Bender gets his big break on a soap opera and ends up causing moral outrage.
The Professor’s (Billy West) son, Cubert (Kath Soucie), and Hermes’s (Phil LaMarr) son, Dwight (Bumper Robinson), are watching TV and trying to emulate Calculon (Maurice LaMarche), the star of soap opera All My Circuits. Calculon holds a birthday bash, leading Cubert to request a birthday party which he shares with Dwight, but no one shows up due to the two being unpopular. During the birthday bash episode, the actor playing Calculon’s son breaks down, literally, and has to be replaced. Bender (John DiMaggio) auditions to replace him and, by sabotaging all the other actors, gets the role despite being a terrible actor.
On set, the show tries to work around Bender by having him be in a coma, only for Bender to refuse to obey the script and start improvising with his typical rudeness. Due to Calculon having a “one-take only” policy, the footage gets aired. Calculon tries to get Bender fired, but the audience loves Bender and the executives love that the audience loves him. Bender gets a central role in the show and continues to do all the things that he does normally: drink, smoke, steal, and swear. Cubert, Dwight, and the other kids start to idolize and emulate Bender, angering their parents. The Professor and Hermes form an organization called F.A.R.T. (Fathers Against Rude Television) to oppose Bender.
Dwight and Cubert emulate Bender to the point that they decide to rob the coolest person they know, namely Bender. Upon finding out that the kids robbed him, Bender joins F.A.R.T. and tries to ban himself from TV. The F.A.R.T.s and Bender go to the studio to try and get Bender fired, but the President of the Network (West) takes Bender hostage… at the same time that the F.A.R.T.s do. Bender steals there weapons and forces the cameramen on All My Circuits to film him. He delivers a speech culminating in: “… [m]ost, perhaps all the blame, rests with the parents. That’s right, you! And so I ask you this one question: Have you ever tried simply turning off the TV, sitting down with your children, and hitting them?” Everyone agrees that they should watch less TV, then proceeds to keep watching it anyway.
This episode is pretty clearly a shot at all of the parents groups that complained about Futurama being inappropriate for kids and Bender specifically being a poor role model. The idea of Bender becoming famous plays out repeatedly within the series, but watching him become famous essentially just for being himself is a nice jab at the fact that he was kind of the breakout character, despite the fact that he’s basically just a hedonist. Now, it’s not surprising that Futurama, a show made by many of the same people as The Simpsons, probably doesn’t have a lot of love towards people claiming it’s morally bankrupt, so I think this episode was probably inevitable. However, as expected, even though they do take a position about parents having to take some responsibility over what media children consume as opposed to the media itself being restricted, they still decide to say it in the most outrageous way possible, by encouraging the parents to beat their children. After that, they decide to get a last dig in at the outraged groups by having them learn the lesson that they should watch less TV, but then keep watching it anyway even though they explicitly say nothing good is on.
The episode also takes a shot at the Studio executive system. The Execu-Bots that run the network under the President are programmed to do all of the things that people complain about executives doing. Execu-Bot Alpha only likes things that its already seen, Beta determines the lineup by rolling dice rather than trying to create art or quality, and Gamma underestimates middle America. The President of the Network is literally a laptop and is focused solely on the acquisition of money at any cost. He has no loyalty to the actors, the crew, or the audience, only to the shareholders. It’s not a particularly clever bit of criticism, but I imagine it was cathartic to people running a TV show on a network, particularly one that was about to be cancelled.
Overall, not a bad episode. It doesn’t really make any of my top episode lists, but it’s got fun moments too.
This one took me a few years to get, but it’s probably when Calculon is confronted by F.A.R.T. and the Bender-led mob and he shouts out “Great Shatner’s Ghost!” The reason why I love that is that it’s a reference to the phrase “Great Caesar’s Ghost,” the catchphrase of Daily Planet Editor-In-Chief Perry White from Superman. While it apparently first appeared on the Superman radio show in the 1940s, it became his catchphrase because the actor who played White on the 1950s Superman TV Show, John Hamilton, thought it would make him memorable. The reason why I think that’s a really good joke is that, like Calculon, John Hamilton appeared in hundreds of films and television shows and yet he really only ever had one memorable role.
See you next week, meatbags.
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