Futurama Fridays – S3E9 “The Cyber House Rules”

Leela gets plastic surgery to be normal while Bender tries to sell orphans for meat.  

SUMMARY

Leela (Katey Sagal) gets invited to her reunion at the Orphanarium. At first she is hesitant because all of the times her fellow orphans tortured her over her eye, but Fry (Billy West) points out that she has become more successful than any of them and should use this to get payback. When they arrive, Leela points out that all of them are losers (One lives in a box, one sells his own body parts for money, one is deaf and blind), but they still look down on her because she only has one eye. Dr. Adlai Atkins (Tom Kenny), a man she had a crush on as a boy, defends her. He apologizes for making fun of her as a child and offers to give her plastic surgery to make her appear to have 2 eyes. Everyone at Planet Express says it’s a good idea, except for Fry, so Leela goes through with it, gaining a “normal” face. She goes around experiencing normal life with two eyes, including winking, blinking, and blending in with a crowd.

S3E9 - 1Monocles.png
She also doesn’t realize two-eyed people can wear monocles to look fancy. Like the peanut.

Meanwhile, Bender (John DiMaggio) has discovered that the government will pay $100 a week to anyone who adopts orphans. Seeing a scam ahead, Bender adopts a dozen of the orphans, only to quickly realize that kids cost a lot of money. He tries cheap work-arounds like Cat Meat burgers, feeding them with the free peanuts that come with his beer at bars, and dining-and-dashing, but still is barely making any money. It’s also keeping him from living his usual bachelor lifestyle.

S3E9 - 2Kids
Kids grow up and commit theft so fast…

Adlai and Leela begin dating, much to Fry’s frustration. Adlai is exceptionally boring and obsessed with average things. However, when he takes Leela to dinner and sees Bender’s kids run out on a check, Adlai asks Leela about having kids. She is elated with the thought, but then asks Adlai if they should adopt kids instead. He agrees, and they decide to adopt one of Bender’s kids, who he is apparently trying to sell to a Chinese restaurant. Upon seeing them, Leela wants to adopt the mutant child, Sally (Nicole St. John), who has an ear on her forehead and a tail, something Adlai insists they fix through surgery. Leela states that she’s fine just as she is, leading her to realize that she was fine the way she was, and forces Adlai to reverse the surgery. Bender donates the orphans and the money back to the Orphanarium, Leela goes back to normal, and Bender reveals that he did actually become attached to the kids before declaring he hates them all.

S3E9 - 3Ear
The third ear hears your thoughts. Provided you say them out loud.

END SUMMARY

This is an episode where I think the B-Plot is definitely the stronger of the narratives. I think even the creative team recognized that when they ended up naming the episode after it, rather than the clear focus of the episode, Leela’s eye. The thing is most of the jokes in the episode that actually work come from Bender mistreating the children (which is okay because he keeps them happy), rather than the montage of Leela trying to be normal.

S3E9 - 4Chest
Case in point. This is just adorably funny.

The generic plot of “everyone’s different and fine the way they are” is something that is more difficult to do with science fiction, because technology does slowly eliminate a lot of differences and in Futurama technology is unbelievably advanced… when it suits them. For example, blind, deaf, and nearsighted people still exist, but Fry once had his hands replaced in 15 minutes when a T-Rex bit them off. Hell, in the first episode on Comedy Central, Fry is regrown from a few cells and hair, complete with his memories. Similarly, despite the fact that people routinely interact with aliens ranging from humanoid to blob to hyper-intelligent forms of light, Leela and Sally are still mocked for their appearance and mutants are forced to live in the sewers of New New York. Granted, most of this is done by children, who I think everyone agrees are cruel little monsters when in groups.

S3E9 - 5Kids
Pictured: Monsters. Just… so many monsters.

