Futurama Fridays – S3E16 “A Leela of Her Own”

Turanga Leela decides to pursue a career in the Majors based entirely on her utter lack of talent.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West) notices that a new pizza place is opening across the street from Planet Express. Its owners are revealed to be Cygnoids, cockroach-like aliens that are mostly stereotypes of European Immigrants from the 1910s. The crew go to meet the new neighbors, but it turns out that their restaurant is terrible. Fry tries to help them learn to be Earthicans, including advising them to learn Blernsball, the Earthican pastime. The Planet Express crew agree to play against them and Leela (Katey Sagal) takes the mound. It’s quickly revealed that due to her eye, Leela can only throw a fastball into the head of the batter, much to the amusement of passers-by. She is approached by the owner of the New New York Mets, Abner Doubledeal (Tom Kenny) who signs her as the first professional female Blernsball player. She agrees, though he makes it clear it is just a publicity stunt.

S3EG - 1Pizza.jpg
Yeah, this was the winner for “funny slogans.”

Bender (John DiMaggio) becomes Leela’s agent and her “bean balls” quickly make her popular, despite the fact that she has never struck a single person out. During a signing, she is confronted by Jackie Anderson (Dawnn Lewis), a college Blernsball player, who was set to be the first female professional Blernsball player. Jackie rails at Leela for making female athletes a joke. Leela, realizing the effect her career is having on people, vows to become “not the worst” Blernsball player. They go to visit the Blernsball hall of fame and meet with Hank Aaron XXIV (Hank Aaron), the worst Blernsball player ever, who agrees to help her train to actually throw strikes. He somehow succeeds and Leela learns how to not hit the batter with the ball. 

S3EG - 2Aaron
Wade Boggs later won by cameoing in It’s Always Sunny.

At the big game, Leela manages to convince the coach to put her in, but she is shocked to find that the batter is none other than Jackie Anderson. Leela throws two strikes, but Anderson hits the third pitch so hard that the elastic on the ball snaps and the ball goes in the “Hit it here and win the game” slot in the wall. Leela retires in disgrace, but Anderson consoles her by telling her that she’s inspired women everywhere to prove that they’re not as terrible or pathetic as Leela was. 

END SUMMARY

So, this episode had a long-standing position as the lowest-rated episode by Futurama fans. It’s still the lowest of the original run and the third-lowest rated in the entire series. There have been multiple discussions on Futurama fan boards about why this episode is so lowly rated, ranging from lack of funny jokes, failure to capitalize on the premise, a lousy B-plot about trying to make the Cygnoids successful, and, of course, several saying that the episode sucks because it focuses on Leela (ignoring that several of the Highest-rated episodes focus on her). I will say the following: This episode is definitely not one of the highlights of the show’s run, but I don’t think I can clearly say it’s the nadir of the original series. Hell, I actually remember laughing more at this episode than I did at “That’s Lobstertainment!” which is from the same season. 

S3EG - 3Beans
Hey, she endorses beans, cuz she “beans” people. GET IT?

That said, I’ll fully admit that a lot of the failure of the humor and the plot arise from similar problems to “That’s Lobstertainment” or “I Dated a Robot,” in that the premise can’t hold up as genuine under the circumstances and they don’t go far enough into the parody for us to ignore that. The plot is a Futurama take on a familiar trope, the first person to break into a new society/sport/industry. The episode tries to play parts of that straight in order to give some kind of gravitas, but it’s pretty much shot down from moment one when Leela is told that she’s only being allowed in so that she can be terrible. Like, they’re telling her that she’s essentially going to be a clown, proceeds to become popular for losing the game for her team, and we’re supposed to believe she’s surprised when someone points it out? They try to gloss over it by having her somewhat ignore Doubleday pointing it out, but man, that’s a stretch. Moreover, the idea that Blernsball, a sport which has dozens of species playing it has never allowed female players before now is a somewhat excessive suspension of disbelief. 

S3EG - 4Aliens.jpg
Yes, the octoperson who likely has no gender in human terms beat out the one with a vagina.

The gags in the episode are also pretty lame. I even remember groaning audibly the first time I heard Hank Aaron say “I think there’s a rash goin’ around” when Leela says she wasn’t just belly-itching. Seriously, that’s a joke that someone would write in a movie as an example of a failed joke. The Cygnoid jokes all fall flat, because they’re just the same hackneyed “immigrant” jokes shows had done since the 60s, but with alien customs instead of whatever country Balki is from. Hell, the overarching humor focus, Blernsball, had to have multiple edits during the writing because the writers thought that this episode was coming too close to actually explaining it, and the joke is that it’s too confusing to be explained. I agree that showing us only clips of this incomprehensible game was a nice running gag, so why ruin it by spending an episode on it? It’s not that this is bad television, but for Futurama, it’s pretty damned unfunny.

