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Matt Groening Bites the Hand That Feeds
April 8, 1999 © ABC News Internet Ventures.

He started his career drawing rabbits — and now, Matt Groening is parrying with the Fox.
Groening burst onto the scene with his offbeat comic strip series Life Is Hell, which featured mono-eared Binky and his fellow bunny friend Sheba. Since then, he’s created two successful animated sitcoms for the Fox network – The Simpsons and Futurama. However, he tells the New York Daily News that Fox resents his maverick business practices and is, in fact, punishing him as a result.

Retaliation, Groening says, comes in the decision to move Futurama to Tuesday nights. Futurama premiered on Sunday, March 28, nestled between the Fox trump cards, The Simpsons and The X-Files. Variety reports that the show’s debut netted astoundingly high Nielsen ratings for the network (19 million viewers on March 28, followed by 14 million on April 4). Its viewing audience of 9 million on Tuesday, April 8, attributed to the lowest ratings for that night all season. Tuesday is now all-animation night, with King of the Hill, The Family Guy, and The PJs completing the roster.

Groening also says the decision to push Futurama to a new day and time may have to do with a difference of opinions back at the series’ conception.

“There’s an atmosphere now in television of [networks] giving notes, of interference,” the Pacific Northwest native explains. “When [executives] tried to give me notes on Futurama, I just said: ‘No, we’re going to do this the way we did The Simpsons.’ And they said, ‘Well, we don’t do business that way anymore.’ And I said, ‘Oh, well, that’s the only way I do business.'”

Groening defends his practices by pointing out his track record. “I think when you let creators have a vision without compromise — not to say that it works every time, but at my two times at bat, it seems to have worked. If anything, I think I should be giving the network notes.”

Ironically, the only exec who might listen to such notes is Entertainment President Doug Herzog — “a good guy, a nice guy,” Groening says, “but he is the one who put us on Tuesdays.”

Herzog declined to comment.

In general, Groening says, “At Fox, there’s an atmosphere of scrambling to repair the failures of their previous decisions. There’s no anticipation of success.”

Despite this corporate environment, Groening and his staff have already started on the second season of Futurama.

“We haven’t been picked up yet,” he says, “but I assume we will be.”