Welcome to the first Futurama ho-ho-holiday spectacular! Prepare to die!
It’s Christmas, now pronounced “X-Mas,” and Fry (Billy West) is feeling lonely at his first holiday season in the 31st Century. The rest of the Planet Express crew try to cheer him up, but he ultimately keeps complaining, even after Leela (Katey Sagal) is also feeling down because she’s the only one of her species. Meanwhile, Bender (John DiMaggio) pretends to be homeless to get free stuff and attention from the press down at the soup kitchen. Fry feels guilty for making Leela sad, so he decides to go downtown to buy a pet.
What Fry doesn’t seem to really understand, despite being told directly, is that in the year 2801 scientists built a Robot Santa (John Goodman) who comes to Earth every year to decide who was naughty and who was nice and give presents accordingly. The robot malfunctioned, setting its standards for “nice” too high, resulting in it judging everyone as naughty and turning him into an omnicidal maniac. Fry stays out too late trying to recapture Leela’s new parrot after it escapes, resulting in her coming to save him from Santa’s attack.
While fleeing, they run into Bender and Tinny-Tim (Tress MacNeille) a crippled orphan robot. When Santa accuses Bender of being naughty, he tries to frame the orphan, something that’s so naughty it distracts Santa as he tries to add it to his list. They all make it back to Planet Express, but Santa also gets inside and threatens everyone (except for Zoidberg (West), who is apparently “nice”). As Santa tries to blow them up, they manage to force him into a blast chamber, sending him flying into the sky. They all sing a carol called “Santa Claus is Gunning You Down” as Santa vows revenge.
The crazy homicidal robot Santa is yet another great character by Futurama. He basically makes everyone feel thankful for what they have by promising to do his best to take it away from them. In that sense, as the show repeatedly points out, he actually does the job of making people celebrate the season just as well as Santa Claus does. They avoid any discussion about the “true meaning” of Christmas or other religious issues, which limits the functions of Xmas solely to the secular parts of Christmas, making Santa much more important. I guess you could say that they took the Christ out.
This is one of the first times since the Pilot that Fry shows that he does, in fact, miss his old life and family at times. Despite all of the things he seems to say about his parents, and even his brother, it is clear from other episodes in the show that they did actually have some warmth within the Fry household. I think that Fry telling everyone that his mom would make “Goose burgers” and that his dad would make special eggnog out of “bourbon and ice cubes” is a great way to humorously show his reminiscing. It adds a level of levity to the harsh reality that everyone Fry knew has been dead for many centuries. I also love that Fry is only broken from his sadness by the realization that someone else is just as alone as he is. However, this also appears to be the first time that he really seems to get that she’s ALWAYS been alone. He at least has happy memories of his family, she just has a void.
I think the idea of people with nobody finding a family with each other is something that the show does well, particularly with Fry and Leela. Fry had a family, even if it wasn’t a great one, but now he’s lost everyone. Leela never had a family and has been isolated due to her appearance. Each one can argue that they have the worse situation, but each one often thinks that the other has the worse lot. Is it worse to be sick your entire life or to be healthy and have it taken from you? This is a question that people have fought over for centuries and this show is just taking that in a different direction with loneliness instead of illness.
Bender’s plotline in the episode, pretending to be homeless in order to steal food and attention from the needy, is ridiculously dark. He literally steals food from an orphan and then laughs at it. He then takes some robots, including said orphan, on a crime spree. He’s so incredibly evil that it dives straight past inhuman, tunnels through despicable, and emerges somewhere around hilarious. As with the Marx Brothers or Deadpool, it’s truly amazing that a character so objectively horrible is so likable.
The new version of the Gift of the Magi that happens between Hermes (Phil LaMarr), Amy (Lauren Tom), and Zoidberg (West). In the original story by O. Henry, a man and his wife each give up something extremely valuable to them, in the man’s case his watch and in the woman’s case her hair, only to find out that they’d each bought the other a gift that was dependent on what they gave up, a watch chain and decorative combs. They each realize how much they loved each other if they were willing to do this much to make the other happy.
In Futurama’s version, however, Zoidberg buys Amy a set of combs, only for Amy to realize that she sold her hair to buy combs for Hermes, who sold HIS hair to buy combs for Zoidberg, who reveals that he now has both of their hair grafted onto his head. There are four parts to this that are so off that I find it hilarious. 1) Zoidberg buys hair and also buys combs, despite constantly being broke. 2) Neither Amy nor Hermes are broke (in fact, Amy’s rich), so it makes no sense that they’d have to sell their hair to buy gifts. 3) Hermes bought combs for Zoidberg who didn’t have hair. 4) EVERYONE BOUGHT COMBS. Seriously, who the hell buys decorative combs as a go-to gift? It’s just such a bizarre subversion and tribute that I’m forced to applaud it.
Runner up, though it’s short, is Robot Santa’s anti-mistletoe T.O.W. Missile, only because I didn’t know that was a real thing until years later. T.O.W. stands for Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided, and is a standard anti-tank missile, so that means that the wordplay has been there forever, it just took Futurama to pull David from the marble.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
PREVIOUS – Episode 16: A Head in the Polls
NEXT – Episode 18: Why Must I Be A Crustacean in Love?
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