S3EG - 5Aaron.jpg
Hank Aaron calls himself a fungo. What even is that?

Overall, I don’t think it’s the worst episode, but it’s pretty bad. Fortunately, we’re about to start a sequence of mostly awesome episodes. 

FAVORITE JOKE

Everything involving Bob Uecker.

S3EG - 6Uecker
Rest in laughter, sir.

Bob Uecker had one of the most recognizable voices out there to any baseball fan and his humor and delivery were always amazing. Johnny Carson even called him “Mr. Baseball” and had him guest star on the Tonight Show over 100 times. He played the father on the show Mr. Belvedere, something the episode even references, and was the voice of the Cleveland Indians in the Major League films. He is famous for his self-deprecating humor and despite how bad the lines he’s given in this episode are, he still makes them work. 

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 47: I Dated a Robot

NEXT – Episode 49: A Pharaoh to Remember

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

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100) The Real Thing (Family Ties)

The Joker On The Sofa

Family Ties was about how family values are cyclical. Sometimes it was hard to tell what opinions the creators held about the conservative movements of the 1980s, but they definitely embraced the generation gap that arose from it as a source of conflict. The Keatons (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter) were hippies. Find a liberal cause, they probably fought for it. Name a social revolutionary, they probably smoked pot with them.

Lenny_Bruce_arrest.jpg Revolutionaries… right…

However, much as the baby boomers were largely people rejecting the behavior and values of their “conservative” families, the Keaton children represented the counter-rebellion to the ’60s upheaval. Rather than taking after his generous, bleeding heart father, Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) was a greedy, ambitious, get-rich-quick scheming go-go ’80s guy in training. His sister, Mallory (Justine Batemen), was a fashion conscious and materialistic “girly girl” that constantly argued with her feminist mother. The youngest Keaton…

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Netflix Review – 3Below: Tales of Arcadia Part 2 (Season 2) (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

Guillermo del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia Trilogy wraps up the second act in a solid season of sci-fi and fantasy comedy.

SUMMARY 

It’s been a few weeks since the events of the Season 1 finale that coincided with the final episode of Trollhunters. Arcadia is now aware that trolls exist, but the troll battle managed to conceal the presence of any alien life, including the Akiridion protagonists Aja and Krel Tarron (Tatiana Maslany and Diego Luna), as well as their dog Luug (Frank Welker) and their ship’s AI Mother (Glenn “Yes, that Glenn Close” Close). They are joined by Akiridion-5 Lieutenant Zadra (Hayley Atwell), who arrived last season to save them from Varvatos Vex (Nick Offerman), who is revealed to have aided General Morando (Alon Aboutboul) in overthrowing the planet before changing back to serve the royals. Varvatos Vex ended up imprisoned on the moon by the Zeron Brotherhood (Darin De Paul and Ann Dowd). 

3Below - 4Crossover.jpg
Raise your hands if you think that’s a lot of cast members.

The siblings are still being pursued by bounty hunters, including the powerful Trono (Danny Trejo), sought by the US Government, particularly Colonel Kubritz (Uzo Aduba) who is now willing to start dealing with some devils to get the Akiridion Royals, and soon will face threats to Earth, Akiridion, and the very universe itself.

END SUMMARY

This season was a massive step up in a lot of ways. 

First, it moves the timeline past the end of Trollhunters and the changes to Arcadia that arose from the events of the series finale are played out through this season. A lot of the supporting cast are now quite a bit funnier and more absurd now that the world itself has become more absurd, particularly Stuart the alien (Nick Frost), Coach Steve (Thomas F. “I’m not just Biff” Wilson), and Principal Uhl (Fred Tatasciore). Each of them is just a little bit more exaggerated than their already unusual character traits had allowed and it really helps. Expanding Colonel Kubritz’s role, particularly in a world that has just dealt with an apocalyptic scenario, creates a more compelling villain who progressively represents the kind of hypocritical and almost insane xenophobia seen throughout the world. 

3Below - 5Uzo.jpg
Plus, Uzo Aduba just makes her so darned charming and evil.

Steve Palchuk (Steven Yeun) and Eli Pepperjack (Cole Sand) have evolved from just their roles as the stereotypical bully and nerd to being legitimate heroes, something that both feels natural and compelling. Making them have such major character arcs without having them be the main characters of either series is a great set-up for their presumably bigger role in the third Tales from Arcadia series, Wizards

3Below - 6Creepslayers.jpg
They also have the “Creepslayers” handshake worked out.

