Futurama Fridays – S1 E13 “Fry and the Slurm Factory”

Well, this is the end of Season 1. It’s weird to think that I have already gotten here, but then it’s disturbing to think how much I have to go on this damned series. I could quit, but then the terrorists win.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West) has become addicted to the soft drink Slurm. The makers of Slurm announce a contest for a tour of the Slurm Factory to whoever finds a golden bottle cap in one of their cans, which will include a party with the drink’s mascot: SLURMS MCKENZIE!!!! (David Herman)

S1EC - Slurmz
He’s the original Party Worm!!!!!!!!! Whimmy-wham-wham-wazzle! Let’s party!

To find the cap, Fry and Bender (John DiMaggio) take Professor Farnsworth’s (West) new invention the F-ray (it’s like an X-ray that gives you more cancer but also sees through anything, including metal). They search cans all over the city, but never find the bottle cap, until it’s revealed that the can that Fry bought before they started had the cap in it.

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Seen here in Fry’s luscious esophagus.

The crew goes to the planet Wormulon, the headquarters of the Slurm Company, where they meet Slurms McKenzie, briefly, before they’re taken on a tour of the factory by Glurmo (West), a Willy-Wonka-esque worm. As he shows them the factory, they’re introduced to the Grunka Lunkas (DiMaggio and Phil LaMarr), who are a not-so-subtle parody of the Oompa-Loompahs, but their songs are more threatening. As the crew watch the Grunka Lunkas make the Slurm, they’re told that there is a secret ingredient added before the sodas are canned.

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Grunka Lunka Dunkity Ducked – if you don’t like this joke, you can get (bleeped).

Fry, who hasn’t gotten to drink any Slurm in minutes, tries to drink out of the Slurm river in the factory, but falls in. Leela (Katey Sagal) jumps in after to rescue him and Bender follows because he thought people were jumping in the water and wanted to fit in. They’re sucked down a drain and end up finding out that the factory was a fake. Finding the real factory, they discover the horrible secret: Slurm is actually produced by a Giant Worm’s butt, specifically the Slurm Queen (Tress MacNeille).

S1EC - 4Slurm.png
This is also how Apple Products are made! Kidding, that’s child labor.

The trio are discovered by the worms and captured. Bender is set to be made into cans, Leela is set to be turned into a worm queen, and Fry is given Super-Slurm, which is so addictive that he can’t stop eating it. Fry manages to drag the trough of Super-Slurm over to Leela, freeing her to save Bender. They flee, but run into Slurms McKenzie, who reveals that he doesn’t want to work for Slurm anymore, having grown sick of partying. The Slurm Queen follows them, but Slurms sacrifices himself by partying hard enough to cause a cave-in and stopping the queen. Ultimately, however, Fry decides not to reveal the secret to the authorities because he loves Slurm so much and the factory remains open.

END SUMMARY

This is one of my favorite Willy Wonka parodies, although I’m pissed they didn’t try to do a version of the super-weird tunnel scene. The Grunka Lunkas remain one of my favorite Oompa-Loompah rip-offs, particularly when they do their songs. They even use the songs fake words to make absurd rhymes, like “Grunka Lunka Dunkity-dasis” with “Need-to-know basis.” Fortunately, they only really do one song and try to do two more that get cut off by Glurmo. I do also love that Hermes (LaMarr) has a discussion with Glurmo about hiring Grunka Lunkas, who apparently do have a union, but the union is so bad they’re basically slave labor (which is what they clearly are in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

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Originally they were gonna name him Slurmy Slonka. That’s not a joke, that’s true.

The twist that the drink is actually made from a giant space-worm is solid, although the episode itself even points out that it shouldn’t be that shocking, with the Slurm Queen saying:

Honey comes from a bee’s behind. Milk comes from a cow’s behind.

I mean, really, it seems gross, but it’s not like humans don’t constantly consume animal products. The twist is supposed to be reminiscent of Soylent Green, which the show even calls out by saying that there is a soda made from people, Soylent Cola, which apparently causes no legal issues whatsoever. Perhaps more surprisingly, Leela has already drank it in the past.

I think this is one of the best episodes of Season 1 and was a real solid way to end the season… except that it aired as part of Season 2.