While the message of the episode is good, it does still bring up a few ethical questions for the future. For example, throughout the series it’s pointed out that Leela has almost no depth perception, despite the fact that she’s a pilot. She crashes at least twice from it over the run, which, again, is actually pretty impressive given that she has no depth perception. However, in another episode it’s implied that every time she crashes through the billboard in the opening, that actually happens weekly, which is… less impressive. My point, though, is: Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for her to actually have two eyes if she wants to do that job? But, if they do that, are they destroying something about her identity? When we eliminate disabilities, we’re also eliminating the culture that has grown out of those disabilities. While this episode kind of picks the “you’re better just being you,” they do kind of avoid any actual discussion about the implications of this.  Probably for the best, given that deaf people protested when Scrubs portrayed a deaf father agreeing that his son was better off with a cochlear implant, something that the deaf community considers “selling out,” apparently.

S3E9 - 6Cochlear
Despite that, more people keep choosing it.

Overall, I enjoy this episode, although the A-plot just isn’t that funny to me.

FAVORITE JOKE

This episode has the best opening line in the series. It’s Morbo, the news monster, saying the following:

So I gave the cookies you made to Fawn and the kids and they couldn’t believe it — they were delicious. But, I digress.

S3E9 - 7Morbo1.png

Tremble, puny earthlings! One day my race will destroy you all!

S3E9 - 8Morbo2.png

It’s so perfectly delivered that I rewound it two or three times on this viewing just to watch it again. It conveys the exact dichotomy that Morbo represents: A professional talking head and an invading alien. Normally, you’d think that you couldn’t be a newscaster and also be seeking the eventual destruction of the people in your audience, but- who am I kidding, that’s most of cable news.

Strong second place is Bender’s response to getting arrested:

S3E9 - 9Arrest.png

SMITTY: You’re under arrest for child cruelty, child endangerment, depriving children of food, selling children as food, and misrepresenting the weight of livestock!

BENDER: If you had kids of your own, you’d understand.

I mean, I don’t have kids, but I’ve met enough of them that… yeah, I get it.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 40: That’s Lobstertainment!

NEXT – Episode 42: Where the Buggalo Roam

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 – S3E8 “That’s Lobstertainment!”

Dr. Zoidberg attempts to use his famous uncle to get a career in comedy, and it goes over about as well as Zoidberg doing comedy.

SUMMARY

Zoidberg (Billy West) has been doing stand-up comedy at open-mic nights and it’s been going poorly. He admits at the office that he wanted to uphold the legacy of his uncle, the legendary Harold Zoid (Hank Azaria), a parody of silent film star Harold Lloyd. Zoidberg asks his uncle to help him get started in Hollywood. It’s revealed that Harold is destitute and forgotten and he uses this letter as an opportunity to try and scam Zoidberg into coming to Hollywood and giving him money.

S3E8 - 1CloseShave
Here he is in his hit film “A Close Shave.” Weird that holograms are black and white.

In Hollywood, Bender (John DiMaggio) breaks into Calculon’s (Maurice LaMarche) house by pretending to be a hot-water heater. Zoidberg and Harold meet and it’s revealed that Harold doesn’t think that Zoidberg can be funny, but instead has a drama script he wants Zoidberg to fund, thinking him to be a rich doctor. Zoidberg agrees to fund it, lying that he has the money.

S3E8 - 2Boiler.png
Should I be censoring this?

However, Bender reveals that he’s now friends with Calculon and convinces Calculon to fund the film by promising he’ll get an Oscar. Calculon reveals that he’s agreeing based on his love of Harold Zoid. Unfortunately, Harold decides to direct the film himself and it turns out he has no talent whatsoever, giving terrible instructions to everyone. The film is released and fails immediately, resulting in no Oscar nominations, something that leads Calculon to threaten to kill Bender, Zoidberg, and Harold if they don’t get him the award. They decide to rig the award ceremony, but when Zoidberg actually gets on the stand and nominates Calculon, he changes his mind and gives the award to Harold. Calculon takes the Oscar, but, remembering that he is a fan of Harold Zoid, gives it back.

