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12 Works of Literature That Were Featured on Mad Men

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Since its start in 2007, AMC’s Mad Men has mentioned, discussed, or alluded to a considerable amount of classic literature, from authors like Dante to Mark Twain to Edward Gibbon. Each mention or allusion serves a purpose within the show’s plotline, working either to explain a character, set a scene, or provide context for decisions made or actions taken. Here are 12 classic works mentioned throughout the first six and a half seasons of Mad Men.

1. 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand

“The Hobo Code,” Season 1, Episode 8
Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957 and set in a dystopian U.S., is the quintessential novel advocating capitalism and capitalist ideals. Bert Cooper, a big fan of Rand and one of the heads of Sterling Cooper, recommends creative director Don Draper read the book. Later, during a pitch to a client, Don appears to have been influenced by the book’s philosophies, saying, "If you don't appreciate my hard work, then I will take it away and we'll see how you do.” Viewers see in Don an egotism reminiscent of Rand’s philosophies throughout the series.

2. 'The Agony and the Ecstasy' by Irving Stone

“Flight 1,” Season 2, Episode 2
A biographical novel of artist Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy was written in 1961 and was sourced almost entirely from Michelangelo's correspondence—495 letters in all. Sterling Cooper secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy Olson’s mother, a devoutly religious woman simultaneously proud of Peggy’s work and concerned with her lack of church attendance, mentions reading a copy of the book from the public library: “I have to renew The Agony and the Ecstasy. It’s taking forever.” In essence, Peggy’s mother is, perhaps unknowingly, exploring the dichotomy of religion in that it can seem both beneficial and like a chore.

3. 'Babylon Revisited and Other Stories' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Three Sundays,” Season 2, Episode 4
Babylon Revisited and Other Stories is a collection of 10 of Fitzgerald’s most popular short stories published between 1920 and 1937. Don’s wife, Betty, carries on a short flirtation with Arthur Case, a younger, engaged man learning to ride at the stables she frequents, and he recommends she read “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” a story about a family who, materialistically, had it all but whose patriarch was never happy (which is reminiscent of Don). Later, Betty is seen reading the collection, which includes the story Arthur recommended.

4. 'The Sound and the Fury' by William Faulkner

“Jet Set,” Season 2, Episode 11
Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, published in 1929, chronicles a dysfunctional Southern family in Mississippi as their reputation is damaged by financial ruin and the questioning of their religion. While Don is in California on business, he meets a young woman named Joy, and after dinner with her friends and spending the night together, Joy is seen reading The Sound and the Fury in bed. When Don asks, “Is it good?,” Joy replies that their sex was good, but that the book was merely OK. Later, Don jots down an address in the margins of the book—he’s going to visit Anna, the original Don Draper’s wife. The allusion to The Sound and the Fury hearkens to Don’s own troubled and fractured family life.

5. 'The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' by Edward Gibbon

“My Old Kentucky Home,” Season 3, Episode 3
Published in six volumes between 1776 and 1789, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire traces the trajectory of Western civilization. Gene, Betty’s father, moves in with the Drapers as his dementia worsens, and Sally reads Gibbon to him nightly, despite the subject material and structure being perhaps too advanced for a child. This is directly contrasted to Sally’s childish behavior later, when she steals $5 from Grandpa Gene and lies about it.

6. 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' by Mark Twain

“Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency,” Season 3, Episode 6
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published in 1876, tells the story of Tom Sawyer, a young boy growing up in the fictional town of Petersburg, Mississippi. Lane Pryce, Sterling Cooper’s chief operating officer fresh in town from a London firm, mentions to Don he has been reading Tom Sawyer. The two are standing in a hospital waiting room after a gory accident with an executive who was poised to replace Lane as COO but now, due to his injury, would not. Lane alludes to Tom’s desire to be present at his own wake when he tells Don, “I feel like I just went to my own funeral. I didn’t like the eulogy.” Essentially, Lane knew the company’s plan was to relocate him, though now he was forced to stay due to the extenuating circumstances—all while knowing his superiors wish he was gone.

7. 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain

“Tomorrowland,” Season 4, Episode 13
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in the mid-1880s and is told from the first-person perspective of Huck Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer. It is often considered satire on attitudes like racism, though criticized for its use of racial stereotypes and phraseology. Henry Francis, Betty’s second husband after her divorce from Don, is seen reading it before confronting Betty about her firing Carla, her children’s longtime black nanny.