FAVORITE JOKE

This one’s tough. Since it’s the end of Season 1, let’s do a top three.

1. Bender’s Brain

When we see inside Bender’s Brain in this episode, it’s revealed that Bender runs on a 1980s 6502 CPU famous for being in the Apple II and the NES. The idea that Bender doesn’t need more processing power than a Commodore 64 will never stop amusing me.

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Sure he can’t run graphics well, but he can play Duck Hunt!

2. New Slurm vs. Slurm Classic

Another 80s reference to the time when Coca-Cola tried to switch recipes. Theories about why they did this abound, but in 1985 Coca-Cola stopped selling their original formula and offered up the much sweeter New Coke. Despite the fact that people in test groups liked the New Coke more than Coca-Cola or Pepsi, people hated it so much that Coca-Cola released Coca-Cola Classic a mere three months later, which led to Coke’s sales skyrocketing past Pepsi. In this episode, it’s implied that the Slurm Queen would do it just to stimulate market interest by forcing Leela to produce terrible New Slurm before they replace it with Slurm Classic.

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Because “It’s Highly Addictive” isn’t driving enough sales.

3. Making Water

At one point during the episode, we see the Grunka Lunka’s making “pure water” by combining a container of H2 and another of O. Granted, it’s the future so they’ve probably figured out a way to avoid the explosion that would cause, but you’d think they also would have figured out that it’s easier to just remove the contaminants from water than to make water from its elements. Although, since the water ultimately just gets fed to the Slurm Queen along with Wumpus Berries, they probably should just be using a hose.

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Yes, this should probably result in a giant KABOOM… of COMEDY!!!!

That’s it for Season 1!

Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 12: When Aliens Attack

NEXT – Episode 14: I Second That Emotion

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E12 “When Aliens Attack”

An episode of television about people being obsessed with episodes of television. How meta.

SUMMARY

Back in the 90s (I was in a very famous TV show… wait, different series), Fry (Billy West) delivered a pizza to a Fox Network affiliate but spilled beer over the controls, disrupting Fox’s broadcast of Single Female Lawyer. One thousand-ish years later on the planet Omicron Persei 8, the Ruler of the planet, Lrr (Maurice LaMarche), is watching the broadcast when it gets interrupted, enraging him. He proceeds to bring a fleet of flying saucers to destroy many of Earth’s monuments (which are conveniently now located on a beach in New New York, courtesy of a supervillain Governor).

When he demands “McNeal,” the lead character from Single Female Lawyer, Earth President McNeal (West) misunderstands and believes they want him. As such, he orders an army to be drafted into the Earth defense force led by Zapp Brannigan (West). Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and a forcibly-reprogrammed Bender (John DiMaggio) all join the defense force; unfortunately, they are immediately overwhelmed (after they waste their efforts destroying the Hubble telescope). After Zapp kidnaps and delivers President McNeal, Lrr reveals that he means the TV character and threatens to destroy the Earth.

It’s revealed that there are no surviving copies of the series. Fry, being the only person who knows anything about the show, tries to create an ending to the episode he destroyed, using the Planet Express crew as the cast. Unfortunately, Fry only wrote two pages, forcing Leela to improvise by proposing marriage to the “Judge” Professor Farnsworth (West), something that angers Lrrr. Fry correctly tells her that TV audiences just want the same crap they’ve seen a thousand times before, resulting in her finishing the episode with a contrived monologue that puts the series back at its status quo. Lrrr agrees not to destroy the Earth and Fry tells everyone that the key to television is that the show always ends with everything back to normal. The show then pans out to show global destruction… which will be undone before the next episode.

END SUMMARY

Futurama decided to spend an episode mocking people who make and watch formulaic and unchallenging television, like a certain show that was on Fox for 5 years and managed to win 2 Golden Globes and an Emmy for best series. Not that I have anything against formulaic television (I liked House), but Ally McBeal had a lot of problems without even getting into the part where the lead character was an attorney who was terrible at lawyering. Still, it got awards and had a solid audience share, even if a lot of the viewers didn’t seem to remember much about the show but “short skirts” and “Robert Downey, Jr. getting arrested.”

