Goodbye, Futurama - but what's next?

Last updated 09:46 24/04/2013

Bad news, everyone! As reported yesterday on Stuff, Futurama has been cancelled by Comedy Central, and will finish its run on September 4 this year. It could be saved again, sure - but this is the third time it's been cancelled. Unlike Fry's faithful old dog, at some point you just have to let go and move on.

20130424Futurama isn't the only animated show on the chopping block this week: The Cleveland Show also looks set to be cancelled, with multiple sources reporting that Fox has declined to order any more episodes of the Family Guy spinoff, despite the fact that no official word has been given by the network. As a buddy on Twitter pointed out "[It] will be hilarious watching Cleveland move back to Quahog ... it's gonna happen. Make peace with it."

It's easy to see why both shows failed. Futurama has had its moments, but it's been far too derivative of The Simpsons over the years, partly due to expectations dating back to when it launched; remember, Futurama started in 1999, just as The Simpsons was either in the middle of, or coming out of (depending who you ask), its creative peak.

I think many viewers (myself included, at the time) expected Futurama to be every bit as good as The Simpsons, and were disappointed when it wasn't. Not then, not now.

The Cleveland Show, on the other hand, has been an epic creative failure. Cleveland wasn't even the most interesting character in his own family on Family Guy (that would be his golf genius son), and why he - and not Quagmire; imagine a show centred on Quagmire as he tries his hand at running a brothel in New York City - was given a spinoff is a mystery. My best guess: Cleveland is black and the writers wanted to make more jokes about black people.

If a character's only real contribution to a show is whining "no, no, no, no, no" as his bathtub falls out the side of his house, then it's a safe bet that any show based around him won't be that entertaining. And The Cleveland Show really wasn't that entertaining.

I'm not too upset by either cancellation. I won't shed a tear for either show. But I am wondering if the age of adult animated comedy is coming to an end.

For the last decade or two, we've been spoilt for choice with animation: The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy captured the imagination of adult audiences worldwide, registering massive audiences and launching spinoffs, both directly related like The Cleveland Show, and indirectly related; does Seth Green get to launch Robot Chicken without the success of Family Guy (and an assist from the rise of geek culture)? I doubt it.

But while the Big Three (I'll accept Big Four, if you want to include American Dad) keep ticking along, nothing seems to be rising to take their place. There are some decent animated shows around: Archer is consistently great, albeit a bit more grown up than the current crop; Regular Show got a run on TV2 late at night but is probably a little childish (as is Young Justice, one of my favourite cartoons, and Adventure Time); Bob's Burgers is okay, but it's not in the same league as the bigger shows; and Neighbours from Hell and Napoleon Dynamite were both dead on arrival.

Looking through that lineup, it's no wonder the American networks keep renewing The Simpsons and Family Guy, and giving Seth MacFarlane money to make more animated comedies. However, those cash cows are going to dry up eventually. And as of right now, there isn't a decent replacement on the horizon.

So farewell, Futurama and The Cleveland Show. You won't be missed. I just hope something new pops up soon.

Are you sad about the cancellation of either Futurama or The Cleveland Show? Do you think adult animated comedy is on the way out? What animated shows are you enjoying?

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