Bender Wasn't The First Plan For Fry's Futurama Sidekick

"Futurama," the beloved animated sci-fi comedy series from Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, has endured a historically frought relationship with television networks thanks to its strong and dedicated fanbase. Although one of the show's main appeals is its commitment to accurate scientific concepts and legitimately thought-provoking sci-fi, the real reason why fans clamored for more despite several cancelations is its core cast of characters. That's why it's an intriguing bit of trivia that Bender, perhaps the most popular name on a show full of memorable personalities, wasn't always planned to be Fry's number one robot buddy.

According to an interview with Cohen on the "Geek's Guide to the Galaxy" podcast, Groening (who had previously created "The Simpsons") had already come up with a few characters — including the romantic hearts of the show, Fry and Leela, as well as the moronic and arrogant Zap Brannigan and his reluctant assistant Kif — before they joined forces to develop the series. Bender and Dr. Zoidberg were creations of both Cohen and Groening, as was Planet Express pet Nibbler. However, there was another crew member named Pocket Pal that the two creators trashed before "Futurama" first aired.

The Fall of Pocket Pal

Cohen and Groening created Pocket Pal as a way to explain what the year 3000 is like to both Fry and, by proxy, the audience. The initial idea was to have a tiny robot literally ride around in Fry's pocket to serve as a guide, but the developers quickly realized this took away from the show's fun, as well as Fry's core character traits. Cohen explains in the interview:

"That's one of those lessons we learned, that people don't want a lecture on how the future works, they just want to see what's happening. We rapidly stopped explaining things to Fry, even though he was our man in the future, from our time, we started thinking of him as another character who was just a dumb guy rather than someone who knew nothing about the future."

The decision was probably for the best, too. One of the most endearing qualities of Fry is his unquestionable acceptance of his new future home and friends, partly because his past life was so pathetic and partly because he's just a lovable idiot. As a joking reference to the scrapped character, Professor Farnsworth throws a Pocket Pal into the space anomaly in the multi-part episode arc "The Beast With a Billion Backs," killing the tiny guy to prove that robots can't enter the rift. He then continues to throw Pocket Pals into the anomaly, exploding them just for fun and solidifying the non-character's place in the garbage forever.