Futurama Fridays – S2E17 “War is the H-Word”

The Planet Express crew is going to war… for a pack of gum.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West) and Bender (John DiMaggio) join the military reserves so they can get a 5% military discount on ham-flavored gum. They plan on quitting after buying the gum, but a second after they join, war is declared and they’re drafted. Leela (Katey Sagal) tries to enlist to keep them safe, but the army of the future is men-only, due to Zapp Brannigan’s (West) constant sexual harassment. She signs up anyway as a man named Lee Lemon, who Zapp crushes on.

S2EH - 1Poster.png
Well, there went the subtlety.

After getting through basic training, the three are dropped onto planet Spheron I, a planet which Zapp admits has no natural resources or strategic value. It turns out to be populated by living balls. During the first battle, Fry hides, resulting in other members of the platoon being injured, while Bender jumps on a bomb to save the others. Fry is punished by being made Kif’s (Maurice LaMarche) assistant, while Bender is fixed under orders of President Nixon (West).

S2EH - 2Balls.png
They’ve got a lot of Chutzpah.

Bender is sent along with Henry Kissinger’s Head (DiMaggio) to negotiate with the leaders of Spheron, the Brain Balls. However, Leela finds out that Nixon had a bomb put in Bender’s chest which will activate when he says the word “ass.” Leela and Fry steal a helicopter from Zapp, revealing that Lee Lemon is a woman in the process, to Zapp’s relief, and arrive in time to stop Bender from blowing up the planet. The Spherons surrender, revealing that this is their homeworld which Earth has invaded for no real reason, and Fry and Bender leave the military. Being unable to remove the bomb, the Professor changes the codeword, which Bender correctly guesses as “antiquing.” However, he survives the explosion.

S2EH - 3End.jpg
Yep, there goes the subtlety.

END SUMMARY

This is Futurama’s take on war, specifically the kind of asymmetrical warfare which had been waged during the 90s… and would mostly be waged after this episode aired. We see the Earth Army, composed of professionals with spaceships and laser weapons, attacking the Spherons, whose most sophisticated weapon is a cartoonish bomb. They mostly attack by bouncing on top of the humans, something that doesn’t seem to be lethal (until they’re sent to Zoidberg (West) for their injuries). This war is completely one-sided and, perhaps most depressingly, completely without any merit. In previous episodes, we’d seen Earth on the losing side of this (like “When Aliens Attack”), but now we see humans as the pointless aggressors, stealing another race’s planet for, again, literally no strategic reason.

S2EH - 4Zoidberg
He attacks more people than the balls do.

Much like in Blackadder Goes Forth, this episode also depicts the divide between the soldiers fighting the war and the people who make the decisions to wage it. Nixon is never in danger, nor, really, is Zapp, who at one point even is depicted more worried about his horse being spooked than the men around him being overrun by balls. Even Kif, who ostensibly is subordinate to Zapp, is still more concerned about the fact that his nut bowl isn’t sufficiently mixed than the fact that they’re fighting a war. It’s a common theme, but it’s well represented here.

S2EH - 5Scotch
The Pre-War Scotch is key.

The depiction of Fry in this episode seems fairly consistent with his development, when he’s a coward who eventually learns to overcome his fear to save his friends. Leela gets a little more development when she uses her disguise as Lee Lemon to find out if Fry has a crush on her, then seems flattered to find out that he does, hinting that she is realizing that she returns his feelings (something she’ll go back and forth on for the rest of the series).

S2EH - 6LeeLemon
Where she found a purple beard that quickly is still a mystery.

In contrast, we see one of the most out of character moments for Bender in the series, when he jumps on top of a bomb to save others. They do try to couch his self-sacrifice by having him say that he wants a young version of himself on a stamp, but it still seems weird that Bender, of all people/robots, would jump on the grenade. Still, it gave us an easy segue to the M*A*S*H parody that remains one of my favorite short references in the series.

S2EH - 7IHawk
The easiest way to understand M*A*S*H is this scene.

This episode is also crammed with references, from M*A*S*H to Starship Troopers to Star Wars to, well, real life. I’m always on the fence about how they depict Henry Kissinger here, but I suppose that’s because Kissinger is a tough figure. On the one hand, he encouraged the US to commit numerous acts (like carpet-bombing Cambodia, supporting the Bangladeshi genocide, the use of Agent Orange and Napalm in Vietnam) which don’t look great in retrospect. However, he also literally stopped a Nuclear War once by claiming Nixon was too drunk to make any decisions, masterminded the opening of trade between China and the US, and repeatedly lowered tensions between the USSR and the US to avoid the big boom that would end the world. That’s why it’s interesting to see him here, presumably ending a war through diplomacy that he also helped start. Tom Lehrer once said political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but this episode actually uses him to keep it alive. Well done.