S3E8 - 3Oscars.png
Zoidberg’s going to take one of the big ones.

There’s also a subplot about Fry (West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) getting stuck in the La Brea Tar Pit inside the ship, finally escaping in time to join the Post-Oscar party.

END SUMMARY

This is universally considered one of the worst episodes of Futurama and, frankly, that is a pretty well-deserved rating. It’s not completely unfunny, but overall a lot of the humor is based on Hollywood jokes that kind of limit the audience.

Harold Zoid is based on Harold Lloyd, who was an amazing performer during the silent film age. His movie Safety Last! just entered into the public domain and if you have the time, you should watch it. I’ll attach a copy below.

The main problem with Harold Zoid comes directly from his circumstances: He’s depicted as being a well-respected and beloved actor that everyone has now forgotten about. While that was a common thing to happen under the Studio System in Hollywood from the 20s to the 60s, that really hasn’t been a thing since its dissolution and the proliferation of recordings. Even Harold Lloyd started to have a re-birth in renowned among cult film and old film enthusiasts towards the end of his life when film festivals started to become a thing. This episode starts with a 1960s setting in an episode written in the 90s and set in the year 3000.

S3E8 - 4Harold
Such a sad life that is probably not accurate for a famous actor.

There also just aren’t that many good gags in the episode. Watching Harold wreck the film doesn’t really come across as funny as much as tragic and uncomfortable. Calculon’s sudden violence appears to come out of nowhere and honestly feels out of character, making his eventual forgiveness of the trio even stranger. The subplot with Fry and Leela is stupid, especially the recurring joke that a caveman is Sylvester Stallone.

Overall, it just isn’t great.

FAVORITE JOKE

There are two solid gags at the Academy Awards. First, the fact that “Best Soft-Drink Product Placement” is now a category is great, as are all of the nominees:

S3E8 - 5SoftDrinks.png

Star Trek: The Pepsi Generation, They Call Me Mr. Pibb, and Snow White and the 7 Ups.

The other is a line when Zoidberg reads Calculon’s name as a nominee, and one of the ballot counters says that he read the wrong name. The other says:

Shh, just play along, like they did for Marisa Tomei.

This is a reference to the rumor that Marisa Tomei’s Best Supporting Actress Award for My Cousin Vinny was due to an error by Jack Palance in reading the card. Unlike many rumors, we actually know the source of this one, Critic Rex Reed, who, in the last 20 years, has proven himself to be the “angry old uncle we don’t invite to Thanksgiving” of film critics. While the myth persists, most people would probably have to accept that the reason why Tomei won is that A) she does give a great performance in the film and B) My Cousin Vinny was one of only two films that anyone saw from the Best Supporting Actress list (along with Howards End). The other three films lost money.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 39: The Day the Earth Stood Stupid

NEXT – Episode 41: The Cyber House Rules

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 – S3E7 “The Day The Earth Stood Stupid”

Fry and Leela have to save the Earth from the greatest threat to mankind: Brains. No, it’s not a metaphor. Or is it?

SUMMARY

The planet Tweenis 12 has been destroyed by a cloud of flying brains. On Earth, Leela (Katey Sagal) enters Nibbler (Frank “I Voiced Your Childhood” Welker) in a pet competition to demonstrate his talent, but unfortunately is completely shamed when Nibbler fails at every single task. Meanwhile, the Hypnotoad wins by virtue of being the Hypnotoad. Everybody loves hypnotoad.

S3E7 - 1Hypnotoad.jpg
Behold the Hypnotoad and know your limitations.

Back at Planet Express, Fry (Billy West) sticks up for Nibbler being stupid. After the Professor (West) announces that Tweenis 12 is destroyed, Nibbler becomes anxious and runs off. Leela follows him but is attacked by a giant floating brain. A group of brains chase her until she finds Nibbler in a spacesuit and loading a spaceship. He starts to leave, but returns to save her from the brains, letting her in his ship. The brains begin to attack Earth, making everyone, human and robot alike, stupid, except for Fry. Examples include Bender (John DiMaggio) thinking that his heart stopped and Hermes (Phil LaMarr) almost drowning by keeping his mouth open in the shower.  

