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How Many Times Did Futurama Actually Get Canceled?

Futurama never enjoyed the sort of stability that its creator Matt Groening's more successful show The Simpsons established over three decades ago. Where The Simpson was an almost instant hit, prompting Fox to reward the show with desirable timeslots that only boosted its already massive popularity, Futurama got bumped from day to day and struggled to establish an audience.

It isn't exactly hard to understand why Fox never saw the same potential in Futurama as it did The Simpsons. While The Simpsons family lives in a world that is identifiable to the average viewer, Futurama takes place a thousand years in the future on an Earth destroyed many times over during the pilot episode alone. The closest family connections in Futurama exist between the main character Fry (voiced by Billy West) a cryogenically frozen twentysomething slacker, and his much older distant nephew Professor Farnsworth (also voiced by Billy West). Outside of that, Fry spends a lot of time with his love interest Leela (Katey Sagal), a mutant space captain, and best friend Bender (John DiMaggio), an alcoholic robot.

While Fox may not have been the perfect home for Futurama, the show was revived more than once by its dedicated fanbase on Comedy Central. Of course, when a show keeps popping back up as Futurama did, it can be hard to keep track of how many times it went off the air. Here's how many times Futurama actually got canceled.

Futurama was technically only canceled twice

To understand Futurama's history and total cancelations, it is helpful to have a general idea of the show's three distinct eras. The first of these is the show's initial run on Fox, which lasted from 1999 until 2003 and consisted of seasons 1 through 4. This section of Futurama was defined by lots of brilliant ideas searching for an audience as the network constantly changed the show's timeslots, via Sun Sentinal. Futurama's first cancelation came at the end of this period, in 2003.

After Fox canceled Futurama, the show began a long period of syndication, first at Adult Swim and then at Comedy Central. During this period, another canceled Fox show, Family Guy, which was also in syndication on Adult Swim, found its way back on the air after the popularity of some straight-to-DVD films. According to CNN, Family Guy's success inspired Comedy Central to order four direct-to-DVD feature-length Futurama scripts. This led to the creation of a set of 16 episodes, with four episodes per feature, which aired during 2008 and 2009 and comprised season 5. However, since Comedy Central commissioned the episodes as a stand-alone project, there was no actual cancelation at the end.

The new episodes then demonstrated enough popularity to inspire Comedy Central to pick up the show. Beginning in 2010, Comedy Central ordered and aired two more seasons of Futurama that lasted until 2013. Season 7 ultimately proved to be its last, as Comedy Central decided to cancel Futurama for a second, final time, via Wired.

While Futurama was only canceled twice, it produced four series finales

While Futurama was only actually canceled twice, by the time the show said goodbye in 2013, its creators had aired four episodes as potential series finales.

The first of these was "The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings," the final episode of season 4. While the episode doesn't offer much of a traditional series finale goodbye, fans on Reddit note that its final moments show Fry and Leela walking off into the distance, offering an optimistic end to the show. Another potential finale appears during the last episode of the straight-to-DVD feature Into the Wild Blue Yonder, which saw the Planet Express crew escaping into a wormhole from which they may never escape. Leela and Fry embrace as the ship, and the show, disappeared into the unknown.

The show's third possible finale came at the end of the sixth season, in "Overclockwise," which writes in an open-ended conclusion in case the show never returned. The episode again uses Fry and Leela's future as a goodbye, after an overclocked Bender capable of predicting the future tells them their story has a happy ending.

Of course, there can be only one actual series finale, which is the final episode of the show and season 7, "Meanwhile." In this episode, Professor Farnsworth constructs a machine that creates complex time loops that Fry and the Planet Express crew find themselves trapped in. While this leads to some typical Futurama hijinks, it allows the show to end with Leela and Fry deciding to go back around and experience their happy lives together one last time. When asked if it was the end of the road for Futurama, co-creator David Cohen told The Verge, "If it really is the last episode ever, and I think it will be, then I feel pretty proud of how it ended."