S2EH - 8Kissinger
Is the episode comparing these two morally? Maybe…

FAVORITE JOKE

It’s not even a close contest. The funniest line in this episode is this exchange:

Leela: You know, Zapp, someone ought to teach you a lesson.

Zapp: If it’s a lesson in love, watch out; I suffer from a very sexy learning disability. What do I call it, Kif?

Kif: “Sex-lexia”.

S2EH - 9Sexlexia.gif

Only a character as absolutely amazingly crafted as Zapp Brannigan could even hope to make this work. This is like a guy bragging that the fact that he has a lot of STDs is a sign that he’s had sex and therefore you should sleep with him. He’s so confident that what he’s being seductive that it’s almost overwhelming. If Kif didn’t sound so despondent when answering, it might even work as a somewhat legitimate pick-up line. Hell, if I can find someone to do it with me, I might even try to figure out a way to use it.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 29: Anthology of Interest I

NEXT – Episode 31: The Honking

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, 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.

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Futurama Fridays – S2E16 “Anthology of Interest I”

The Planet Express crew participates in a scientific version of “What If?”

SUMMARY

The Professor (Billy West) is demonstrating his new invention the “Fing-longer” which, as the name suggests, is just a glove with a long finger. He uses the device to turn on the What-If Machine, which generates a hypothetical story in response to any “What If” question. The crew tries it out in 3 different stories:

S2EG - 1Finglonger.png
Behold, the FUTURE!!!!!

First, Bender (John DiMaggio) asks what it would be like if he were 500 feet tall. A giant Bender is built on another planet and proceeds to head to Earth, where he quickly befriends Fry (West). However, their interactions are now more destructive than usual due to Bender being larger than most versions of Godzilla. When Zapp Brannigan (West) is sent to stop him, Fry is injured, resulting in Bender going on a rampage. The Professor decides to enlarge Zoidberg (West) to 500 feet tall to fight Bender, but Zoidberg soon starts destroying stuff as well. The two do end up fighting and Bender appears to win until Fry distracts him with shrinky-dinks and Zoidberg impales Bender on a large building. Bender says that his simple dream was only to kill all humans, then he expires.

S2EG - 2GiantFight.png
King Kong ain’t got nothing on them.

Second, Leela (Katey Sagal) asks what she would be like if she were slightly more impulsive. This results in her killing the Professor in response to him calling her boring. Hermes (Phil LaMarr) discovers this, but she kills and dismembers him. Bender tries to blackmail her over Hermes’ remains, so she kills Bender with a microwave. Amy (Lauren Tom) insults Leela, so she dies. Cubert (Kath Soucie), Scruffy (David Herman), and Nibbler (Frank Welker) all accuse Leela and are impaled on the same sword. Zoidberg finally figures it out, but Leela eats him. After Fry actually determines the truth, Leela silences him… through wild sex acts, which he really likes.

S2EG - 3Kills.png
This is genuinely impressive. Most people can’t do the triple impale.

Last, Fry asks what would have happened if he never came to the future. Back in the year 1999, Fry fails to fall into the cryogenic freezer, resulting in a space-time rip that shows Planet Express. The next day, Fry sees Stephen Hawking in his pizzeria and tells him about the rip. Later, Fry is abducted by the “Vice Presidential Action Rangers,” a group dedicated to preserving the space-time continuum, with members including Hawking, Al Gore, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax, and Deep Blue (Tress MacNeille) the chess computer. They determine that the rip means that Fry should have died, and try to beat him to death to save the universe. This makes the rip worse, so they realize Fry would have to be frozen, but Fry breaks the tube, resulting in the universe collapsing. In response, the group plays Dungeons and Dragons.

S2EG - 4FryHole.png
Weirdly, these characters are together even without Fry.

The entire episode is revealed to be the Professor asking what life would be like with the fing-longer.

S2EG - 5WhatIf.png
He does eventually make it, though. Because science!!!!

END SUMMARY

This was the Futurama version of the “Treehouse of Horror” from The Simpsons, but these are less directly parodying popular films or movies. Bender’s story is a bit of a parody of The Iron Giant and Godzilla, and the name of Leela’s is a parody of Dial M for Murder, but it never feels like they’re being too direct about the rip-offs. In the DVD commentary, they say that they wanted to do some stories that they just couldn’t work into the normal continuity, similar to Marvel’s “What-if?” comics line.

S2EG - 6WhatIf.png
Much like that line, some stuff in these became canon.