I have to admit I think it’s pretty ballsy for the show to take shots at other shows for being repetitive and unchallenging this early in the run but, for the most part, I think Futurama did at least try not to be overly formulaic or predictable, even if a lot of their material came from loosely parodying other properties.

Lrrr and his wife, Nd-Nd (Tress MacNeille), are among the most frequently recurring aliens, usually representing a stereotypical dysfunctional sitcom marriage combined with the traditional alien invaders. It’s a weird combination that somehow always seems to work, since Lrrr being an overaggressive and insensitive husband always makes it seem more natural that he’s also the kind of being whose first response to a problem is to invade the planet.

Overall, I like this episode okay, even if it didn’t age super well after nearly 20 years of Ally McBeal being off the air. While it’s more common nowadays to lampoon sitcom structure (BoJack Horseman literally runs on it), this episode was a little bit ahead of that particular trend, so… bonus points of that.

FAVORITE JOKE

There aren’t any jokes in this episode that really stand out, although I do like the end of the fake episode of Single Female Lawyer. Hermes (Phil LaMarr) is playing the foreman of the jury in Jenny McNeal’s trial for jury tampering by having an affair with the judge and previous jury. As a cap for the episode, he gives the verdict:

We find the Defendant… vulnerable yet spunky!

That’s probably exactly what the producers wrote as character motivation for Callista Flockheart at the beginning of every episode of Ally McBeal. Because characterization was not a strength on that show.

Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 11: Mars University

NEXT – Episode 13: Fry and the Slurm Factory

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Futurama Fridays – S1 E11 “Mars University”

We’re getting to the end of Season One. Time to go see Mars.

SUMMARY

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.

S1EB-1MarsU
Admittedly, best motto.

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.

S1EB-2Guenter
The monkey ends up running the FOX Network. No, really, that’s canon.

END SUMMARY

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.

S1EB-3VonSnoot.png
I mean, “Snooty House” is both lazy and funny, but more lazy.

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.

S1EB-4PantyRaid.jpg
Is the panty raid joke better if they’re spying on a computer? Maybe.

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.

FAVORITE JOKE

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.”

S1EB-5ConeyIsland.png
It’s no ITT Tech, but it’ll do.

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.

PREVIOUS – Episode 10: A Flight to Remember

NEXT – Episode 12: When Aliens Attack

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Futurama Fridays – S1 E10 “A Flight to Remember”

This is where some network stuff kind of starts to screw up the ordering. On the original DVD sets I had, this was part of Season 1. However, on Amazon, this is part of Season 2. This is because this episode was produced as an episode of Season 1, but it was broadcast later. Since going by the broadcast seasons would mean there are 10 seasons of Futurama, I’m just going to stick with the production seasons. At least it’s not Firefly.

SUMMARY

As a reward for not calling the authorities over all of his horrible business practices, Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) takes the entire Planet Express staff on a trip aboard The Titanic, a space cruise ship. Leela (Katey Sagal) is dismayed to find out that the captain of The Titanic is Zapp Brannigan (West) and decides to pretend that Fry (West, again) is her fiancé so that Zapp won’t try to sleep with her.

S1EA-1Zapp.png
He’s a keeper.

Bender (John DiMaggio) meets a wealthy fembot, the Countess De La Roca (Tress MacNeille), and pretends to be a rich bachelor in order to rob her. However, he ends up confessing the truth after falling for her. She reciprocates and they do a parody of Jack and Rose in Titanic. Amy (Lauren Tom) runs into her parents, Leo and Inez Wong (West and Tom), who want to set her up with a random stranger, so she pretends Fry is her boyfriend. Now burdened with two fake girlfriends, hi-jinks ensue for Fry. Leela gets jealous of Fry pretending to date Amy, leading to Leela and Fry having a romantic moment that leads to them almost kissing.

S1EA-2Bender.png
He’s a fraud. A poor, lazy, sexy fraud. 