8. 'Nature' by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The Other Woman,” Season 5, Episode 11
Nature is an essay written by Emerson in 1836 and is widely considered to be the foundation of transcendentalism, or the idea that God or the Universe explains reality through nature, therefore implying that reality can be understood by the study of nature. During a conversation between Peggy and Ted Chaough, creative director at rival firm Cutler, Gleason and Chaough, where he is trying to woo her into taking a job, he tells her that Emerson said, “You have to be a transparent eyeball. What he meant was, you have to take in the world and pass it through you. I am tired of people who treat this like math.” This is an accurate representation of Ted’s approach to the advertising profession; as the seasons progress, he gets burnt out on the business side and misses being purely creative, leading to a near-breakdown.

9. 'The Inferno' by Dante Alighieri

“The Doorway,” Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2
The Inferno follows Dante’s journey through hell as he is guided by the poet Virgil. Don is seen reading The Inferno while on a beach in Hawaii with his second wife, Megan; the opening lines are narrated: “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” The book was a gift from his neighbor, with whom he is having an affair. Though he once told her he wanted to cut the affair off, he continued to see her, proving that he is often unable to navigate back to the light after straying down a dark path.

10. 'Frankenstein' by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

“Field Trip,” Season 7, Episode 3
First published anonymously in 1818, Frankenstein tells the story of scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a “monstrous” yet sentient creature during an experiment. When Betty goes as a chaperone on a field trip with her son Bobby, they are discussing his favorite monsters during the bus ride. He says, “There's basically Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. There's also King Kong, too, but he's not really a monster. I like all of them, but I guess Wolf Man's my favorite because he changes into it.” In a way, this discussion of transforming monsters foreshadows Betty’s extreme mood swings regarding her children; for instance, later in the episode, after a fun day exploring farm life as part of the field trip, Betty becomes irrationally angry at Bobby for giving away her packed lunch and lets it ruin their entire day.

11. 'From the Earth to the Moon' by Jules Verne

“The Monolith,” Season 7, Episode 4
From the Earth to the Moon, published in 1865, chronicles several weapons enthusiasts’ attempts to build a cannon that can launch three men into space, with the end goal of a moon landing. When Roger Sterling, one of the heads of Sterling Cooper, attempts to convince his daughter, Margaret, to return home from a hippie commune to her husband and son, they discuss the book as they are laying in a barn with the other commune members looking up at the moon. Margaret says, “I’d like to go to the moon. Don’t you want to go?” Roger replies that yes, of course he wanted to be an astronaut as a boy, and Margaret points out that astronauts didn’t exist during his childhood. He disagrees, citing From the Earth to the Moon, and Margaret reminisces on how he read the novel to her as a child. This conversation illustrates that Margaret feels a freedom in her life to make her dreams a reality, whereas when Roger was growing up, he was not afforded the same opportunities.

12. 'Meditations in an Emergency' by Frank O’Hara

“For Those Who Think Young,” Season 2, Episode 1
Meditations in an Emergency is a collection of poetry published in 1957. Don picks up the book after seeing a man reading it in a bar. After reading it, Don sends a copy to Anna Draper, believing that she’d enjoy it but also in an attempt to share his vulnerabilities with her, because at that time, she was the one other person who knew his secret. At one point in the show, Don narrates a telling excerpt from the poem “Mayakovsky,” helping viewers understand the internal emotional struggles he faces but cannot confront or move past:

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

[h/t NYPL's 'Mad Men' Reading List]

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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10 Far-Out Facts About Futurama
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In 1999, Matt Groening followed-up the monumental success of The Simpsons with an idea for a sci-fi comedy that he’d been tinkering around with for years. With influences ranging from groundbreaking sci-fi movies like Blade Runner to shows like The Jetsons and pulpy ‘50s comics like Weird Science, Futurama proved to be yet another winner for the cartoonist. Characters like Fry, Bender, and Leela quickly became fan favorites, rivaling Homer, Marge, and the rest of Springfield for quotability. The show was also a hit with the critics, winning plenty of Annie and Emmy Awards along the way.

Never a ratings juggernaut to a larger audience, the show only lasted four seasons on Fox before being cancelled in 2003. Neither the production staff nor the series’ loyal fan base would give up on Futurama, though, and the series was revived for an additional three seasons on Comedy Central from 2008 through 2013. Here are 10 things you might not know about Futurama

1. THE SHOW’S NAME COMES FROM AN EXHIBIT AT THE 1939 NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR.

Though Matt Groening’s Futurama takes a comedic look at what the future might hold for us, the name is based on a very real-world version of the world of tomorrow. At the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Queens, GM built a mammoth attraction called Futurama, which was a scale-model city showing off the predicted wonders of 1960.