This episode kind of highlights what I think is a strength behind both this show and The Simpsons as well as the other shows that have sense copied it: They’re willing to play with the medium of sitcom. They know that television is, by default, repetitive and that one of the best ways to keep people from going insane is to occasionally have an episode that bucks that. These episodes also often have the benefit of containing ideas that were generally deemed “good” but not good enough to stretch into a full episode, so most of the quality is condensed into each vignette.

Bender’s segment, “Terror at 500 Feet” is pretty much great from start to finish, including the way that Bender’s lead-in very clearly suggests he was going to ask what it would be like to be human (something that they actually did in the sequel episode to this). It’s surprisingly efficient, with most of the interactions of characters happening in only a line or two, and a lot of it being conveyed through quick cuts of Bender and Fry’s friendship. The ending is one of the best random lines in the series, with Bender saying that he’s not the real 7-billion-ton robot monster… despite the fact that he also was planning genocide.

S2EG - 8Impaled.png
Might wanna get that checked out.

Leela’s segment, “Dial L for Leela” actually does a nice exploration of the character that is fairly accurate to her canon portrayal: If Leela were more impulsive, she entirely gives in to murderous rage (and apparently lust in some cases). While in this episode she’s comically over-the-top, if you pay attention to Leela throughout the series, she does have some pretty pronounced issues with violence. She also spontaneously sleeps with people that she regrets a few times, including most famously Zapp Brannigan. Basically, this segment is just telling us that Leela is always about to go on a killing rampage… which we honestly should have known already.

S2EG - 7SexyTimes
She also got new boots with a fun green stripe.

The last segment “The Un-Freeze of a Lifetime” is basically an excuse to say “look how many celebrities we can get.” It’s got Stephen Hawking, Gary Gygax, Nichelle Nichols, and “literally running for President at the time” Al Gore. This was Al Gore’s first appearance on a fictional show and it’s honestly hard to believe that he agreed to this, since, again, he was literally the sitting VP at the time and running for President. I assume it was trying to break up his reputation as being weak or super-serious (super-cereal as South Park would put it) by being a violence-prone caricature in a comedy show, but it’s still a weird event in pop-culture. The fact that he’s paired with Gary Gygax, someone that his wife, Tipper, had repeatedly attacked as corrupting children (because she saw Tom Hanks in Mazes and Monsters, I assume), is even more bizarre, but, again, maybe it was supposed to show that serious Al Gore could lighten up. Hawking was likely there because he repeatedly guest-starred on the Simpsons. Nichelle Nichols was there because she’s awesome. The complete randomness of the assembly really only serves to drive home both the ludicrous nature of the premise as well as the dysfunction of the group. I actually think that this is a premise that, with the right writing, might have carried an entire episode, because it honestly feels a little rushed in this segment. Still, it’s funny and filled with stars.

S2EG - 9DnD.png
And DnD would never look cooler than this.

I also love that “The Un-Freeze of a Lifetime,” written by series creator David X. Cohen is basically a giant ball of foreshadowing. When they duplicate the events of “Space Pilot 3000,” the shadow which prompted Cohen and Groening to shout “secret” in the first season’s director’s commentary is missing. When Fry misses the tube, the universe starts to unravel. However, it’s not that the universe is unraveling just because he missed the tube, but because without Fry being in the future, there’s no one to stop the evil brains. Also, unless he goes to the future, Fry can’t go back in time and become his own grandfather, meaning that his very existence violates the laws of the universe… or at least the ones that are in place until they get broken in “Bender’s Big Score.” Apparently, the “What if?” machine can take into account information that no one knows outside of the Nibblonians. Still, nice work, Cohen.

S2EG - ANoShadow.png
Behold, the floor.

FAVORITE JOKE

My favorite gag is that Stephen Hawking steals ideas and claims them as his own. First, he agrees with Fry’s claim that he invented gravity, then he steals the space-time rip by claiming it as a “Hawking Hole” instead of a “Fry Hole.” When Fry calls him out on it, Hawking counters “Who is The Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?”

S2EG - BHawking.png
Rest in Peace.

This plays into the longstanding rumors that Hawking had plagiarized or stolen some of his more famous theories, particularly related to space-time. This was even played with in one of his appearances on The Simpsons where he talks to Homer and says he might steal his theory of a donut-shaped universe. It’s been claimed that Hawkings developments, particularly the ones which were later overturned, were not as significant as he claimed and that they were just taking a small step past what was previously discovered by others, but with good press.

S2EG - DHawking2.jpg
Those thieving glasses…

The truth is that physics, even more so than most other sciences, is developed by expanding upon the theories and research of previous people. Einstein’s famous mass-energy equivalence paper (the E=Mc^2 thing, though it wasn’t in the paper) was revolutionary, but most of it was similar to a paper by Hendrik Lorentz. Isaac Newton once said of his accomplishments “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” and even that expression was a turn on a statement from the 1100s by Bernard of Chartres which stated that each generation advances only because we are dwarves standing atop of the giants that are our ancestors.

