Master of Sci-Fi: David X. Cohen

Sep 28, 2008  •  Post A Comment

David X. Cohen, co-creator and executive producer of “Futurama,” has the “science” part of science fiction down pat.
Mr. Cohen graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in physics, followed by a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Southern California.

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Despite his scientific bent, Mr. Cohen took to writing, eventually landing a job writing scripts for MTV’s “Beavis and Butt-head.” That led to a writing gig on “The Simpsons.”
In 1997, Mr. Cohen said, “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening approached him to hash out a new animated project lampooning science fiction, “Futurama.”
“He picked me out as the nerd of the ‘Simpsons’ writers, which is saying something,” he said.
Launched in 1999, “Futurama” focused on Fry, a 20-something cryogenically frozen at the turn of the 21st century, only to be unfrozen in the year 2999. Getting a job as a delivery boy at Planet Express, Fry, along with alcohol-fueled robot Bender and one-eyed pilot Leela, travel the universe, infusing humor and parody into sci-fi, a rarity on television.
Referencing “Star Trek,” Mr. Cohen said sci-fi can feature fantastic elements, but also can draw parallels between things going on currently. “That works for comedy as well,” he said.
One episode of “Futurama” pits the Planet Express crew against a large ball of trash hurtling toward Earth (which Earth itself launched into space in 2052), a la the movie “Armageddon.”
Mr. Cohen said being animated also works in “Futurama’s” favor, where the likes of “Battlestar Galactica” becomes an expensive proposition in terms of sets and effects.
“You can’t build a new planet every week,” he said.
After the series was canceled in the summer of 2003, solid sales of the show’s DVD box sets, along with viewership of the episodes on Adult Swim, caught the eye of executives at 20th Century Fox. The studio put the show back into production with four direct-to-DVD movies.
“Science fiction fans get very possessive about their shows,” Mr. Cohen said, explaining the demand for the show after so long out of production.
The third DVD movie, “Bender’s Game,” hits stores Nov. 4, with the fourth slated for early 2009. As for “Futurama’s” future, nothing has been established, but Mr. Cohen said his No. 1 wish is to create a feature film based on the series.

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