The model was the brainchild of industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes and his team of hundreds of artists and builders. It spanned an impressive 35,000 square feet, and gave audiences a glimpse at what a city might look like in the next 20 years, with the highlight being a monolithic utopia peppered with mountainous skyscrapers and a web of superhighways for futuristic GM cars to travel on. Visitors would sit in chairs that moved on a conveyer belt around the model, showing off all the wonders they could look forward to.

To pay homage to its namesake, the first thing Fry hears when he’s defrosted in the future during the pilot episode is the bellowing sound of a lab worker proclaiming “Welcome to the World of Tomorrow,” which was one of the heavily advertised themes of the fair.

2. THE THEME SONG WAS INSPIRED BY A TUNE CALLED “PSYCHE ROCK.”

Futurama’s main theme, composed by Christopher Tyng, bears a striking resemblance to the song “Psyché Rock" by French electronic artist Pierre Henry. The songs are so similar that the Futurama theme basically acts as a remix to Henry’s work. The song has also been remixed by Fatboy Slim, which is even closer to the Futurama version. 

3. GETTING THE SHOW ON THE AIR WAS A DIFFICULT PROCESS FOR MATT GROENING.

Though Matt Groening and the team over on The Simpsons have the freedom to mostly govern themselves, getting Futurama off the ground was a different story. When asked by Mother Jones in 1999 about getting the show on the air, Groening said, “It has been by far the worst experience of my grown-up life.”

He further explained that, “The second they ordered it, they completely freaked out and were afraid the show was too dark and mean-spirited, and thought they had made a huge mistake and that the only way they could address their anxieties was to try to make me as crazy as possible with their frustrations.”

Despite the battles with the network, Groening and his team didn’t cave, saying, “I resisted every step of the way. In one respect, I will take full blame for the show if it tanks, because I resisted every single bit of interference."

4. CO-CREATOR DAVID X. COHEN IS A MATH WHIZ.

When Groening was developing Futurama into a pitch, he had one key Simpsons writer in mind to collaborate with: David S. Cohen. Cohen (who is credited as David X. Cohen for Futurama) was known for some of the most popular Simpsons episodes of the mid-‘90s, including "Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie," "Lisa The Vegetarian," and "Much Apu About Nothing."

“After I assembled a few hundred pages of ideas, I got together with David Cohen, one of the writers and executive producers on The Simpsons, who is also a lover of science fiction and has a great knowledge of science and mathematics,” Groening told Mother Jones.

The emphasis on mathematics may sound odd, but it became a hallmark of the series. Dealing with sci-fi plots allowed Cohen to bring a certain authenticity to some of the more complex episodes; he was also able to sneak in all sorts of esoteric mathematical jokes for the like-minded viewers. This is similar to how math played a role on The Simpsons for years without ever becoming distracting to casual viewers. 

Cohen’s mathematical background goes far beyond the norm. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in physics, and from the University of California, Berkeley, with an M.S. in computer science. This knowledge gave way to plenty of in-jokes, including the creation of a numerical-based alien language and countless background gags that only the brainiest viewers would have a shot at deciphering.

5. ZAPP BRANNIGAN WAS GOING TO BE VOICED BY PHIL HARTMAN.

The character of Zapp Brannigan was originally written with actor Phil Hartman in mind for the voice, but he was tragically killed before he would have begun recording. The role then went to Billy West, who also voices Fry and Professor Farnsworth. In an interview with The New York Times, West says he based his Brannigan on disc jockeys from the ‘50s and ‘60s. There's also a bit of Hartman's signature, Troy McClure-esque sound in there. 

6. JOHN DIMAGGIO ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR PROFESSOR FARNSWORTH USING BENDER’S VOICE.

Figuring out what Bender would sound like wasn’t an easy task for the folks in charge of Futurama. Would it be a human voice, or something more synthesized like Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet? The crew auditioned dozens and dozens of voice actors in an attempt to find the perfect Bender, with no luck.