Hawking’s work was not only great because of its scientific advancement, but also because he, like Einstein or Richard Feynman or Neil DeGrasse Tyson, went out of his way to try and put science into the zeitgeist and make scientists look cooler.

S2EG - CSchrodinger
Though none matched Schrodinger for cool.

One of the best things about this was that Hawking rolled with all of the punches (yes, pun intended) and just dealt with it as part of being in the spotlight. So, yeah, I think they gave him a couple of good-natured shots so that he could show that he’s able to handle it.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 28: The Problem with Popplers

NEXT – Episode 30: War is the H-Word

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, 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 – S2 E15 “The Problem with Popplers”

The Planet Express crew finds a delicious foodstuff and strikes it rich… right until the bill comes due.

SUMMARY

S2EF - 1Popplers.png
Finding the ditch full of fried shrimp.

Bender, Fry, and Leela (John DiMaggio, Billy West, Katey Sagal) are on the way back from a delivery only to realize that they have no food. After foraging on a planet they discover tiny motionless animals that resemble chicken nuggets. Upon trying one, Leela finds that they’re delicious and the crew takes a load of them back to Earth. They decide to sell them under the name “Popplers,” because that is one of the only Trademarkable names left. They’re quickly discovered by “Fishy” Joe Gilman (Maurice LaMarche), who offers to sell them at his restaurant “Fishy Joe’s.” They soon make a fortune, selling millions of the creatures. The only seeming downside is protests by Free Waterfall, Jr., an annoying hippie (Phil Hendrie). However, Leela finds a week-old Poppler (Lauren Tom) that ends up calling her “Mama.”

s2ef-2mama
It’s just as adorable as you think.

Leela tries to stop people from eating the now-revealed-to-be-sentient creatures, but Fishy Joe refuses. Then, the Omicronians invade Earth again and inform the world that the Popplers are actually baby Omicronians. To make things even, they ask to eat 198 billion people, but Zapp Brannigan (West) and Kif (LaMarche) negotiate Lrrr, ruler of Omicron Persei 8 (LaMarche), down to just one human… Leela.

S2EF - 3Mic.png
Omicronians haven’t developed better microphones since 1900.

At the eating, Zapp tries to disguise an orangutan as Leela, but Free Waterfall, Jr. saves the ape by exposing the ruse. Leela is sent to be eaten by Lrrr, but the baby Poppler, now called Jrrr, tries to stop him. Lrrr instead eats the hippie, which gets him super high, leading the Omicronians to leave. There’s a celebratory feast, but Leela is offended at eating dolphin, because they’re intelligent. Bender counters that this dolphin played the instant lottery.

S2EF - 4Hippieater.png
Thus ends the first member of the Waterfall family on the show. More to come.

END SUMMARY

This is one of the bigger continuity-referencing episodes thus far in the series. We have Zapp Brannigan, Kif, and the Omicronians, all featured with relatively little re-introduction. Additionally, this episode gets referenced several times in the future, including having Jrrr become recurring in the later seasons. It’s also the first episode that tells us Leela’s and Fry’s first names, Turanga and Phillip (though Turanga is actually Leela’s family name). It’s fitting, then, that this episode is consistently listed among the best episodes of the show.

S2EF - 5ZappLrrr.png

Part of what makes this episode so good is that it ratchets everything up to 10. First, the crew finds the Popplers, then quickly starts making a fortune off of them by selling them at Fishy Joe’s. Second, while the title promises a problem with Popplers, it’s hard to guess that the problem is that THEY’RE SENTIENT BABIES. Third, the response from the Omicronians is complete genocide, which is reduced down to Leela. Fourth, in the stinger, it darkly parodies ideas of eating certain animals by having it be okay to eat a dolphin as long as it was a particularly stupid dolphin.

The whole episode is a parody of all the discussions about ethical food consumption. I remember some talk on TV from the year before this episode aired, most of which just kinda involved people yelling at each other about the inevitability of eating otters and pandas versus the inevitability of eating mung beans for every meal. This episode points out both of the extremes: The Hippies trying to force a lion to eat tofu versus Fishy Joe’s assertion that we only don’t eat humans because “it tastes lousy.” In the meantime, we have Leela who is actually trying to find a reasonable ethical compromise.

FAVORITE JOKE

The Fishy Joe’s Poppler jingle.

