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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Netflix Review – 3Below: Tales of Arcadia Part 2

The second entry in Guillermo Del Toro’s world of Arcadia is a sci-fi series that has a lot of familiar feels.

SUMMARY

Princess Aja (Tatiana Maslany) and Prince Krel (Diego Luna) are the heirs to the throne of House Tarron, the ruling house of Akiridion-5. However, on the day of their coronation, a mad dictator named Val Morando (Alon Aboutboul) takes over the planet, resulting in Aja and Krel, and their “dog” Luug (Frank Welker), being carried away from the planet by their guardian, the great warrior Varvatos Vex (Nick f*cking Offerman). They manage to collect the greatly wounded bodies of their parents and put them in stasis as they head for the nearest planet that might provide safety, which happens to be Earth. After crash-landing in Arcadia, California, the ship’s computer (Glenn Close) cloaks the group by making Aja, Krel, and Varvatos look like humans and the ship look like a suburban home. The three must find a way to avoid the bounty hunters sent by Val Morando and fix the ship so that they can fix their parents and make it back home.

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Nick Offerman voicing the oldest person on Earth is hilarious. 

END SUMMARY

This is the Sci-Fi to the Fantasy of Trollhunters, but, admittedly, it doesn’t create the worlds quite as well as the former did. While we are introduced to interesting alien species in the form of the bounty hunters and a few of Earth’s secret resident aliens, most of the actions take place in the city of Arcadia, populated by most of the same characters from Trollhunters. While those characters are, for the most part, great and some of them are expanded upon well, we only get a handful of new characters created for this show that get the same kind of care. We also don’t get much time in other locations, despite the fact that we are doing an alien-centric sci-fi show. That said, Arcadia is still pretty awesome and the characters are still very enjoyable, particularly when interacting with the abnormal behavior of the aliens.

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The android fake parents are a little reminiscent of Invader Zim… which is a good thing.

The biggest plus for me is Nick Offerman as Varvatos Vex. In the beginning, you’ll find his character annoying and overblown, because that’s what he’s supposed to be. By the end, though, you discover why he acts the way he does, and it retroactively makes everything seem so much more interesting and deeper than could have been predicted up front. That said, the main reason his character is even tolerable is that he’s played by Nick Offerman who is completely dedicated to his performance. Much like with Offerman’s Ron Swanson, this character’s exaggerated elements move from “tough to deal with” to “lovable” as time goes on.

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The Cane-Fu is a bit much at times, but hey, it’s not often.

Aja and Krel’s journeys are a little cliche nowadays, because Aja is trying to avoid being a princess while Krel is more comfortable being a prince. I get that we are trying to make up for the fact that women were only allowed to be princesses in most of Western Fiction for pretty much all of history until very recently, but her method of refusing to take the throne is similar to how most modern female characters try to reject the archetype, which is now itself becoming an archetype. Fortunately, the show seems to realize that and, a few episodes in, she starts to break from the mold a little bit more in her pursuit of being a warrior. Krel, for the most part, is the tech genius who wants to both be normal at school and also get the parts of his life back that he enjoyed.

The crossovers with Trollhunters actually make for pretty good episodes, too. The season finale takes place at the same time as the series finale of that series, which makes for some interesting parallel action.

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The show’s humor definitely saves it at some points. The fish-out-of-water story of the aliens trying to blend in with humanity is pretty well done, but it’s better when combined with the goofy and somewhat off-kilter residents of Arcadia.

Overall, I look forward to seeing more of this series if there is more to see. If not, I look forward to seeing what Wizards does to tie the whole universe together.

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 E1 “I Second That Emotion”

Welcome to Season 2 where the questions are worth double and there are twice as many temple guardians attacking you from behind.

SUMMARY

Bender (John DiMaggio) is getting annoyed with all the attention given to Nibbler (Frank “I’m everyone” Welker), something that is only made worse when the tiny creature breaks a fang while biting Bender’s ass and revealing his age (four). Bender tries to impress everyone by making an amazing cake for Nibbler’s party, but Nibbler eats it before he can show it off, irritating Bender so much he flushes the alien down the toilet.

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The worst form of potty training

Leela (Katey Sagal) is despondent over the loss of Nibbler. Bender, meanwhile, doesn’t feel bad, since robots are incapable of empathy (in this episode, at least). The Professor (Billy West) installs an empathy chip that synchronizes Bender’s and Leela’s emotions. Bender quickly becomes overwhelmed by Leela’s emotions and flushes himself down the sewer to rescue Nibbler. Fry (West) and Leela go into the sewer after him, only to find that a race of mutants live in the sewers.

S2E1 - 2Crying
He made himself sad.

The mutants, while initially harmless, become enraged when they discover that Nibbler may be the monster that hunts through the sewer known as “El Chupanibre.” They propose using Leela as bait or a sacrifice to the monster. Nibbler shows up, only to be followed immediately by the real El Chupanibre, a giant reptilian beast. Bender wants to save Nibbler but is too scared for Nibbler’s safety because of Leela to actually act. Finally, Bender realizes that he can help by convincing Leela not to like Nibbler so much, mostly by mentioning how much money she spends on her pet. Bender, now unburdened, defeats the monster. Back on the surface, Bender, chip removed, has learned nothing. However, Leela reveals that she learned something from Bender, calling everyone “jerkwads” as she exits.

