Dr. Zoidberg attempts to use his famous uncle to get a career in comedy, and it goes over about as well as Zoidberg doing comedy.
Zoidberg (Billy West) has been doing stand-up comedy at open-mic nights and it’s been going poorly. He admits at the office that he wanted to uphold the legacy of his uncle, the legendary Harold Zoid (Hank Azaria), a parody of silent film star Harold Lloyd. Zoidberg asks his uncle to help him get started in Hollywood. It’s revealed that Harold is destitute and forgotten and he uses this letter as an opportunity to try and scam Zoidberg into coming to Hollywood and giving him money.
In Hollywood, Bender (John DiMaggio) breaks into Calculon’s (Maurice LaMarche) house by pretending to be a hot-water heater. Zoidberg and Harold meet and it’s revealed that Harold doesn’t think that Zoidberg can be funny, but instead has a drama script he wants Zoidberg to fund, thinking him to be a rich doctor. Zoidberg agrees to fund it, lying that he has the money.
However, Bender reveals that he’s now friends with Calculon and convinces Calculon to fund the film by promising he’ll get an Oscar. Calculon reveals that he’s agreeing based on his love of Harold Zoid. Unfortunately, Harold decides to direct the film himself and it turns out he has no talent whatsoever, giving terrible instructions to everyone. The film is released and fails immediately, resulting in no Oscar nominations, something that leads Calculon to threaten to kill Bender, Zoidberg, and Harold if they don’t get him the award. They decide to rig the award ceremony, but when Zoidberg actually gets on the stand and nominates Calculon, he changes his mind and gives the award to Harold. Calculon takes the Oscar, but, remembering that he is a fan of Harold Zoid, gives it back.
There’s also a subplot about Fry (West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) getting stuck in the La Brea Tar Pit inside the ship, finally escaping in time to join the Post-Oscar party.
This is universally considered one of the worst episodes of Futurama and, frankly, that is a pretty well-deserved rating. It’s not completely unfunny, but overall a lot of the humor is based on Hollywood jokes that kind of limit the audience.
Harold Zoid is based on Harold Lloyd, who was an amazing performer during the silent film age. His movie Safety Last! just entered into the public domain and if you have the time, you should watch it. I’ll attach a copy below.
The main problem with Harold Zoid comes directly from his circumstances: He’s depicted as being a well-respected and beloved actor that everyone has now forgotten about. While that was a common thing to happen under the Studio System in Hollywood from the 20s to the 60s, that really hasn’t been a thing since its dissolution and the proliferation of recordings. Even Harold Lloyd started to have a re-birth in renowned among cult film and old film enthusiasts towards the end of his life when film festivals started to become a thing. This episode starts with a 1960s setting in an episode written in the 90s and set in the year 3000.
There also just aren’t that many good gags in the episode. Watching Harold wreck the film doesn’t really come across as funny as much as tragic and uncomfortable. Calculon’s sudden violence appears to come out of nowhere and honestly feels out of character, making his eventual forgiveness of the trio even stranger. The subplot with Fry and Leela is stupid, especially the recurring joke that a caveman is Sylvester Stallone.
Overall, it just isn’t great.
There are two solid gags at the Academy Awards. First, the fact that “Best Soft-Drink Product Placement” is now a category is great, as are all of the nominees:
Star Trek: The Pepsi Generation, They Call Me Mr. Pibb, and Snow White and the 7 Ups.
The other is a line when Zoidberg reads Calculon’s name as a nominee, and one of the ballot counters says that he read the wrong name. The other says:
Shh, just play along, like they did for Marisa Tomei.
This is a reference to the rumor that Marisa Tomei’s Best Supporting Actress Award for My Cousin Vinny was due to an error by Jack Palance in reading the card. Unlike many rumors, we actually know the source of this one, Critic Rex Reed, who, in the last 20 years, has proven himself to be the “angry old uncle we don’t invite to Thanksgiving” of film critics. While the myth persists, most people would probably have to accept that the reason why Tomei won is that A) she does give a great performance in the film and B) My Cousin Vinny was one of only two films that anyone saw from the Best Supporting Actress list (along with Howards End). The other three films lost money.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
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