Meanwhile, Zapp has decided, for no real reason, to change the cruise route, resulting in The Titanic getting too close to a black hole and being caught in its pull and entering the event horizon. This interrupts Fry and Leela’s moment. The crew starts to evacuate, while Bender heads back to save the countess. The crew gets caught by a bulkhead door which Zoidberg (West) barely keeps from closing. However, Hermes (Phil LaMarr) is revealed to be a professional limbo champion and, with the help of his wife, LaBarbara (Dawnn Lewis), makes it under the door and frees them. Bender and the Countess make it back to the escape pod, but it’s too heavy. The Countess sacrifices herself to save them… and she’ll never be mentioned again.

END SUMMARY

Well, much like “A Big Piece of Garbage,” this was a parody of a then-recent movie. Take a guess which one. It’s mostly a set-up for the first real romantic tension we get between Fry and Leela, but the other character interactions are also pretty fulfilling. Everyone has at least some small side-story.

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So close, and yet, so many seasons to go.

Bender’s romance is pretty much in-character for him. He believes it’s real love but, ten seconds after she’s dead, he tries to pawn the Countess’s necklace. Hermes’ tragic past as a limbo champion is one of the funniest gags in the show that keeps going. The idea that a small child killed himself trying to limbo out of adulation for Hermes is so ridiculous and yet it works perfectly within the episode and for the character. Zapp’s capricious piloting and rampant idiocy is also in character, reminding me why I love him so much and why he would be the first person I would kill if I was on a ship with him. Not that I kill people on boats, but it’s good to have an order just in case. The Professor gets some action from Hattie McDoogal (MacNeille) which will come up a few more times. Zoidberg… well, he’s there and he’s hilarious.

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He has an Olympian’s build.

This episode sets up a few nice character moments that continue through the series. Kif (Maurice LaMarche) and Amy meet, which eventually leads to their romance. Amy’s parents and their constant meddling are introduced. Fry and Leela’s romance starts, albeit roughly. Hermes’ limbo past comes up. Overall, I like the fact that, aside from a few throwaway gags with Bender and the Countess, this episode didn’t really rely on the movie Titanic that much.

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Her parents look way too happy about this.

FAVORITE JOKE

The episode’s lighter on complicated gags, since it’s more a series of vignettes about the characters intertwining. So, here are my top three:

  1. The Buffet

S1EA-6Buffet.png

“All You Can Eat Plus A Whole Chicken.” I mean, I love a buffet, so this one kind of hit home. You can’t beat just dropping an extra chicken on the plate, particularly on a cruise.

     2. Bender’s Drawing

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It was the most e-rotic moment of my life. Yes, that’s a joke.

They replicate the famous drawing scene in Titanic, but with Bender’s finger operating as a Dot Matrix printer. When it’s revealed, it turns out Bender sees her nudity as a circuit diagram. It’s a nice double-joke inside of five seconds.

     3. iZac (Phil LaMarr)

S1EA-8iZac.png

iZac is a great character gag. It’s Isaac Washington from The Love Boat played by Ted Lange, except that this one doesn’t take any crap. When Bender tries to steal drinks, he has him beaten for being a deadbeat. Also, yes, it’s a pun on iMac which only became more relevant as time went on and iPods and iPads came out.

Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 9: Hell is Other Robots

NEXT – Episode 11: Mars University

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Futurama Fridays – S1 E9 “Hell is Other Robots”

This episode introduces us to the intricacies of Robot religion, one of the funniest aspects of this show. Given that Robots should never have any of the issues of wondering about who created them or why, you’d think they wouldn’t need to create a religion, but they not only create it, they make an afterlife that is designed to resemble only the most artistic interpretations of hell.

S1E9-1Bosch.jpg
Okay, maybe not ALL artistic interpretations.

*Note: I don’t have anything against Christianity. I do have things against certain interpretations of Christianity that this episode satirizes without naming. If you belong to one of these sects and don’t have a sense of humor about it, you might want to wait a week and read the review of the Titanic parody.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West), Bender (John DiMaggio), and Leela (Katey Sagal) attend a concert of the disembodied Beastie Boys. Bender goes backstage and tries “jacking on,” which is something robots do to get high by giving themselves huge shots of electricity. Bender becomes addicted to this, hurting his friends and co-workers, until he ends up trying to get high on top of the Temple of the Church of Robotology, then falls through a skylight and ends up seeking salvation from the Preacherbot (Phil LaMarr).