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He’s unarmed!

END SUMMARY

The concept of empathy and “putting yourself in someone’s shoes” has been a typical plot line throughout sitcoms and comedies since I Love Lucy had Fred and Ricky try to do housework for a day. This episode just does it a lot more directly, by having Bender forced to feel what Leela feels. However, he’s still aware of the false nature of the emotions, even explaining to Fry that he consciously knows that he doesn’t really feel anything. To me, this makes it more interesting when he’s forced out of guilt to rescue Nibbler, because it suggests that the show believes people make decisions based more on emotions than on conscious decision. It’s not a point they harp on, but it’s still there and they go back to it in other episodes. Maybe it’s more that emotions create the values by which we make other decisions, like valuing the lives of others over our own moderate convenience. If we take this further, then Leela’s emotions serve a purpose similar to the base conditions in Bender’s robot brain that his algorithms run off of. In Asimov, that’d be the three laws, although emotions are naturally more flexible than the laws. Maybe Bender is more effected by the emotions than a person because he usually doesn’t have changing values, being a robot. Or maybe I’m overthinking this a lot.

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It could all just be an excuse to see this.

This episode also introduces us to the Mutants, who will become increasingly important, particularly the two that make a surprise cameo in this episode, Leela’s parents. The story progress of the Mutant civilization is interesting, since they somehow start off as being “urban legends” but are later viewed more as just second-class citizens that everyone knows about. It seems like they just kind of abandon the “semi-mythic” aspect of the mutants after this episode. They serve as a nice subversion of the typical “sub-human” race that we see in fiction, in that the mutants pretty much act like normal people, despite their squalid surroundings and hideous features.

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Foreshadowing!!!!

Also, I always feel like this episode contains a lot of good jokes, even by Futurama standards. Many of them are just clever extensions of obvious gags. For example, when Leela sees Amy (Lauren Tom) getting attention from a guy she was attracted to, Bender feels her jealousy and tells Fry that he only gets attention because he dresses like a tramp. That joke falls a little flat, until Fry responds that the guys are “responding to [his] personality,” something that’s delivered so earnestly I think it always makes me chuckle.

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Also, they’re not into your personality, bro.

Overall, it’s a solid episode that sets up a lot of characters and ideas that’ll get used, sometimes better, sometimes not, in the future.

FAVORITE JOKE

The revelation that the mutants worship an unexploded nuclear bomb right under the streets of New New York. It’s a reference to the movie Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the only movie besides the original to include Charlton Heston. In the film, the bomb is worshipped by a group of mutated, telepathic humans in the remains of New York, which is similar to the episode. In the movie, it ends up being massively important, because it is used by Heston to destroy the Earth in the future. In Futurama, however, the Mutants brush it off by saying that the worship of the bomb is more of an Easter and Christmas deal. I love this line because it basically says to the audience that, even though the bomb is massively important in the material it’s stolen from, in this it will be nothing. Sure enough, it’s never referenced again.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 13: Fry and the Slurm Factory

NEXT – Episode 15: Brannigan, Begin Again

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 E4 “Love’s Labours Lost In Space”

This episode welcomes one of the best characters produced by the series: Kif Kroker! Okay, fine, this is the episode that welcomes Zapp Brannigan into the world and we should all love it for that.

SUMMARY

Leela’s (Katey Sagal) social life is in the toilet due to her cycloptic nature (and the fact that she judges other people with physical deformities). Amy (Lauren Tom) takes her out to meet guys at a bar called “The Hip Joint” and the rest of the crew comes along because we needed funny vignettes. At the end of the evening, Amy, Fry (Billy West), and Zoidberg (West) all find companions for the evening, while Bender (John DiMaggio) goes to see a saucy puppet show, leaving Leela all alone.

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If your standards can’t incorporate a long, prehensile tongue, get better standards.

The next day, Professor Farnsworth (West), gives the crew a charity mission that they’re doing for a tax write-off. They are to go to the planet Vergon 6, which has been mined hollow to collect Dark Matter starship fuel, and collect two of every species there before the planet collapses. Leela, an animal lover, is onboard while Fry and Bender have to join her because it’s their job.

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It’s a happy little doomed planet.

Meanwhile, on the starship The Nimbus (I’m sticking with “the Nimbus” even though it’s referred to as both “Nimbus” and “The Nimbus”), we’re introduced to the glorious velour-clad creation that is Captain Zapp Brannigan (West) and his long-suffering alien first officer Kif Kroker (Maurice LaMarche). Zapp sees the Planet Express Ship coming and suspects a fight, but the ship docks to talk to Zapp, who Leela knows as a famous hero. The crew joins Zapp for dinner, where Leela informs him of the mission to save the animals and asks for his help. Zapp refuses, saying that there is a rule against interfering with undeveloped worlds called “Brannigan’s Law.” When Leela says they’ll do it without him, Zapp has them imprisoned.