At the same time, voice actor John DiMaggio was auditioning for a role on the show against his agent’s wishes, who worried about both the money and contract being offered. At first he auditioned for the role of Professor Farnsworth, using a boorish, drunken voice he partially based on Slim Pickens. The voice didn’t work for the professor, but according to the DVD commentary for the show’s pilot, the producers asked him to try it out for Bender. The voice instantly clicked, leading to the creation of the show’s breakout character.

7. THE NIXON LIBRARY EVENTUALLY CAME AROUND TO HIS HEAD BEING IN A JAR.

Richard Nixon famously proclaimed that the media wouldn’t have him to “kick around anymore” back in 1962; little did he know the jabs would keep coming for decades in the real world, and centuries into the fictional future as a nightmarish version of the former president with his head preserved in a jar was proclaimed President of Earth in Futurama.

With Billy West providing the jowly voice of the former Commander-in-Chief, Nixon became a villain for a whole new generation. And the Richard Nixon Library wasn’t very happy about it at first.

“[E]arly on in the show the network got a letter from the Richard Nixon Library saying they weren’t pleased with his portrayal and would we consider not doing it,” Cohen told WIRED.

But a few years later, things changed.

“We didn’t really stop, however, because we liked it, but the strange thing is that … a few years later we got another letter from the Nixon Library saying can we provide some materials because they’re going to do an exhibit about Nixon in popular culture and they’d like to include Futurama, so they came around.”

8. WRITER KEN KEELER INVENTED A NEW THEOREM JUST FOR THE SHOW.

In addition to Cohen, Futurama is staffed by a roster of Ivy League graduates with backgrounds in science and math. But while writing one episode, the staff had created a plot so complex that the crew soon found itself stumped.

The episode was “The Prisoner of Brenda” from the sixth season, and it involved a brain-switching machine that could swap the minds of any two people that stepped into it. There was only one problem: once used, the machine couldn’t be used twice to swap the same two minds back to normal. This means numerous pairs of other characters would have to use the machine in a roundabout plan to restore everyone’s mind to their proper body.

Though the idea sounded like a winner to the writers, Cohen recalled that they soon realized they had to create a mathematical explanation that could get everyone’s mind back. It was like a nightmarish SAT problem for the staff. That is until writer Ken Keeler, who has a PhD in mathematics, created a completely unique theorem that proved this plot was possible.

“Ken comes in the next morning with a stack of paper and he said, ‘I’ve got the proof,’ and he had proven that no matter how mixed up people’s brains are, if you bring in two new people who have not had their brains switched, then everybody can always get their original brain back, including those two new people,” Cohen told WIRED. “So I was very excited about this, because you rarely get to see science, let alone math, be the hero of a comedy episode of TV.”

In the episode, the mathematical heroes that solve the problem are none other than the Harlem Globetrotters, who are among Earth’s elite intellectuals in the 31st century.

9. THE SHOW’S USE OF FORESHADOWING IS INTENSE.

Futurama touts more than just science and math cred; the show is also one of the more intricately plotted animated series of the past 20 years. The show is notorious for leaving morsels of foreshadowing in episodes that pay off weeks, months, or even years down the road.

Plot points like Fry being his own grandfather and Leela’s mutant heritage were all hinted at before they became reality, but the most obscure piece of foreshadowing came right in the pilot episode. It happens right as Fry is leaning back in the chair that would “accidentally” topple over and send him into the cryogenic chamber, leaving him thawed out in the 31st century. For a brief moment, a shadow flashed across the screen with no explanation—at the time, it likely went unnoticed by many viewers.

Fast forward to the season 4 episode “The Why of Fry,” and we learn that the shadow belonged to Nibbler, who had traveled back in time to 1999 to push Fry into the chamber because he was the key to stopping an alien invasion in the 31st century. It's just one example of the type of intricate world-building that the writers of the show poured into every episode.

10. EACH EPISODE TOOK ABOUT A YEAR TO COMPLETE.

Every episode of Futurama is a labor of love, with each joke and frame of animation put under intense scrutiny. Because of this, there is a lot of work involved in the show—about a year’s worth for each episode.

“It's usually somewhere in the vicinity of a year from the beginning of a Futurama episode to the day when you can see it on TV,” David Cohen told The Atlantic.

This starts with a story idea, which is then assigned to a writer for an outline and first draft. From there, the first draft is dissected in the writers’ room on a “word-by-word, scene-by-scene basis.”

Then it’s recorded by the actors—like an old-timey radio show, according to Cohen—and then it’s given to the animators. That process involves animatics and final animation, which can take around six months to finalize. 

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