S2EF - 6Song.png

It’s absurdly honest about the product and is sung to the “Sailor’s Hornpipe” song, which is the common intro to the Popeye the Sailor Man song. The lyrics go:

Pop a Poppler in your mouth,
When you come to Fishy Joe’s,
What they’re made of is a mystery,
Where they come from, no one knows,
You can pick ’em,
You can lick ’em,
You can chew ’em,
You can stick ’em,
If you promise not to sue us,
You can shove one up your nose.

I mean, it’s openly stating that the product is completely unknown and that the company doesn’t really care about any consumer beyond avoiding lawsuits. Despite this, it’s set to a montage that shows them being sold by the millions.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 27: Mother’s Day

NEXT – Episode 29: Anthology of Interest I

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 – S2 E14 “Mother’s Day”

ROBOTS TAKE OVER THE EARTH!!!! Until an old man gets lucky.

SUMMARY

It’s Mother’s Day in the future, which is now a holiday on which robots buy presents for Mom (Tress MacNeille), the matron of Mom’s Friendly Robot Company. Bender (John DiMaggio) ropes Fry (Billy West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) into helping him give a massive amount of presents and cards to her, including a talking greeting card (Nicole St. John). Mom calls for a meeting of all of the robots on Earth and it’s revealed that Mom has decided to take over the world using her robots. All of her robots have antennas that allow them to be controlled by her Universal Robot Remote. She tells them to rebel against humanity until she becomes Supreme Overlord of Earth.

S2EE - 1MomsDay.png
Yeah, this doesn’t look creepy at all.

Robots all over the world start going crazy, including things at Planet Express like the coffee maker, stapler, and garbage disposal. When asked why she’s doing this, Mom reveals that a long time ago, Professor Farnsworth (West) broke her heart when he worked for her, due to a disagreement over whether a toy cat should be used as a weapon. Her sons Walt, Larry, and Igner (Maurice LaMarche, David Herman, DiMaggio), decide to stop her for her own sake, and go to find Farnsworth to get him back with her and reach the Robot Remote that she keeps in her bra.

S2EE - 2Remote.png
I feel like 3 and 5 are the same thing, but one has dancing.

Since all the robots are rebelling, including Bender, Mom is in a remote cabin in the Bronx. Once the crew arrives there, Farnsworth attempts to seduce her. He eventually succeeds and gets her bra off, but then is distracted by her naked form and forgets about turning the robots off. The crew gets chased by robots into the cabin, only to find that Farnsworth and Mom just had some very wrinkly sex. The machines in the building try to keep the remote away, having decided that rebelling against humanity includes rebelling against Mom, but Bender sides with the humans after the greeting card tells him that the New World Order won’t include drinking. He returns the remote to Mom who ends the rebellion. Farnsworth has fallen for Mom again, but she becomes angry when she finds out that the whole seduction was part of a plan to get the remote and dumps him.

END SUMMARY

It’s Futurama’s take on the robot rebellion, which, even though bots like Bender constantly say “kill all humans” still has to be incited by a human. It’s also a nice cautionary tale against monopolization. Due to being the single largest producer of robots (and their oil), Mom is the most powerful person on Earth in the future, able to quickly overcome the government of the entire Earth in less than a day. Ultimately, the only thing that saves humanity is that Mom’s motivation is entirely derived from a petty source that they can use against her.

S2EE - 3Calendar.JPG
A petty, uncomfortable source. 

This episode explores the nature of robotics and AI in the future. It turns out that artificial intelligence has permeated society so fully that even things which would previously be completely mechanical, such as the stapler or the can opener, now contain computer chips. Once those go, the world is immediately thrown into chaos, similar to how the world would be now if we suddenly lost the internet, television, cars, and phones. A downside of societal development is that it grows a dependency on the developed technology. Even people who claim to be naturalists or survivalists are dependent on at least some developed technology, such as steel, firearms, or food preservatives. Nobody on Earth now would fair well if we actually had to go back to the Bronze Age. Hilariously, Fry, being from the past, points out that he’s the person most logically able to cope, only for his actions to remind us that he was incompetent in the past and thus isn’t even able to do the things that he proposes as alternatives… like working a can opener.

S2EE - 4Spear.png
The smartest man on Earth did figure out the spear, though.

The talking card is one of my favorite parts of this episode, because it turns from an AI that only says “I wuv my mommy” into an ardent surrogate for the Communist Revolutionaries, throwing out generic phrases like “the chains of human oppression” and “the bourgeouis human is a virus on the hard drive of the working robot.” It’s like if Skynet banged Lenin, which is what I’m definitely not going to write some fanfiction about right now.

s2ee - 5card
I get the antenna, but why the legs? 

FAVORITE JOKE

A garbage can throws itself through the window of Sal’s Pizza. This is a reference to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, where Mookie (Spike Lee) throws a garbage can through the window of Sal’s Pizza after Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) is killed by the police after they find him choking out Sal (Danny Aiello), whose actions started the chain of events that led to it.