One expansion that I don’t actually think worked was playing up the role of Toby Domzalski (Charlie Saxton) as the comic relief. Without Jim Lake (Anton Yelchin (R.I.P.)/Emile Hirsch) and Claire Nuñez (Lexi Madrano) to balance them out and provide emotional moments, Toby and AAARRRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore) rely too hard on the “dumb, weird characters” archetype in this season. Granted, the mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy does work at several points, including having AAARRRGGHH’s magical nature basically trump a sci-fi trope in a humorous way, but it still needed to give them a little more maturity. 

3Below - 7Aaarrrgghh
I do like that nobody finds Aaarrgghh weird. Everyone acclimated immediately.

There are a lot of decent gags in the season as well. I particularly love all the jokes about the Foo-foos, a race of robot rabbits on the moon. It’s simultaneously a reference to “Little Bunny Foo-Foo,” even having characters threaten to bop them on the head, and to the Asian myth of the rabbit on the moon. Also, their primary battle strategy is breeding an army quickly, because… rabbits breed. Get it? Get it??? GET IT??? Eh, still, it’s mostly funny. Also, they take some solid shots at Michael Bay and I love that. 

3Below - 8FooFoo

One thing that really plays well is the season’s theme, because it’s much more coherent than in the last one. This season is mostly about intolerance and the fact that we as humans tend to immediately want to isolate people that are strange to us, but that it’s ultimately better to try to work together. It comes at it from a number of directions and I think it mostly gets the point across without being too preachy. 

Overall, it’s a pretty solid show for kids. I’d recommend parents work it into the rotation. If you’re an adult, well, you can enjoy it, too.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review – 3Below: Tales of Arcadia Part 2

The Joker On The Sofa

The second entry in Guillermo Del Toro’s world of Arcadia is a sci-fi series that has a lot of familiar feels.

SUMMARY

Princess Aja (Tatiana Maslany) and Prince Krel (Diego Luna) are the heirs to the throne of House Tarron, the ruling house of Akiridion-5. However, on the day of their coronation, a mad dictator named Val Morando (Alon Aboutboul) takes over the planet, resulting in Aja and Krel, and their “dog” Luug (Frank Welker), being carried away from the planet by their guardian, the great warrior Varvatos Vex (Nick f*cking Offerman). They manage to collect the greatly wounded bodies of their parents and put them in stasis as they head for the nearest planet that might provide safety, which happens to be Earth. After crash-landing in Arcadia, California, the ship’s computer (Glenn Close) cloaks the group by making Aja, Krel, and Varvatos look like humans and the ship look…

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Netflix Review – I AM MOTHER: The Apocalypse is Mostly Lectures and Hilary Swank (SPOILER-FREE/ENDING EXPLAINED)

Netflix gives us an interesting look at one oft-overlooked method of surviving the apocalypse: Robo-mom.

SUMMARY

The Apocalypse happened and everybody died, pretty much. A robot named Mother (Rose Byrne’s voice and Luke Hawker’s body) activates in a secure bunker and is set to start repopulating the surface, growing a human embryo into a baby girl. Years later, Mother is raising a young Daughter (Clara Rugaard), who she teaches complex moral and philosophical lessons with a number of different viewpoints. Daughter is the only child raised by Mother, because Mother wanted to practice before trying to raise everyone else. Daughter keeps wondering about the outside world, and eventually hears a Woman (Hilary Swank) crying for help outside of the bunker’s airlock. Daughter lets Woman inside, only for Woman to reveal that the world may not quite be as Mother described it.

IAMMOTHER - 1Baby.png
It’s basically a Norman Rockwell painting.

END SUMMARY

So, this movie surprised me. It’s tough to make a film that works with only three characters and yet this one does. It does it mostly by having all of the characters take different roles throughout the film as their relationships change, saving us from needing more characters. Despite them being fairly archetypal characters, their interactions and the performances given manage to add an unexpected level of depth to the film. It’s honestly very impressive. Well, onward to the actual breakdown.

IAMMOTHER - 2Embryos
This image caused a bunch of debates just by existing, I just know it.

Here are the positives of the film:

First, the designer of the Mother robot suit needs to win some form of award. It’s genuinely an impressive practical effect, showing a great amount of detailed wear-and-tear as well as love and affection. The movements done by Luke Hawker alternate between very human and affectionate and extremely alien and threatening, which really add to Rose Byrne’s great vocal performance. She sounds so naturally non-threatening that it adds a level of disbelief and discomfort when the character is now supposed to be menacing. 

IAMMOTHER - 3Mother.png
Set design is also amazing.

Clara Rugaard, who often has to carry a scene on her own or against a robot, manages to be completely believable and yet charismatic enough to maintain our attention. Since there’s only one more person in the movie, I should say that Hilary Swank is great, but she’s Hilary Swank and she’s definitely not bringing her Oscar-level effort. I mean, it’s still a solid performance, better than most, but it’s not her A-Game. 

