Planet Express screws up the universe in order to win a basketball game against the Globetrotters… then the ball’s in Farnsworth’s court.
The Globetrotters, a race of aliens who also come from Harlem somehow, come to Earth to challenge the planet to a game of basketball with absolutely no consequences whatsoever aside from embarrassment. The Professor (Billy West) decides to take up the cause of representing the Earth by making a team of atomic supermen. Unfortunately, they’re only atomic superbabies at this stage, so the Professor sends Fry (West), Bender (John DiMaggio), and Leela (Katey Sagal) to get “chronitons,” a particle which controls the flow of time. The particles are extracted from the Tempus Nebula, causing cracks in space when they’re removed, but the team doesn’t pay any attention to it. The Professor gives the babies the chronitons and they grow into five giant atomic monstrosities in basketball outfits. Space Jam could not be reached for comment.
The Globetrotters and the supermen face off, with Earth taking the lead throughout the first half, something that the Globetrotters claim is intentional. In the middle of the second half, time suddenly starts skipping forward, leading to the death of one of the supermen. Fry offers to take over the spot of fifth man due to the team being up 35 with two minutes left. Time skips again and the Globetrotters win by 158 points. Everyone blames Fry, but no one knows what he did.
Farnsworth tries to figure out how to stop the skips and is joined by the head of the Globetrotters, Bubblegum Tate (Phil LaMarr), one of Bender’s heroes. As they work to solve the problem, time continues to skip forward, often in hilarious ways. At the same time, Fry attempts to figure out how to get Leela to go out with him, failing miserably. Farnsworth and Tate come up with a plan to move stars using a gravity pump in the hopes that it diverts the time skips to another part of the universe. Leela manages to move the stars into place and it appears the skips have stopped. Fry tries to convince her to go out with him again, showing her that he learned how to fly the ship and the gravity pump. She’s just in the middle of telling him no when time skips again to their wedding.
Leela accuses Fry of tricking her somehow and divorces him. He tries to figure out what he did to get her to marry him, but his attempts are frustrated because time keeps on slippin’ (oh, that’s why they called it that). Farnsworth and the Globetrotters come up with another plan to get rid of the chronitons by using a doomsday device to implode the nebula. Farnsworth is revealed to have many of them. The team sets off the device, just in time for Fry to find out what he did to make Leela give him a chance: He wrote a love letter with the stars themselves. Sadly, it’s destroyed before she sees it and everything goes back to normal.
This is one of the best episodes of this show on a lot of levels.
First, the Globetrotters are hilarious from minute one. They’re explicitly non-threatening in a very threatening manner. They treat all of their joking antics with a level of seriousness that should get old, but somehow never does. Bubblegum Tate’s insistence that there are no stakes whatsoever is given the gravitas of threatening destruction and essentially treated as such by Farnsworth. When people laugh at their antics, Bubblegum claims to be angered that their behavior is being misunderstood. It’s basically like if the Harlem Globetrotters actually took their role of constantly beating the Washington Generals to be a serious event. The fact that they’re then revealed to all be mathematicians and physicists who still obey the traditional Globetrotter rules for heightening tension and amusing people elevates the joke even more.
Second, this is one of the first times we get confirmation that Fry and Leela might actually work out, because it’s revealed that once Leela gave him a chance, they ended up getting married. It turns out Fry really was willing to go out and do something amazing just to prove that he’s serious about her. That said, something did bug me on this re-watch. As the audience, we see that Leela is actually fairly interested in Fry, so it feels justified that he keeps going, but from his perspective she’s just repeatedly rejecting him politely. He should probably have stopped asking at this point. That said, it does end up working out for them, so… hell, I dunno what to think about it. Pass.
Third, the mechanism of the time-skips makes this one of the most efficient and humorous episodes of the show. We get so many great gags out of watching everything skip ahead in time because it’s basically an in-universe jump cut. It’s so great to watch the characters themselves experience a narrative device with the same impact that it has on us. I particularly love when Hermes claims to have a solution only for it to jump cut to everyone in a nude conga line, something even Hermes can’t rationalize.
Overall, this is just a great episode. The jokes are rapid-fire and almost all of them are great. The Globetrotters are one of the best running gags the show ever came up with. Just an amazing half-hour of television.
All of the time skips pretty much could be on here, but the best one is probably also the darkest. There’s a set of four skips in a row where Linda the newscaster ends up saying the following stream of lines:
Time continues to skip forward randomly. Details at 11. [Skip] This is the news at 11. The mysterious and unexplained– [Skip] Turning to entertainment news, teen singer Wendy might just be the latest– [Skip] –won three Grammys last night– [Skip] –found dead in her bathtub.
It’s a horrifying joke about the nature of the music industry that these artists so frequently die young after achieving notoriety. It’s made even more disturbing by the fact that the album that Wendy is shown on is clearly designed after Britney Spears’ debut album “…Baby One More Time,” and this episode actually came out before Spears’ very public meltdown.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
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