S1E9-2JackingOn
Robot drugs are very much like human ones, but with fewer animation costs.

Bender takes up Robotology, but becomes nearly insufferable to all of his friends. They decide that they prefer him as he was, rather than the ultra-pious person he has become, so they take him to Atlantic City and tempt him repeatedly with hookers, booze, gambling, and theft. He asks them to stop because he has inner peace, but Fry keeps encouraging him until he gives in and returns to his old ways. Unfortunately, it turns out that Robotology is more direct than many religions and, for sinning, Bender is abducted by the Robot Devil (Dan “I’m Homer F*cking Simpson” Castellaneta) and sent to be punished in Robot Hell to a musical number.

S1E9-3HellFirst
Look! Iron Butterflies!

 Fry and Leela make their way to New Jersey, where Robot Hell is located, and descend to rescue Bender. They find out that due to the “Fairness in Hell Act of 2275” anyone can challenge the Robot Devil to a fiddle contest and win back Bender’s soul as well as a golden fiddle. However, if they lose, they only win a silver fiddle and the Robot Devil will kill Fry. The Devil plays excellently, however, rather than play against him, Leela just beats him over the head and the trio escapes.

END SUMMARY

This is truly a textbook three-act structure. The first act is Bender’s addiction which could be a stand-alone story, the second is the rise and fall of his faith, and the last is his escape from perdition. A lot manages to happen in just 22 minutes through the use of a lot of quick dialogue and imagery shortcuts. I know I’ve said that having the “Most Plot” is not the equivalent of having the “Best Plot,” but managing to fit an entire Opera format into a half-hour is damned impressive, particularly since it also has musical numbers.

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Yep, matches the diagram.

Robotology is one of the better digs at some specific churches that I’ve seen in fiction. The church doesn’t actually reflect upon the positive reward aspects promised by the Gospel in Christianity or helping their members aspire to be better people. Instead, it just threatens damnation upon anyone who commits a sin. It’s all stick, no carrot. They even adopt “resistor” as their symbol. Granted, with Robotology, this is actually pretty justified, since many robots can’t actually die (they just download into back-up units or drift around as programs). This means they don’t need a concept of a rewarding afterlife, only a punishment for transgression (though one episode suggests a robot heaven might exist); hence, the Robot Devil doesn’t need to wait for that pesky “dying” thing to collect his victims.

S1E9-5Devil
Instead, it’s just a trip over the Jersey Turnpike.

Bender’s addiction tale is so comically exaggerated, the episode makes a joke about it being over-the-top, then takes it up a notch. However, it doesn’t come off as too disrespectful of addiction, since Bender does seem to recognize that he has a problem. He sees all the trouble it causes himself and others, but he can’t stop jacking on. The fact that he eventually overcomes it by converting to religion is a nod both to the nature of most recovery programs in the US which stress finding a higher power to believe in and also a nod to the fact that Bender’s new obsession with his faith is less a genuine change of belief than just substituting one addiction for another.

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Two minutes after being told to go back to vice.

The Robot Devil is amazing. He’s one of my favorite characters. He’s so melodramatic solely for the love of being melodramatic that you just can’t bring yourself to think he’s really that bad. Granted, part of that is that he is probably less objectively harmful to society than Bender, whose long list of sins are enumerated in song in this episode. I also love that the Robot Devil constantly misuses the word “ironic” in the same way people often misunderstand irony when reading Dante’s Inferno, something that even gets brought up repeatedly in one of his future episodes “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings.” Granted, this was after Alanis Morissette decided to make it even more convoluted with an absurdly catchy song.

S1E9-7DevilDrum
He’s not very good at dodging, though.

FAVORITE JOKE

This is kind of a repeat from “I, Roommate,” but I have to go with the Church’s sign that is displayed during Bender’s Baptism.

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The candles are on “resistance” symbols and the lamps are nested diode symbols. Love it.

This is a reference to the BASIC computer language and the command “Goto” which performs a one-way transfer to another line and never returns. The joke here isn’t just that the rules are written in BASIC or that it’s a one-way transfer to hell, but also that there is literally nothing else to their religion. You sin, you go to hell. You don’t sin… you get nothing. There’s no conditional function that says “find salvation” or “find peace” or “get everlasting reward.” Again, it makes some form of sense in the robot religion, but it’s also an occurrence in some human churches.