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He’s showing off the medal he won for sacrificing waves of men.

Zapp then determines the best plan of action is to seduce Leela, so he has her brought to his cabin. However, Zapp’s attempts fail, resulting in him breaking down crying over how pathetic he is. Leela tries to comfort him, clearly pitying him. Meanwhile, Bender and Fry try to escape the brig, but instead just turn it into a steam bath. It’s then revealed that Leela slept with Zapp.

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When pity sex is just too pitiful.

The next morning, Leela says that everything was a mistake and that she’s going to leave and save the animals. Zapp, now being a pompous jackass again, says that he’s not going to stop her, confident that she’ll be too horny for his sweet man-candy to complete her mission. She avoids telling Fry and Bender as they head down to the planet.

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And, yes, he does call himself candy.

On Vergon 6, the group collects two of every animal (or just one Hermaphlamingo) and puts them onboard. They also find a cute little three-eyed creature that Leela says isn’t on the checklist, but decides to take anyway, calling him Nibbler (Frank “I’m your childhood” Welker). While Leela worries that the other animals might eat Nibbler, when the trio returns to the ship, they find that Nibbler has eaten all of the other animals, rendering their mission pointless. Before they can try to get more, the planet starts to collapse. They get on the ship and try to leave, but Bender didn’t refuel the ship. Fry tells Leela to ask Zapp for help, resulting in the truth of her pity-sex coming out.

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Nibbler and the Hermaphlamingos could totally be a band.

Leela calls Zapp and tries to suck up to him, but Zapp says he’ll only save them if they dump Nibbler, so she refuses, calling him a pitiful child inside of a big, pompous buffoon. She gives up on survival, but Nibbler craps out Dark Matter, the fuel they need, allowing them to escape. At the end of the episode, Leela writes a diary entry about not finding love and Zapp updates his Captain’s Log to mention that he had made it with a hot alien babe, “And in the end is that not what man has dreamt of since first he looked up at the stars?”

END SUMMARY

Zapp. F*cking. Brannigan. God, I love this character. He’s been described as what would happen if William Shatner, not Captain Kirk, were in charge of the Enterprise. He’s incompetent, he’s overconfident, he’s cowardly, and he’s obsessed with his appearance. Despite this, he’s considered a brilliant captain by all who don’t meet him, somehow managing to come out of every conflict sounding like a winner, even though his strategy is literally “send wave after wave of men to die.” To be fair, throughout the series, most of his campaigns are against planets which don’t have armies or don’t know they’re under attack, so I guess he actually has a decent W/L record.

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In a deleted scene, it’s revealed that the Killbot army is 1 button push away from going evil.

You’ve known a Zapp Brannigan, someone who is a bad person, a bad leader, a buffoonish idiot who constantly massages his own ego, and yet, despite all of that, somehow constantly seems to be able to stay in power, often through unethical acts (like, you know, declaring war on a planet of pacifists). There are so many of them out there, from managers to politicians, it’s impossible that you don’t. What’s crazy is that it almost makes sense that they are allowed to continue, because they’re just such a spectacle to watch. Hell, it’s almost worth dealing with Zapp’s incompetence just to watch his idiocy at work. But, let’s be honest, you’d hate to be under his command, because you know that, sooner or later, his screw-ups will get you killed. Still, it’s the fact that he’s just a slightly more ridiculous version of reality that makes the character so perfect.

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I’m sure not all of them wear short-cut robes, though.

Aside from Zapp, this episode introduces Nibbler (or does it?) and Kif, both of whom will be recurring characters for the rest of the series. Nibbler becomes Leela’s physics-defyingly-carnivorous pet and Kif usually sticks with Zapp (despite hating him).

The episode’s plot exists mostly as a vehicle to give us the character interactions within the episode, but I also like the creativity of the animals on Vergon 6 and the scene of Leela being introduced to dating prospects in the 31st Century is pretty funny. This episode also reinforces Leela’s loneliness, which is probably her biggest motivation and character arc in the series. Aside from that, IT GAVE US ZAPP BRANNIGAN, WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED???? Do you need a 50s sci-fi film style title card of the episode?

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Because here you go!

Favorite Joke:

No question on this one, it’s Zapp Brannigan’s Big Book of War.

S1E4-ABigBookOfWar

Don’t get me wrong, almost anything Zapp says or does in this episode could be on here, but the fact that while Zapp is talking about military strategy (incorrectly) he still plugs his own book, which is revealed to be a Dr. Seuss-esque children’s book about combat, is somehow the most perfect representation of his character. He thinks he’s a tactical genius, writes a hilariously underwhelming book, and manages to bring it up anyway while thinking he’s under attack by people who are peacefully hailing them. Then, when the Planet Express Ship arrives, he tells Kif that he’s going to abandon The Nimbus to save himself. Truly, this is a great sequence at showing us the nature of this man in almost no time.

See you next week, Meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 3: I, Roommate

NEXT – 5: Fear of a Bot Planet

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.