made to work better. They didn't say "stop making fun of Republicans" or anything like that, but I'm sure there's an unofficial list of "Topics the Show Can't Touch" which was created after The Family Guy's initial run. It's a Family Guy-specific list that doesn't apply to any other show. There's probably also an official list of "Things That Got a Good Audience Response and Which Should Happen on the Show More Often." This is the way these things are done.

Fox's goal is not to please the purists, but to grab as many viewers as they can. If making a show accessible means watering it down to just above the point where old fans get bored, that's what they'll do. The revival of a once-canceled show gives them an easy opportunity to throw their editorial weight around. The Family Guy's creators had control over the show while it was running, but Fox took the reigns after it got canceled. It doesn't matter that Fox came crawling back, they still had all the cards (and the reigns, I guess). Futurama, if it comes back to Fox (probably if it comes back to anywhere), will have the same problem.
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[User Picture]
From:xoshua
Date:January 5th, 2006 06:35 am (UTC)
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actually... probably not. ownership of futurama is different, because -- being halfway intelligent -- after simpsons got huge, groening has much more control.

personally, i'd let it stay where it is... not just because shows aren't as good when they come back... but because sometimes it goes too long... like those freaky yellow simpsons people.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:January 5th, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC)
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Damn. I was just thinking yesterday about how I'd probably never see you on LJ again. Welcome back!

I disagree, though. Futurama is canceled, and it's not coming back without Fox's blessing. If they sell it to Comedy Central or Cartoon Network, Groening will have the control he wants. In the meantime, he's gotta make any sacrifices they want him to make. They won't be completely unreasonable because it would risk the show's core audience, but there's likely to be some "less of this, more of that" going on.

Now... If he's happy doing nothing but direct-to-video Futurama products, that's a different story.
[User Picture]
From:xoshua
Date:January 6th, 2006 06:34 am (UTC)
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"Damn. I was just thinking yesterday about how I'd probably never see you on LJ again. Welcome back!"

thank you for waiting to welcome me after damning me. and yeah... i had (and still have no stable) internet connection at home.

"Fox is considering reviving Futurama."

this is what i was talking about groening and ownership. fox can talk all they want about considering it, but i'm pretty sure they need groening on for it to happen (legally). i was (unsuccessfully) saying he may decline unless they give him the control he wants, including not watering down something he's managed to maintain this amount of control over.

assuming, you know... he cares about that kind of thing.

~j!
[User Picture]
From:crabmoon
Date:January 5th, 2006 07:10 am (UTC)
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I'm trying to not get excited. It won't happen, but I REALLY want it to!
[User Picture]
From:seanorange
Date:January 5th, 2006 04:58 pm (UTC)
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You made that icon from a picture I took, didn't you.

Colin. I'm so, SO sorry...

~Away!!
[User Picture]
From:evil_jim
Date:January 5th, 2006 08:18 am (UTC)
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That could explain why I found this the other night at the IMDB.
From:renny1780
Date:January 5th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC)
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That makes much more sense now.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:January 5th, 2006 03:45 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I think this is a different project. It appears to be the direct-to-video Futurama movie which was announced last year.
From:renny1780
Date:January 5th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
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I'll have to agree with Josh on this one. Matt Groening has much more control because of The Simpsons so, Futurama coming back may not change it as much. I would be very excited if Futurama did come back...but, alas, I won't hold my breath!
[User Picture]
From:r3507
Date:January 5th, 2006 03:38 pm (UTC)
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Also, Futurama was nowhere near as much of a button-pusher as Family Guy. I'm not worried that they'll try to make it less "edgy," because, well, "edgy" was never the main thrust of the show (whereas Family Guy frequently seemed to me to aim for offense first, humor second).

However, I think they might try to make Futurama less weird, as that was both definitely the main thrust of the show and something that could limit it's appeal.

As for American Dad...my feeling is almost the exact opposite. It feels to me like they let Seth run wild, and he's more interested in making points than jokes.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:January 5th, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC)
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The thing is, Fox isn't losing money on keeping Futurama in deep freeze. Regardless of how much control Matt Groening has over the show, he still has to play ball if he wants the show back on the air on that particular network. I'm sure Fox will sell the show if Comedy Central (or somebody) wants to pony up the money for it, but until that happens, Fox still gets to say "we'd like to see more of this, less of that, and none of this at all."

And for the record, I'm more worried that they'll slightly curb the weirdness and originality of the show. Futurama has done its share of envelope pushing (boy howdy, has it ever), but it's a far cry from The Family Guy in the cannibalism/incest/feces-jokes department.

