While The Simpsons is the Matt Groening animated series that gets pegged for its uncanny prescience, let no one forget that the entirety of Futurama is a series of predictions, given its 1,000-years-in-the-future time setting. Co-creator David X. Cohen was recently replying to a comment about Futurama having predicted a Baywatch movie coming into existence, and he then remarked on how that kind of pop culture foreshadowing isn't always a good thing, pegging one particular prediction he hoped would remain unrealized.
Now when I see [those references] I get really nervous. Like, there's one joke about Bender. I don't remember the exact line, but it's something like, 'I hope I don't get buried alive like Julia Roberts.' Jeez, what if that happened? It's very unlikely to happen, but if it did, it would really wreck up that episode very badly. There are some of them where we probably should have just done something else.
I know the more morbid-minded among us started chuckling just then, but for real, that's a downright frightening scenario in any capacity, and being buried alive is ranked among the top fears that people have. And the joke didn't go broad with its targeting, such as "buried alive like a non-specific Academy Award-winning actress," or "buried alive like one of the stars of August: Osage County." Or even "buried alive like someone who has the name Julia and/or Roberts, though not necessarily in that order." No, there aren't many ways for Julia Roberts to get buried alive and not have it come back to Futurama clips.
A joke of that variety likely wouldn't have been used on a random Simpsons episode in the future, though the "Treehouse of Horror" installments have definitely gone to some dark places. But Bender is the kind of character who can pepper just about any conversation with comments like that and not get robot-demonized for it. In fact, I'd wager a guess that compiling all of Bender's future-leaning comments would bring up quite a few cringe-worthy bits like that. I'm not saying anyone should go out and do that right now, but it would be better than someone going out and setting up a scenario where a celebrity could be buried alive.
While talking with Uproxx, David X. Cohen explained why Futurama intentionally tried to avoid making as many pop culture jokes as similar series.
We didn't do a lot of pop culture references compared to any of the other Fox shows, just because we're set in the future. When we did, it was more often with the head in the jar, or some twist on it. But once in awhile we couldn't resist and we stuck something in. Those are what kind of stand out now. 'Oh, this show wasn't made last week. It was made 15 years ago.' So in general, I think it was wise to not go too deep into the pop culture on this.
During a Simpsons conference call last season with showrunner Al Jean, I got a chance to ask him about any particular Simpsons predictions that he'd want to see coming to fruition, and his answer was pretty amusing. Nothing quite so horrifying as Bender's gag, of course, but still amusing.
While a new TV season for Futurama is only slightly more likely than anyone who's portrayed Erin Brockovich prematurely heading six feet underground, fans DO have a brand new mobile game to enjoy by the name of Futurama: World of Tomorrow. And David X. Cohen did also tease some other exciting announcements coming in the near future. While waiting to hear about that, check out our summer TV schedule to see everything hitting the small screen soon.