Futurama: In strong contention for my all-time favorite TV show.
Don’t get me wrong, The Simpsons is Matt Groening’s indisputable masterpiece. It redefined television, let alone animation. But on a purely personal level, Futurama comes up trumps.
Developed in the late ‘90s while The Simpsons enjoyed the peak of its popularity, Fox debuted the adventures of Philip J. Fry and co. on March 28th, 1999. It remained on air until 2003, before network cancellation induced a five-year hiatus (and believe me, that was a long wait).
Futurama’s glorious return came in the form of four direct-to-video movies, released between 2008 and 2009. Soon afterwards, Comedy Central snapped up all rights and broadcast these unsung gems in the form of 16 half-hour episodes. Brand new eps aired in 2010, culminating in (yet another) series finale three years later.
Despite the off-and-on nature of its lifespan, Futurama has received nothing short of widespread acclaim, earning nominations for gazillions of awards (and winning a commendable percentage of ‘em). Co-creator David X. Cohen maintains the 31st Century shenanigans have met with Ultimate End, while Groening refuses to dismiss hope of re-resurrection.
Originally intended to be remixed for each episode, Futurama’s opening theme ranks among the show’s most distinct features. Composer Christopher Tyng’s blend of tubular bells and nifty drum breaks (sampled from “Amen, Brother”, a late ‘60s track by funk/soul group The Winstons) offers an unquestionably cool, fun and unique sound.
Well, I say unique...
I recently stumbled upon a curious piece of music by Pierre Henry, a French pioneer of electronica. Released in 1967, the track in question goes by the name of Psyché Rock. It sounds rather…similar to Futurama’s theme. Have a listen for yourself:
Did I say it sounds similar...? Correction: It's freakishly similar. In spots, darn near identical.
In fairness, Futurama’s producers later noted they wanted to actually use Psyché Rock as the show’s theme, but unable to acquire rights, requested Christopher Tyng compose a “tribute” to the groundbreaking slice of old school electronica.
The big question: Was the theme genuinely intended as a respectful ode to Henry’s original? Or, as various Internet-dwellers have suggested, does Tyng's offering deserve to be deemed a barefaced swipe?
Speaking as the show's most devout fan, I’m obliged to go with the former. As declared in one episode's opening message (as the theme itself rolls in), “Futurama does not advocate the cool crime of stealing.”
I’m sure of this much: While voicing Bender, the all-powerful overlord of beer-guzzling nutjobs, John DiMaggio delivers the finest voice acting in animation history.* The badassness knows no bounds!
*Disclaimer: I am rather biased due to Bender being my official Spirit Animal.