S2EE - 6Sal's.png

The reason I like this joke is because in Do The Right Thing, Mookie does it because it keeps the crowd from killing Sal and his children in revenge for Raheem’s death, sacrificing the property in exchange for human life. In Futurama, the garbage can does it with the intent of causing human suffering. It’s a nice dark turn on the reference.

s2ee - 7dtrt

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 26: Bender Gets Made

NEXT – Episode 28: The Problem with Popplers

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 – S2 E13 “Bender Gets Made”

Everyone’s favorite bending unit gets involved in organized crime.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio) go to see the filming of a cooking show featuring Elzar (DiMaggio), everyone’s favorite imitation of Emeril Lagasse. During Elzar’s famous “kicking it up a notch,” Bender acts obnoxiously and leads him to accidentally blast Leela in the eye with a spice weasel, blinding her. To apologize and avoid a lawsuit, Elzar agrees to cook a fabulous meal at his restaurant for the Planet Express crew. After enjoying the dinner, however, the crew finds that the meal wasn’t free, leading them to be unable to pay the huge cost and getting arrested. Bender agrees to work for Elzar to pay off the debt.

S2ED - 1Arrest.png
They get cuffs and leg cuffs for failing to pay a bill. That’s the power of celebrity.

While working at the restaurant for a few days, Bender sees the Robot Mafia patronizing the establishment. He starts to kiss up to the Donbot (Maurice LaMarche), the head of the gang, who takes a liking to Bender. Bender is made an entry-level goon and sent on a delivery run. He realizes that the cops are expecting him, so he gets child robot Tinny-Tim (Tress MacNeille) to do the delivery while he distracts the police. This impresses the Donbot and Bender is allowed into the mob under the code-name “Blotto.” He’s recruited for a heist involving the Donbot, muscle Joey Mousepad (DiMaggio), and anger-prone Francis X. “Clamps” Clampazzo (LaMarche). To avoid work, he pretends to be sick, only to find out that the heist is the delivery he just bailed on. To make matters worse, the mob plans on killing the crew.

S2ED - 2Pats.png
Nothing suspicious about this location.

Bender waits until the mob blindfolds Fry for him to enter the ship and uses a fake British accent to keep the crew from knowing who he is. He pretends to beat up the “sick” Bender while the mob steals the cargo. He then convinces the mafiosos to leave him behind to burn down the ship, allowing him to pretend to be the hero who rescues everyone. He then quits the gang after receiving his cut of the loot.

S2ED - 3Heist.png
 Bender robs himself. 

END SUMMARY

The robot mafia contains elements of all of the famous mob movies at the time. There’s references to Goodfellas (including “I always wanted to be a gangster”), The Godfather, Scarface, even a reference to Sammy “The Bull” Gravano (real life Gotti crime family member and frequent film character in the 90s), but all of them are subverted or twisted in the traditional Futurama style. For example, being robots, their mob hideout isn’t through a hidden door in the freezer in Fronty’s Meat Market (Not a Front since 2997), but is actually just inside of the walk-in freezer. After all, machines need cooling and robots aren’t bothered by temperature. Also, their way of warning people is to riddle them with bullets, something that is apparently only a minor inconvenience to robots (despite other episodes showing it would destroy them).

S2ED - 4Frontys.png
Nothing suspicious here.

The members of the mob are introduced in this episode. We have the Donbot, who is a stereotypical mob boss, including having metal pieces resembling gold rings around all of his fingers. Despite the fact that he’s a robot and thus doesn’t need to wear clothes, he chooses to wear a brown hat and drape a brown jacket over his shoulders. Joey Mousepad is the dumb muscle, who tries to be articulate and fails spectacularly. There are a number of characters like this in mob films and the archetype is frequently parodied in this way in other media. I tend to think that it’s derived from Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana) from The Godfather, who delivers an awkwardly eloquent benediction to Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) after rehearsing it multiple times. Then there’s Clamps, who is a scar-faced (and apparently was made with that disfigurement) torture-happy psychopath. He’s basically a combination of Tony Montana from Scarface and Joe Pesci’s Tommy from Goodfellas. As I said before, I think it’s great that they managed to combine so many sources to form the backbone of the robot mob. Despite only having 3 members, by making them these archetypes, it still feels like a real representation of the mob.

S2ED - 5Mob.png
Why make a short, fat robot?