S1E9-BJesusChurch
Some are more negative than others. Also, they’re shitheads.

Close runner-up, though, is the title of the episode, “Hell is Other Robots.” This is a play on the most common translation of a line from No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre: “Hell is other people.” In No Exit, the true torture of hell is being stuck in a room with other terrible people and being unable to stop valuing yourself through the opinions of others. In Futurama, hell is just other robots torturing you for eternity. Neither version actually requires the demons of traditional Christianity. However, Robot Hell is actually designed to resemble it, making it a subversion of the title’s reference. Whatever, I think it’s funny.

Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 8: A Big Piece of Garbage

NEXT – Episode 10: A Flight to Remember

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Futurama Fridays – S1 E8 “A Big Piece of Garbage”

This episode wins the award for most direct title. It’s also a wonderful shot at Armageddon, the movie it satirizes a bit. Granted, I am the rare reviewer who kind of enjoys that film, as dumb and terrible and made by Michael Bay as it is, but I still thought turning the focus of the movie into a giant wad of human waste was pretty funny.

SYNOPSIS

Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) attempts to impress his peers at the Academy of Inventors symposium with his new invention, the Death Clock. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the symposium, he is told by his nemesis Dr. Wernstrom (David Herman) that he actually presented the Death Clock last year and was mocked for it. In response, he claims to have designed a Smell-o-scope, a device that lets you smell through a telescope. He is again mocked for this invention. Moreover, after he vows to build it anyway, it’s revealed that, like the Death Clock, he already invented it and forgot about it.

S1E8-1Smelloscope
Amazingly no one noticed before.

Fry (West) begins smelling around the Universe, including Urectum (the new name for Uranus), before he smells something absolutely disgusting. It’s revealed to be a giant ball of garbage that was created by 21st Century New York and launched into space. Farnsworth and the crew try to warn Mayor Poopenmeyer (Herman) but are challenged by Wernstrom until the ball passes Neptune, confirming its existence. Since, much like in Armageddon, nothing can be used to shoot the ball down, Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio) land on the ball and plant a giant bomb. Unfortunately, the Professor put the timer in wrong, resulting in the team having to get rid of it before it destroys the ball.

S1E8-2RightStuff
The Right Stuff walk was just a bonus.

Upon returning, Fry comes up with the plan to launch an identical ball of garbage at the current one, so the entire city pollutes as much as they can to create enough trash to match it. After just under a day, they launch their filth-sphere, deflecting the other one into the Sun. Leela points out that the new ball will just come back, but Fry says nobody cares because that won’t be for 1000 years.

END SYNOPSIS

Since this episode aired in 1999, Armageddon and Deep Impact had both been big films the previous year, making this parody pretty timely, given the pace of animation. Disturbingly, Futurama’s physics aren’t much less ridiculous than either of those films, aside from Farnsworth somehow making a machine that can smell through the vacuum of space. I also appreciate that, rather than just doing the parody all the way through, the third act of this episode consists of them coming up with a different, albeit ridiculous, solution to the impeding impact.

S1E8-3BallOfTrash
Trashy television.

I do have a theory on the Smell-O-Scope, though. Currently, we can use spectrographs and spectrometers to determine the chemical compositions of objects found in space by measuring the intensity of the various spectrums of light emitted from the object. I believe the Smell-O-Scope is just a very high-level spectrograph which also is capable of replicating the chemical compositions in small doses and sending them through the nozzle into the nostrils of the person smelling it. Basically, it sees what you’re pointing at, determines what it would smell like, and lets you smell it. Or it’s magic.

S1E8-4Smelloscope
Apparently there’s a real one.

Aside from the plot, though, this episode should be respected for introducing us to the recurring character of Morbo the newsmonster (Maurice LaMarche). I love this character, because he’s the kind of newscaster that the world really needs, constantly reveling in the fact that humans are weak and doomed. Let’s be honest for a second, that’s already what most news programs are about. The news is rarely about pleasant or hopeful stories, they’re almost always about things indicating some imminent crisis or depicting a horrible event. That’s what makes for ratings. While Morbo isn’t technically celebrating any of these things for those reasons, he’s accompanied by the ever-upbeat Linda (Tress MacNeille), who cheerfully jokes with him about these events. Together, they represent a more-honest version of the news: They love when bad crap happens and they’re open about it.

