As I mentioned last week, Futurama is one of my favorite television shows of all time. I’ve watched it a hundred times. The darling husband and I quote the show almost daily. There are some episodes I can’t watch because they’re too emotionally damaging. There are some I could watch every day and not get sick of them.
Futurama has won countless awards for writing. And it’s with good reason. Now, I know that some of you reading this right now will think I’m being far too generous to a silly cartoon. But I’ll submit to you that I’m not. And the massive fan base that Futurama still holds would agree with me.
So, it’s time to get it up on the table, break it apart, and see why it works.
There are professionals on the writing staff.
Of course, the writers are professionals with years of creative experience. I would hope the same could be said of most content, but that’s probably idealistic.
Futurama takes this several steps further, though. Among their writing team, you’ll find scientists, mathematicians, physicists. And if they don’t have a professional on staff, they go find one.
While this is a fiction show, they want to make sure that the science they use is real. Which makes the rest of the story more believable. As one of their splash screens says, you can’t prove it won’t happen.
The writers hid jokes and didn’t explain.
If you’re casually watching an episode of Futurama while scrolling Instagram, you’re going to miss background jokes. And a lot of them. That’s because the writers love throwing in hidden jokes and never explaining them. They even developed alien languages and hid messages in the background. They never released a key for these languages, either.
This means that the show can work on two levels. If you just want to watch a silly show, it’s great for that. If you want to watch it on a whole other level with a ton of in-jokes, it’s great for that too.
Awesome attention to detail.
In the first episode, the main character Fry is tossed into a cryogenic chamber and frozen. This starts the whole story. But, as you go through the series, more and more comes to light regarding that moment. And every time you learn something else, you can go back and watch the first episode again to see if there are signs visible.
And they always are.
The writers trust their audience to be smart.
The writers can do all of these great things, because of one simple fact.
They believe that their audience is smart. They don’t talk down, they don’t over-explain. They put out smart content, and they trust us to get it.
It’s time for the wrap-up. What can we as writers learn from Futurama?
– Get the factual parts of your story accurate, and it will make the whole thing more believable.
-Don’t be afraid to add details or background jokes without an explanation.
-Pay attention to detail, and keep everything cannon.
-Trust your audience to be at least as smart as you are.
Is there a show, movie or book you’d like me to take apart to see why it works? Let me know in the comments.
Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you want to support this site, you can do so on Ko-fi.