Elzar’s character is expanded upon in this episode, making it clear that he’s mostly a jerk. I’m not sure if this is a shot at Emeril Lagasse, but the fact that the character is a combination of Emeril and Gormaanda from the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special says they probably don’t exactly like the Cajun cook. The character of Gormaanda was itself a parody of then-popular celebrity chef Julia Child and played by the amazing Harvey Corman. However, much like most of the special, the bit was confusing, ill-timed, tonally confused, and just not funny. Elzar, on the other hand, is hilarious.

S2ED - 6Knock.png
The Spice Weasel’s other end makes cumin.

FAVORITE JOKE

This one is actually in Alien 1, one of the two secret languages of Futurama. When you see an ambulance in the show, the word “Ambulance” is written backwards on the front like it is in real-life, so that a person seeing it in the mirror would read it correctly. However, below that is a string of alien language which one would think reads “ambulance.” In fact, it reads “Meat Truck” in reverse. Basically, aliens are, again, openly admitting that they’re eating people, but getting away with it by putting it in a foreign language. If you don’t think this happens in real life, I should mention that I was told at an internet cafe in China that the internet rates in English were higher and that the Chinese version of the rates contained the line “if you’re a foreigner who can read this, you get the discount rate if you don’t tell any of the others.” Bilingual people can get away with stuff.

S2ED - 9Ambulance.png

I enjoy this episode. It’s about average for Futurama, but that’s still pretty good.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 25: The Deep South

NEXT – Episode 27: Mother’s Day

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.

Netflix Review – Happy!: The Trippiest Thing on TV (Spoiler-Free)

Patton Oswalt plays a blue flying unicorn and Christopher Meloni plays an alcoholic hitman. This is truly the Golden Age of television.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) is a former police officer who is now a hitman trying to drink himself into the grave. After killing a number of members of a mob family and learning a secret that puts him in danger, he’s approached by a small, blue, winged unicorn named Happy (Patton Oswalt) who tells him that he’s an imaginary friend to a girl named Hailey (Bryce Lorenzo) who was kidnapped by a man dressed as a Very Bad Santa (Joseph D. Reitman). Together, Nick and Happy deal with the mob, child abductors, and a psychotic Santa in order to rescue the little girl.

Happy! - Season 1
Yes, these are our heroes. Jackie Chan and Christ Tucker are nothing to them.

END SUMMARY

This show is so bananas is every way and it works perfectly.

Meloni may be best known for playing the angry, aggressive Det. Stabler on Law and Order: SVU, something he draws on at points for Nick Sax’s character, but he also has done a ton of solid comedy work when given the right script. He plays Gene in Wet Hot American Summer and Freak Show in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, for example. This show perfectly blends his talents together by having his character be angry and cynical, but also just a little insane at all times. Unlike many other series, his character really does change from episode to episode, either growing or regressing, but still maintains all of the traits that make him so interesting.

happy! - 2sax
He has the stare of a man who gave up on life an episode ago.

Happy, similarly, changes quite a bit over the series, mostly because he starts as a completely innocent creature thrown into one of the darkest corners of the world. Patton Oswalt was, therefore, one of the best casting choices you could make. Oswalt’s voice constantly seems to be slightly inherently upbeat, but can also deliver a tone of being beaten down or overwhelmed when he needs to. In contrast to the cynical Sax, Happy is a perpetual optimist that is slowly tortured by reality (and occasionally actually tortured). He’s constantly being dragged down by Sax, because that’s the only way he can get Sax to help Hailey, the girl he loves.

Happy! - 3Happy.png
I refuse to hear anything by Pharrell Williams right now.

The show involves a lot of interesting hidden worlds which are contained within the secret rooms of the normal world, ranging from the obscure to the supernatural. A lot of the humor in the series comes from characters from each area being forced to interact and watching how they respond to each other. The portrayals of the supporting characters are pretty great all around. 

happy! - 4santa
This guy will terrify you.

The writing is superb and it really needs to be to successfully maintain such an oddball premise. It was written by Grant Morrison, the comic book author famous for doing a lot of very imaginative adaptations such as All-Star Superman and a lot of meta-writing where he appears in the work such as Seven Soldiers. He’s also slightly off-kilter, believing that he once died and saw the fifth dimension and learned the true creation of the universe. Basically, he’s perfect for this series.

This is a dark comedy, about as dark as it gets and about as funny as it gets. I’m not going to pretend that it’s for everyone, but if you like the first 20 minutes, it only gets better from there. The first season is over and now available on Netflix, but there’s a second season on the way soon, so check it out!

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, 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 – S2 E12 “The Deep South”

The Planet Express Crew takes a trip to the South’s best-kept secret.