S1E8-5Morbo

Also, apparently the Professor’s bomb error is a reference to a failed terrorist attack in the ‘90s. The terrorists put the timer on the explosive upside down, resulting in them setting the bomb for two seconds instead of five minutes, killing one of them and wounding the other severely. I would never have thought something like that could be taken from reality, but apparently it is.

FAVORITE JOKE

The video for the background of the garbage ball is hilarious. First, it has Rudy Giuliani putting all of New York’s garbage on a barge and just kicking it out to sea. This was before 9/11, meaning that everyone still thought that Giuliani was kind of shady. The garbage barge then floats around the world, somehow, before coming back to New York. New York then launches it into space using its mob connections, rather than any official channels.

S1E8-6Rudy.png

Now, this is kind of a clever set-up, but it’s the last part that really sets the joke apart. Farnsworth mentions that he got the video off of the internet, which Fry says was just for pornography back in the 20th century. However, it turns out that this video is a porno. The terrible music that’s been playing over the documentary is actually the muzak we find in erotic films, which, in retrospect, makes perfect sense. And it has my favorite porn exchange, even if it’s fake:

Girl: Now that the garbage is in space, doctor, perhaps you can help me with my sexual inhibitions.

Guy: With gusto!

It’s so perfectly bad.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 7: My Three Suns

NEXT – Episode 9: Hell is Other Robots

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Futurama Fridays – S1 E7 “My Three Suns”

This is the episode that has Bender (John DiMaggio) singing a parody of Rose Royce’s “Car Wash” as “Bot Wash.” This is simultaneously an extremely lazy joke and also hilarious, proving that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I appreciate that, since all of my jokes are lazy.

SYNOPSIS

Bender is watching a cooking show featuring Elzar (DiMaggio), a parody of some chef who says “BAM!” a lot and expresses a desire to be a chef. Hermes (Phil LaMarr) points out that Bender doesn’t technically do anything at his job, so Bender agrees to be the chef’s cook. While buying ingredients in Little Neptune, a neighborhood near Little Uranus and Little Italy, Fry (Billy West) wanders off and almost sells his lungs to an organ dealer. Leela (Katey Sagal) saves him, but he’s ungrateful.

S1E7-1LittleNeptune.png
I still can’t figure out what the Number 9 man is doing handing out money.

Back at the Planet Express building, the Professor (West) sends the usual trio, along with Amy (Lauren Tom) and Dr. Zoidberg (West), on a delivery to the planet Trisol. Along the way, Bender serves a dish that’s made almost entirely of salt, causing everyone to be thirsty. When they land on the planet, Fry heads off to make the delivery, but becomes delirious with thirst walking through the desert of the planet with three suns. He eventually reaches a castle and drinks a bottle of blue liquid to quench his thirst, which turns out to be the Emperor Bont (Maurice LaMarche).

S1E7-2Sign
To be fair to Fry, there wasn’t a sign telling him not to.

Surprisingly, Fry is made Emperor of the Trisolian people. It turns out that the Trisolian Emperor is whoever slew the previous one. Leela finds this alarming, but when she discloses it to Fry, he thinks she’s worrying for nothing and insults her. However, when Fry takes the oath of coronation, the suns of Trisol go down and reveal that Bont is still alive inside Fry’s stomach. The Emperor orders the population to cut Fry open and release him, leading Fry to lock himself and the crew inside the castle. The crew decide to have Fry cry out Bont, but he can’t cry. Bender calls Leela for help, then claims she’s killed, making Fry cry two drops. Leela then shows up unharmed and presents her own plan: Beating Fry physically until he cries. Bont ends up free, but also takes a turn kicking Fry’s ass.

S1E7-3Bont
Also, there’s a Homer on Bender’s sash.