Re: American Dad
Really? You're the first person I've heard voice that opinion. Everybody else I've talked to agrees with me that it feels very watered down. The political bias in the original seasons of The Family Guy was very distinct. Now, both shows exhibit a bias which seems to me to be more calculated, as if they're trying to grab the same audience as would watch, say, Liberals Say the Darndest Things.
[User Picture]
From:r3507
Date:January 5th, 2006 05:49 pm (UTC)
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I think we hold the same opinion about American Dad, to wit, that the show is way more overtly political at the expense of being funny (correct me if I'm wrong on this). I'm attributing it to Seth, and you're attributing it to the network. Personally, I prefer an honest political bias to the South Park-esque "If I criticize both sides, it automatically means I'm right" crap that Family Guy sometimes indulges in. Granted, I won't watch the conservatively-biased program, but I appreciate the honesty.

I fear I'm misunderstanding your your last sentence there, because American Dad basically is "Conservatives Say The Darndest Things."
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:January 5th, 2006 06:53 pm (UTC)
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As evidenced by numerous interviews given by Seth MacFarlane, Fox has really cracked down on certain types of jokes (specifically "poop jokes" (his words, not mine)), but you may be right about the political tone of American Dad being his choice. That last sentence of my comment is in reference to a couple of discussions about the show which I've had with the conservatives in my social group (admittedly, that's two people) and a couple in my extended family. Liberal fans look at the show as a crazily exaggerated picture of how conservatives act, whereas conservative fans look at it as a crazily exaggerated picture of how liberals think conservatives act. They think MacFarlane is batting for their team. Is he? Probably not, but who knows? There's no way the dual fan base was an accident.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:January 5th, 2006 04:44 pm (UTC)
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Well, keep in mind that The Simpsons has mellowed a lot since its Rennaisance (lets call it seasons 3-5). Stylistic changes on The Simpsons are less easy to track because the show's been running all this time. They can (and do) make gradual adjustments. Futurama, on the other hand, was canceled. Fox has the rights to it and might be persuaded to sell (or more likely, lease) it, but if the show is coming back to Fox, they will definitely have a say in its content before they pay for new episodes.
[User Picture]
From:seanorange
Date:January 5th, 2006 05:05 pm (UTC)
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I guess I didn't notice the show being anything less than it was before. If anything, I thought it got a lot racier. I have most of the new season (I guess there were only 13 episodes ordered, and they're all out on DVD already), which we watched on New Year's, and I didn't hear anyone complain. In fact, I enjoyed some of those episodes MORE than the old stuff.

I'll go back and take another look. I'm still not terribly familiar with the third season (something I have yet to buy).

~Sean
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From:theenigma42
Date:January 6th, 2006 03:05 am (UTC)
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I must admit, that once they got over having the scary monkey in every episode, and other fan-favs inserted only to be there for the fans, I like the new episodes quite a bit. I think some of the most outrageous stuff has actually happened in the new episodes. The episode where they are stranded on a deserted island and Peter eats Joe's legs, and they all end up trying to "Get with" each other is one of the most potentially offensive in existence. It's very hard for me to judge which I like better, partially because I'm so happy to be getting new material. If I had to see the episode where Brian becomes a coke addict one more time, I probably would have stopped watching all together. I find that now that everyones gotten back into their grooves, the show is about the same as it always was. Almost as if the cancelation never happened.
-KEiTH
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:January 6th, 2006 03:55 am (UTC)
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Admittedly, I gave up on the new episodes of The Family Guy before the most recent season started. Maybe the writers did get back into their "grooves," but I'm pretty sure that the overuse of the scary monkey (along with other over-repeated jokes from the old seasons) was dictated by the network trying to latch on to the wrong aspects of the show's popularity.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:January 6th, 2006 04:15 am (UTC)
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I didn't mean "before the most recent season," I meant after the temporary, planned hiatus that started in July or August. I stopped watching in July, partly because I was losing my access TV but mostly because I was bored with the show.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:January 6th, 2006 04:13 am (UTC)
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Specifically, I'm talking about the first several episodes of the new season. Everybody I talked to about it complained that they were recycling the best jokes from the previous seasons, and that's how I felt too. My best guess was that Fox took a look at the show and a few online message boards, figured out what was working, and said "do more of this."

Admittedly though, I stopped watching in July, and haven't seen any of the newest episodes. Keith (whom I generally trust) says it's pretty good, so maybe with a good start under their belt, the writers were able to get the show back on track.
Ranting about the inconsequential - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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