10 Reasons Why ‘Futurama’ Is Better Than ‘The Simpsons’

Matt Groening is not only the creator of one classic animated sitcom, but two: The Simpsons and Futurama. While they cover two distinctly different genres–one a satirical depiction of American life on par with family comedies from the ’80s like Married…With Children and the other a genre sitcom parodying science fiction media–it’s difficult not to compare the two.

They share a creator, an animation style, and a witty sense of humor, yet they’ve had fairly different life cycles on television. The Simpsons has been on the air since 1989. With 35 seasons as 2023, The Simpsons is America’s longest running primetime television show, and there is still no end in sight. Futurama, on the other hand, has had a far more turbulent run. It has been cancelled three times, distributed by two television channels and one streaming channel, and yet has found a niche audience who will follow it everywhere.

Despite the show’s struggles, however, is Futurama actually the better of the two shows? Here are some reasons why it may be, but we’ll let you be the judge.

1. It Has Smarter Jokes

Photo: Fox

Futurama‘s writing staff is famously made up of über-intelligent academics some of whom hail from Harvard and most with higher degrees, making for some sharply intelligent ideas in Futurama‘s scripts. The show features some of the geekiest jokes of all time, some of which only a small part of the human population can even fully understand and thus fully appreciate.

This may seem like niche humor, but it means each episode can garner new laughs upon repeat viewings. The Simpsons has its humor, but it’s definitely at a more base-level than the hidden science humor of Futurama.

2. Fry And Leela’s Relationship Drive The Show

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Two of Futurama‘s main characters, Fry and Leela, are a classic will-they-won’t-they TV relationship. Fry is attracted to Leela from day one, but Leela spends much more time coming to terms with her feelings for Fry.

Despite their vast differences, the two share a great bond and watching their friendship, and eventual relationship, play out over the course of seven seasons is a big part of Futurama‘s draw. Unlike The Simpsons‘ Marge and Homer whose relationship is set from the pilot episode, Futurama‘s main couple make for a more intriguing dynamic.

3. Humanity’s Foibles Are Presented By A Crass, Alcohol-Fueled Robot

A Crass, Alcohol-Fueled Robot Presents An Outsider's Perspective On Humanity's Foibles

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Fry’s best friend and ally, Bender, is uniquely set apart from most TV characters by being both a robot and a scoundrel.  His robotic nature is most apparent by his unfeeling behavior and serious selfishness. He is unfiltered, egotistical, and constantly imbibing alcohol (as it fuels his power cells) making for a fine representation of humanity at its worst. Except that he’s not human.

At first glance, he’s not unlike Homer Simpson or the ever-drunk Barney Gumble in his penchant for vice, but his status as non-human gives him an edge of hilarious irony. Better yet, deep down Bender has a heart of gold and cares about his friends. He manages to poke fun at humanity’s foibles by being an outsider with a disdain for humans who can’t help but act like one. 

4. The 31st Century Allows The Audience To Explore A Wild Sci-Fi Setting

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Futurama‘s setting in the distant future gives the show a pliable environment full of weird and interesting possibilities. The unpredictability of mankind’s future gives the writers plenty of leeway in terms of entertainment. Things like Were-Cars, robots, lobster-ish aliens, and an interplanetary delivery company are not at all out of place on the show and in fact, are a large part of its appeal.

The Simpsons‘ small town setting grounds the show, which may be part of its universal appeal, but limits its possibilities for comedic antics. 

5. Plot Lines Are Able To Explore Classic Sci-Fi Stories And Tropes

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The Planet Express crew are an interplanetary delivery company and as such, they can travel pretty much anywhere and encounter almost anything. The story possibilities are limitless. Fry and the gang have encountered everything from sentient water to evil floating brains to sex-starved Amazonian alien women.

While The Simpsons has certainly excavated every possible earth-bound plot imaginable, they can’t get nearly as zany and imaginative as Futurama can. There’s a whole wondrous universe out there to explore and that open-ended creativity keeps the show from ever getting stale.

6. Some Of The Best Episodes Are Also Heart-Wrenching

It's Not All Laughs

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Futurama has many heart-wrenching episodes, some of which qualify among the show’s greatest. “The Sting,” “Luck of the Fryrish,” “Leela’s Homeworld,” and, of course, “Jurassic Bark” include a few of the most moving moments in animated television. At its best, Futurama perfectly straddles the line of bittersweet making its viewers laugh and cry.

The Simpsons certainly has its heavier moments, but Futurama‘s sci-fi nature ups the stakes. Characters can be lost in time, die a million deaths, see the past and future, or any number of other stirring scenarios.

7. It’s Clear How Much The Writers Love Sci-Fi

As A Genre Show, It Can Be As Nerdy As It Likes

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At the core of Futurama is a love for science fiction. Time travel, space travel, robotics, cloning, and other sci-fi constructs are ripe for exploration, parody, and tribute. The Simpsons has made its share of excellent sci-fi jokes. After all, Matt Groening created both shows and his enthusiasm for the genre is evident, but an entire episode of Futurama can easily be devoted to sci-fi fandoms such as 2001: A Space Odyssey. The show can also science-fictionalize anything, such as creating superhero versions of the Harlem Globetrotters. 

8. Modern Day Social Commentary Is Delivered In Futuristic Satire

The Futuristic Freedom For Biting Modern Day Social Commentary

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Futurama‘s distant setting from the present-day allows it to examine current issues with reckless abandon and scathing pointedness. The show often uses its futuristic setting to extrapolate how timely issues will play out and affect the far-off future. Standard topics like religion or politics are spoofed in ways that wouldn’t work in a show chained to the present.

The Simpsons certainly couldn’t feature the disembodied head of deceased President Richard Nixon running for President of Earth. The political satire knows no bounds (both in time or space) and is part of what makes Futurama‘s comedy so spectacular.

9. Futurama Hasn’t Outstayed Its Welcome

It's Not Going On And On Forever Like The Simpsons Is

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Unlike the ongoing success of The Simpsons, Futurama has had a bumpier life, struggling with ratings and maintaining an audience. The show was on Fox for four years before being canceled. Its underground cult following – built in DVD and streaming viewership – and the insistence of its fans eventually revived the show on Comedy Central where it ran for another three seasons.

Futurama is a show that lives for and by its fans and knowing while watching that there is a cap in episodes makes each of them that much sweeter. The Simpsons has no end in sight, while Futurama, despite being renewed for more seasons on Hulu, has not yet worn out its welcome. 

10. Dr. Zoidberg–Need We Say More?

Only Futurama Can Make A Lobster Alien Doctor With No Medical Experience Lovable

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The inept “doctor” of the Planet Express crew, John A. Zoidberg is one of the strangest cartoon characters on television. As a disgusting, homeless, self-proclaimed “human expert,” Zoidberg provides much of the show’s hilarity. Despite constant proof of his inadequacy as a doctor, his innocent and kind nature makes him bizarrely endearing.

Few characters manage to be both repulsive and beloved, but Zoidberg balances the two and it’s hard to point out any character on The Simpsons that compares. Only on an esoteric show like Futurama could a character like Zoidberg be a fan favorite.