We’re getting to the end of Season One. Time to go see Mars.
Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio), take a package to Professor Farnsworth’s (West) office at Mars University. It’s a University on Mars. While there, Fry is informed that being a 20th Century college dropout is now less than being a high-school graduate, so he resolves to enroll and drop-out of college. Bender visits his old frat, only to find it filled with nerds: Gearshift, Oily, and Fat-bot (West, DiMaggio, David Herman). They ask him to teach them to be cool, so he stays on campus.
Fry finds out that he’s roommates with a super-smart monkey named Guenter (Tress MacNeille), who he feuds with. After a run-in with his regular monkey parents, Guenter realizes he’s not happy. Fry tells him to just go be an animal, so he throws off his hat (the source of his intelligence) and heads into the Martian jungle, but is followed by Leela, Fry, and the Professor. Bender and his fraternity enter a rafting contest that goes through the same jungle. Eventually, the trio find Guenter, but are knocked into the water by Bender’s boat and have to be saved by Guenter. Guenter’s hat is damaged in the process, making him only moderately intelligent, which renders him the perfect candidate for business school.
This is probably my pick for the worst episode of Season One. It’s a parody of college movies, but since people have been parodying them since the beginning, and frat films are so absurd they almost inherently are self-parodies, this one just didn’t have that much originality except for “set on Mars.” It’s a funny half-hour of television, but it’s more like they just used “future” words for jokes that already existed. Oddly, I appear to be alone in this, as several sites list this as one of the best episodes of the show. Different strokes, I guess. Update: The lists that put it highly no longer appear to exist, so… I win.
Fry and Guenter’s feud is fun, but it’s also extremely stupid and shallow. It’s literally just there so the roommate conflict tropes can play out. Bender’s fraternity simultaneously is filled with nerds who don’t do anything but also is on super-secret probation, a la Animal House, just so they can do jokes from both of those college-movie subgenres. On the one hand, I appreciate that they took a shortcut for the set-ups so they could focus on the jokes. On the other hand, the jokes are all a little too easy, since it’s just a series of parodies of other films.
I do appreciate that the episode really does try to address the concept of whether or not intelligence is inherently isolating, but the joke resolution kind of undercuts it. Admittedly, I think it’s a funny joke. Aside from that, most of the episode isn’t really the level of cleverness I expect from Futurama. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just very safe.
When thinking about his college days, Fry flashes back to his time at Coney Island Community College, which, as the name suggests, is located on Coney Island. It has a carnival barker out front who asks people who wants to learn physics. The college itself is apparently located on a ride of some kind. But the best part for me is when he says that their mascot was the “Whitefish.”
Aside from all of the species of fish that are called “whitefish,” none of which are located anywhere near Coney Island, whitefish is a term used by fisheries to describe cheap, easily marketable, mass produced fish meat. In other words, the students are literally represented as being cheap, mass-produced, and low-quality. If only other schools were so honest.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
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NEXT – Episode 12: When Aliens Attack
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