Leela, Bender and Fry, <EM>Futurama</EM> Leela, Bender and Fry, Futurama

Good news, everyone! Fans of Matt Groening's smart, satirical animated series Futurama are getting an early Christmas present this year with Bender's Big Score — the first new content from the show since its 2003 cancellation — out today on DVD. Bender's Big Score, which guest-stars Al Gore, Coolio and Sarah Silverman, finds the gang battling a nudist plot to take over Earth. Three more original straight-to-DVD movies are forthcoming, and in 2008 the four releases will be broken up into 16 episodes for Comedy Central. Futurama's executive producer David X. Cohen talked to TVGuide.com about the DVDs' big-name guest stars and why Futurama never quite made it.

TVGuide.com: So what will be different between the Futurama DVDs and the Comedy Central episodes?
David X. Cohen: We're beginning with the four direct-to-DVD feature releases, and then down the road, each of them will appear as an epic four-episode arc on Comedy Central. There are a few things on the DVD that we won't have on the show, and a couple of things on the show that won't be on the DVD, because it'll be for TV. But I think the fans will be pleased. It's like good-old Futurama but expanded to a more movielike feel.

TVGuide.com: What can you tell us about the next three Futurama releases?
Cohen: The second one picks up where the first one leaves off — there's a little bit of a cliff-hanger on this first movie, so anyone who's worried, we are going to address that in the second one. The second one is an inter-universal love story about this horrible monster, played by David Cross, who has a love affair with all living beings in our universe simultaneously. It's a very futuristic love story. Brittany Murphy is in that as well, and also Stephen Hawking. And then the third one is our first foray into the world of fantasy — which is hard to believe, given that it's perfect Futurama material. I think it will be very good for the Futurama toy business, I'm hoping. [Laughs] It'll be kind of the monster versions of various characters people know and love — well, the ones who aren't already monsters, like Dr. Zoidberg. George Takei and Rich Little have cameos. The fourth movie has an epic sci-fi plot, an ancient struggle between these two forces that are billions of years old, and naturally our crew gets stuck in the middle of it. Snoop Dogg is in that one; he plays the chief justice of the Supreme Court in the future.

TVGuide.com: Why do you think Futurama never hit it big like The Simpsons did?
Cohen: It does have a very devoted, hardcore following. At the time we were on the air, we got bounced all over the schedule — that's my main excuse; I've got plenty of excuses, but that's my main one. The ratings were never terrible — they were always kind of in this intermediate zone. What we really needed was a good friend at the network to give us a lot of promotion and a prime time slot, and we never got either, unfortunately. As Matt Groening likes to point out, we finally got moved to this death slot of 7 pm on Sunday, and Fox's slogan was, "The fun begins at 8!" That was kind of a sign that we weren't getting the maximum attention from the marketing department. We lacked some friends in high places.

TVGuide.com: Do you think the sci-fi theme is less appealing to a general audience than the family-sitcom feel of The Simpsons?
Cohen: It's hard to say, because the show has gone on to surprising success in reruns on the Cartoon Network. Once it was on at the same time every day and people were able to keep finding it, it did well. But it's definitely more of a niche thing than The Simpsons, which is about a family and it's easy to understand the concept right away — and it's the greatest show in the history of TV! [Laughs] Of course, I wrote for The Simpsons for five years.

TVGuide.com: Bender's Big Score is the first carbon-neutral DVD from 20th Century Fox. How did that come about?
Cohen: Matt Groening and I made that decision, for two reasons: Of course, we were inspired by Al Gore, since he's a guest star in the movie, and, personally, my parents are both biologists and my dad especially has considered this a very important issue for years, so it was a way to make my parents proud. We investigated it thoroughly ourselves and then went to Fox and said, "We think it will cost this much." And they said, "Oh, you should have just told us — [News Corporation] has a whole office dedicated to this." They were actually very eager to help us out. They bought carbon offsets and they did things like, on the DVD, there's no little plastic nub in there: The DVD just goes into a cardboard sleeve, so they tried to reduce a little bit of the manufacturing creation of carbon.

TVGuide.com: One last thing — where does the X in your name come from?
Cohen: It's completely fraudulent; I'm very proud of that fact. It actually goes back to [when I joined] the Writers Guild: There was already a David S. Cohen, which is my real middle initial, and they won't allow any two members to have the same name. So I said, "I'm going to be the David Cohen whose middle initial is most memorable."

TVGuide.com: And the X just sounded cool?
Cohen: Yeah, and it was right around when Futurama was starting, and I said, "Well, what's the most sci-fi letter? Obviously X, as everybody knows."

Check out Futurama clips in our Online Video Guide.

The special double issue of TV Guide now on newsstands features our exclusive in-depth guide to Dancing with the Stars' remaining contenders. Try four risk-free issues of TV Guide now!

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.