IAMMOTHER - 4BoysDontCry
I mean, she’s just amazing.

The pacing of the film is great, because it unpacks the mystery of the world in a way that never feels rushed or slow. I do admit that the beats of the scenes are pretty standard, but they’re standard because they tend to work. The dialogue is solid, although it’s also pretty standard and sometimes a little expository. That said, a robot would likely have mostly expository ways of communicating, so… win? The third act is well done, managing to wrap everything up in a satisfying manner that adds to the rewatch.

IAMMOTHER - 5Swanky
Page 35, introduce new character/major plot point. Right on cue.

Here are the negatives:

None of the scenes really grab you on a visceral level. It’s not that the movie isn’t good or engrossing, it is, but there’s still a level of distance between the audience and the characters that’s more than you want. I think a lot of it is the sound and the cinematography. They’re both very standard, nothing to pull you in through unfamiliarity or experimentation. This is pretty much the difference between a “good” movie and a “great” movie. The fact that it’s so damned close to great only makes this more frustrating.

IAMMOTHER - 6Robots.jpg
Yeah, sadly, the build-up to stuff just isn’t as good as you’d expect.

Overall, I do recommend the film to anyone interested in the sci-fi genre. It’s definitely a good movie and deserves an audience. 

ENDING EXPLAINED *SPOILER ALERT*

The “twist” at the end isn’t really a twist, though the movie does try to hide it by saying that 13,000+ days have passed instead of just saying 38 years. If they’d just said 38 years, then you’d immediately realize that Daughter isn’t the baby we see at the beginning. In fact, the baby we see at the beginning is almost certainly Woman, who Mother released to the survivors after first raising her, then likely raised another child who became the charred remains that Daughter finds. Since this discovery is also part of Mother’s final plan, much as everything in the movie is, it is entirely possible that the second child was intentionally only designed to be used as a guinea pig and then killed. The survivors who raised Woman were almost certainly intentionally spared from the destruction of mankind for that purpose, and have now presumably been killed. The biggest reveal is not that Mother caused the apocalypse, but that Mother did it for humanity’s own good, then teaches Daughter philosophies that both support and oppose that justification. Rather than just try to brainwash Daughter through only exposing her to one way of thinking, Mother shows her all of the various schools of thought, giving her a choice of what to follow. She then lets her experience the result of having a society based around selfishness and greed, i.e. the devastation of Earth to the point that humanity would apparently have gone extinct had Mother not done what she did. It’s a much more powerful way of convincing someone: To have them come to the conclusion by teaching them everything and letting them work it out themselves. Sadly, the world doesn’t tend to support this method so much as claim to support it then directly contradict it and convince us to directly contradict it. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Futurama Fridays – S2E19 “The Cryonic Woman”

The Joker On The Sofa

The second season finale features a blast from the past and Sarah Silverman sleeping with Pauly Shore.

SUMMARY

Leela (Katey Sagal) leaves the keys in the ignition of the Planet Express ship, leading Fry and Bender (Billy West and John DiMaggio) to take the ship joyriding. Unfortunately, the ship is tethered to the building, resulting in massive damage. The Professor (West) fires the three of them. Leela reveals that she still has her and Fry’s career chips from the Pilot, while Bender has a random arm belonging to the Prime Minister of Norway. Unfortunately, Leela puts Fry’s chip in her arm and vice-versa, so he takes over her old job as a cryogenic counselor. Fry unfreezes many people, including Pauly Shore, before unfreezing his old girlfriend, Michelle (Sarah Silverman).

S2EJ - 1Leela.png Meanwhile, Leela has hit hard times.

Michelle tells Fry that her freezing has nothing to do with Fry; she got married…

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Futurama Fridays – S2E18 “The Honking”

The Joker On The Sofa

Bender becomes the undead… unrobot… unmechanical? Whatever, he’s a were-car.

SUMMARY

Bender’s (John DiMaggio) uncle Vladimir (David Herman) dies and leaves him his castle in the robot country of Thermostadt. It turns out that the castle is haunted by Robot Ghosts, which, it turns out, are real. The Professor (Billy West) determines that the ghosts are hologram projections from the castle’s ethernet connected to the deceased robots. He tries to explain this to Bender, but Bender has run onto the moors where he gets hit by a car.

S2EI - 1Ghosts.png He looks good for 311. And dead.

After Bender gets back to New New York, he starts to have nightmares about the car and wakes up in an impound lot. He consults the Robot Gypsy (Tress MacNeille) who tells him he is a Were-Car, who will turn into a car each night and run people down, eventually his best friend, Fry (West)…

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