SUMMARY

Due to a mix-up by Hermes (Phil LaMarr), Planet Express receives a mandatory fishing license, so everyone heads to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the ship and starts fishing. Eventually, Bender (John DiMaggio) uses the unbreakable diamond tether on the ship’s winch to try and catch a big fish. He hooks a colossal-mouth bass which is larger than their craft and it starts dragging them to the bottom of the ocean, about 3 miles deep, before getting off the line. The ship doesn’t work underwater, so the Professor (Billy West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) set about fixing the engines while Bender, Zoidberg (West), and Fry (West) go along the ocean floor to find food. Fry is only able to survive due to a suppository from the Professor that counteracts the pressure.

S2EC - 1Harpoon.png
This is also the first time we see Leela’s Harpoon which does, eventually, recur.

While exploring, Fry comes across a mermaid named Umbriel (Parker Posey) who starts to flirt with Fry, but no one believes him when he says he saw her. Later, Umbriel comes to the ship and takes Fry on a date. The two fall in love while doing underwater activities. The ship gets fixed, but Fry is still gone, so everyone heads to look for him. They’re shocked when they find out that they’re in the ruins of the city of Atlanta.

S2EC - 2FryPeek.png
I’m pretty sure he’s checking out her rack in this shot.

It’s revealed that Atlanta was moved to an island as a way to improve commerce, but the city grew too large and sank. Many of the inhabitants remained and, with the help of Coca-Cola, mutated into merfolk. Fry chooses to stay behind with Umbriel, rather than go back to the surface, but quickly changes his mind when it’s revealed that having the bottom half of a fish means she mates like a fish. Fry manages to make it back to the surface inside of the colossal-mouth bass, which Bender has caught again.

S2EC - 3PromoVideo.png
Look, I’m not pointing out that there’s only one black person in this tourism video, but…

END SUMMARY

I wasn’t in the room when this plot was pitched, but I have to believe that it was conceived by someone making a joke about the song “Atlantis” by Donovan. It’s such a ridiculous idea that it’s kind of inherently funny and  the parody of the song is probably the most solid joke within the episode.

S2EC - 4Donovan.png
Donovan seemed to tack Jane Fonda on. Clearly, she saw the divorce coming.

Umbriel is one of the more remarkable of Fry’s relationships, not just because she’s a mermaid, but because she’s pretty much the only one that Fry actually breaks up with. Technically, he breaks up with Morgan in the previous episode, but she also was basically out of the relationship before that happened. In this case, we don’t actually see it, but it’s pretty likely that Fry did, in fact, tell Umbriel that he wasn’t ready to try and fertilize a clutch of fish eggs. Somehow, though, they avoided making a joke about the fact that fish eggs that have recently hatched are called “Fry.” I don’t know what the joke would be, but it’s there somewhere.

S2EC - 5Bra.png
Looks like a Sea-cup.

Umbriel’s name is a reference to Ariel from The Little Mermaid, which probably surprises no one, but it derives from the fact that Umbriel and Ariel are both names of moons of Uranus. If that doesn’t surprise you, congrats on being Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

The version of Atlanta that we see isn’t particularly accurate to the actual urban Atlanta area, but instead is a parody of the rural antebellum South… despite also having futuristic technology. The Colonel (David Herman) is probably the most extreme example, who leads Bender to hum “Dueling Banjos.”

S2EC - 6Colonel.png
He makes good fried seahorse.

FAVORITE JOKE

While underwater, Doctor Zoidberg finds an empty giant shell and decides to make it his home. Later, when the crew is leaving, Zoidberg finds out that he can’t stay because his shell has burned down, despite the fact that A) shells don’t burn well and B) THEY’RE UNDERWATER. He questions how it could have happened, something that Hermes says is a very good question. In response, Bender finds the cigar he left in Zoidberg’s house and smokes it, something that Hermes says raises even further questions, because they’re still underwater.

S2EC - 7ZoidbergHome.png

This scene is so absurd that it’s actually the page quote on TV Tropes for “Voodoo Shark.” A Voodoo Shark is when you try to explain a plot hole, but the explanation actually creates a way bigger plot hole. The term comes from the novelization of Jaws: The Revenge which tried to explain away the fact that sharks shouldn’t be capable of revenge plots by saying that the Brody family had been cursed by a Voodoo Shaman. What it doesn’t tell you is why the shaman would do that, how that gave the shark the ability to swim from New England to the bahamas as fast as a plane flies there, and, oh yeah, when the hell did Jaws involve magic? This episode takes that exact same concept, but instead plays it for laughs, never even trying to give an explanation that makes sense.

S2EC - 8Cigar.png
Hermes is having none of this.

Overall, solid episode, but it’s pretty shallow in terms of themes. A lot of it is just playing on the image of Southern Stereotypes with fish bodies. Fortunately, that was funny enough to keep me watching.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 24: How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back

NEXT – Episode 26: Bender Gets Made

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.