The show Futurama is an example of a show reaching popularity after its time. For a variety of reasons it never gained a very wide following when originally aired, it found new life in syndication and on DVD.
The Fox Years
Futurama was produced and broadcast by originally by 20th Century Fox. Its creators, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, did all the early design and writing of the show, from the original conception through to production. During production, they stayed closely involved, to ensure the show stayed on-vision and up to quality.
Fox executives, initially excited, didn't really understand the show when episodes started coming out. Consequentially, the show was not given the best treatment by the network. It was plagued with schedule changes and cancellations; of the first production season of 13 episodes, only 9 episodes were aired during the first broadcast season. Fox maintained this treatment for a while before announcing they were pulling the plug on the series.
The DVD volumes came out, and they outsold everyone's expectations. When Cartoon Network picked up the syndication rights and began airing the show weeknights on Adult Swim, the show built up its fan base and quickly became one of the network's highest-rated shows. This surge of popularity added fuel to the existing fan community, who have been crying out for more episodes since news of the show's cancellation by Fox.
The show will continue to air on Adult Swim until the end of 2007, at which time their contract expires and the rights will go to Comedy Central, who out-bid Cartoon Network for the contract renewal. Comedy Central will broadcast the show until 2012.
Rumors have abounded for years. However, intensity of rumors increased in 2005, and in January of 2006 Billy West made an announcement on his web site. He stated that David X. Cohen called him and told him they got a green light to produce 4 feature-length Futurama movies for release to DVD. Production is supposedly to begin in July of 2006, and the first DVD couldn't be expected to hit shelves until at least late 2007. Fans everywhere wait with baited breath, hoping Fox doesn't change their minds or back out of the deal.
Four DVD movies are being planned. Matt Groening, David X. Cohen and numerous writers from the original series are working on the movies.
The first movie, Futurama: "Bender's Big Score" (BBS)
was released on November 27, 2007. It saw the return of most (if not all) of the former crew members.
The first movie was written by Ken Keeler, with story by Ken Keeler and David X. Cohen, and saw the return appearances by the Nibblonians, Seymour, Barbados Slim, Morbo, Robot Santa, the "God" space entity, Al Gore, Zapp Brannigan and many others.
The three other films, "The Beast with a Billion Backs" (TBwaBB)
are proposed to be release during 2008 and 2009. Release dates are unconfirmed as of now.
In late June 2006 it was learned that Comedy Central had resurrected Futurama. At least 16 new episodes will be produced for the first time since the series originally ran from 1999-2003. Comedy can run both the existing and new episodes in January 2008 when their contract takes effect. Katey Sagal was first to confirm the return during an interview on the American series Late Late Show, she had been so excited she didn't read the entire contract before signing. The previously discussed movies are to be made as episodes.
The question remains now whether or not Comedy Central will buy a sixth production season. While the films are seen as a return of the show, it is not a complete return of the show as a TV show. A new production season was not considered possible during the Adult Swim reruns, since Adult Swim or Cartoon Network probably did not have the intend or money distributed to buy another season of Futurama, which is proposed at around the price of 1 million dollars. But Comedy Central may have that will.
It should be noted that it is not Comedy Central bringing back the films, but rather FOX. Which is why their production codes are still associated with FOX. FOX may also buy a sixth production season of the show, but it seems less likely right now (perhaps also with the writers of Futurama making fun of them in the first film).