END SYNOPSIS

So, the emotional core of this episode is the distance between Fry and Leela caused by Fry’s irresponsibility and Leela’s frustration towards him. A lot of why it bothers Leela so much is because she cares so much about Fry, including having romantic feelings for him, but she knows that his behavior keeps them from ever being together. That’s why it’s so much sweeter of a moment when Leela does agree to save him and when Fry’s feelings of sadness at the thought of losing her prove to be the only thing that can make him cry. It’s an episode giving them circumstances to exacerbate the problems in the relationship, but also giving them an opportunity to recognize that their feelings haven’t changed since the tender moment in the pilot.

S1E7-4FryPunch
She doesn’t have the most passive form of aggression.

Aside from that core, we also have an episode that deals with an interesting society, similar to episodes of Star Trek and its progeny. The Trisolians and their Emperor succession are examples of the Sword of Damocles principle taken to a huge extreme. If you’re the Emperor, you are literally always a target and, due to the nature of the Trisolians, you’re really easy to kill. Rather then deal with elections or parties or ruling houses, the Trisolians just let whoever is sitting on the throne be the leader. Weirdly, it doesn’t seem to be hurting much of their society, probably because it seems like the Prime Ministers carry on between all the administrations and the Emperor doesn’t appear to actually run the country aside from appointing the Prime Minister. It’s possible that, in the past, the Emperors have all nominated or maintained the Prime Minister that best administered the planet. Or maybe their planet just sucks a lot, but not as much as you’d think for a society where the leadership is changing, on average, every week.

S1E7-5Paintings.png
Granted, they’ve adapted well.

I should pick this as the episode to discuss Alien Language 1, because this is the episode that really made it easy to figure out. Apparently, a bunch of people had figured it out from the pilot, but I don’t think they’d actually shown all of the symbols until this episode. The language is pretty easy, it’s just a substitution cipher for English. It’s found all throughout this episode in easily translatable messages. I appreciate that the writers went as far as to include something like this, but, they got ticked off that too many people figured it out too fast and made the much more complicated Alien Language 2, which I’ll address later when it shows up. Apparently, they also designed an Alien Language 3 and it is even crazier.

S1E7-6ALS1
I mean, I still appreciate the effort.

As another note, I have to point out that in the commentary for this episode, Matt Groening makes the startling admission that he never has seen an episode of Star Trek. However, David X Cohen, the show’s co-creator, states that he is basically never NOT watching Star Trek, so it evens out. I just find it funny that a show so filled with Star Trek references has a creator who wasn’t familiar with the series.

Oh, and this is the first episode where Professor Farnsworth says “Good news, everyone!” which will be his catchphrase. Prior to this, he’d said variations on it, much like Scotty in the original Star Trek. Not that Groening would get that.

FAVORITE JOKE

I’m gonna pick Fry’s telling of “The Grasshopper and the Ant.” See, in the original Aesop version, the grasshopper is foolish and doesn’t store up for the winter, then comes to beg for food from the ant and is refused, killing her. They’re both girls because the words for the animals are feminine in most languages. However, as Christianity started to take over Europe, most of the revised versions changed the story so that, even though the grasshopper was foolish, the ant still gave her food out of a sense of charity or goodwill. That was even further revised by at least one author to having the ant give her food out of an appreciation for the grasshopper’s music. Another version, weirdly, portrays the ant as being in the wrong and in that one the ant is a thief, but I’m now way off track.

S1E7-7AntGrasshopper
Until you get to the American versions, where all the characters have to be boys.

Fry’s version, entitled “The Grasshopper and the Octopus,” is insane. He tells it to Leela thus:

It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long the grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came and the grasshopper died and the octopus ate all his acorns and also he got a racecar.

So, Fry, rather than taking the original story that would criticize his behavior or the version that would encourage Leela to help him despite it, instead crafts a version in which he can behave badly and he will not only be rewarded but Leela will be punished. However, the rest of the episode plays out both the original and the revised versions. At first, Leela refuses to help Fry after he tells her off, but then she realizes that, even though Fry has done nothing to deserve it, she’s going to help him anyway. That’s why I think it’s funny that, rather than lampshade either of those as the outcomes, they instead have Fry turn the fable into an insane rant.

Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 6: A Fishful of Dollars

NEXT – Episode 8: A Big Piece of Garbage

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.