S3E7 - 2Hermes.png
Fry is used to dealing with this problem. 

As Nibbler and Leela fly through space, Nibbler reveals himself to be an extremely advanced alien. When they reach Nibbler’s planet, Planet Eternium, the Nibblonians welcome Leela and explain that the brains are part of the Brain Spawn, a species which was born a millisecond into the universe that hates all other consciousness. They travel the universe trying to destroy all life. The one hope of the universe is revealed to be the only thing immune to their power: Fry.

S3E7 - 3Nibblonians.png
Nobody has heard of Babylon 5.

Leela is sent to tell Fry how to defeat the brains, but she loses her intellect immediately and Fry destroys the note she has from the Nibblonians. However, she does manage to tell him to find the biggest brain, the leader, so he naturally goes to a library, where nerds would be. Fry finds the Big Brain and discovers that thinking hurts it. He uses the books nearby to think at it, but the Brain decides to send Fry into the world of Moby Dick, where the Brain takes the place of the whale. The Brain flees to Tom Sawyer and then Pride and Prejudice. Fry gets an idea and escapes from the Brain’s field, only to die in the attempt. It’s revealed that this scene only takes place in a book that Fry is reading to the Brain, who then leaves Earth “for no raisin,” per Fry’s writing. Outside, the Nibblonians eat all the remaining brains, but no one remembers the invasion, thinking Fry is just lying. Nibbler returns to deep cover with Leela.

S3E7 - 4Brain
It’s Queequeg and Capt. Ahab harpooning a brain in Elizabeth Darcy’s house. Awesome.

END SUMMARY

So, this is one of the rare arc episodes of Futurama which come out of the pilot. Fry is revealed to be the hope of the universe, Nibbler is revealed to be intelligent, and the Brain Spawn are revealed to be preparing to destroy everything. This will culminate later in “The Why of Fry” and get re-used, to an extent, in the film “Into the Wild Green Yonder.” It really is funny how few episodes actually involve this plotline, in retrospect. Making Fry “the chosen one” fits in with a large number of sci-fi stories, most notably Star Wars, but in traditional Futurama fashion, this is twisted by having Fry be chosen by the fact that his brain is so ineffective on its own that the Brain Spawn can’t affect it. It’s revealed in this episode that Fry lacks the Delta Brain Wave, something that occurs in humans, robots, and even plants. It won’t be revealed WHY he lacks it for another season.

S3E7 - 5Megaphone
Pictured: The smartest man on Earth.

This is also one of the episodes of the series that most amalgamates other sci-fi episodes. The premise is similar to the season one finale of the original Star Trek, “Operation: Annihilate,” which features creatures that go from planet to planet destroying civilizations by making everyone insane. The finale of the episode seems to be taken from the Doctor Who episode “The Mind Robber,” in that it involves a giant brain and people getting trapped in fiction which the hero then manipulates by re-writing the story.

This episode contains a variety of gags and plots that almost makes it feel like 4 different episodes: 1 at the pet show, 1 on the stupid version of Earth, 1 on Planet Eternium, and 1 in the fictional world battling the giant brain. It’s impressive that they can put so much varied content into one episode without it really feeling discontinuous. Also, this gave us the Hypnotoad. All Glory to the Hypnotoad.

S3E7 - 1Hypnotoad
Behold the Hypnotoad and know glory beyond comprehension.

FAVORITE JOKE

Aside from just the Hypnotoad, who is the best thing in the show according to David X. Cohen and Matt Groening, it’s a combination of all the absurd throw-away lines that they use to convey the stupidity of the people of Earth.

The three best are:

S3E7 - 6Morbo
The only way to make Morbo funnier.

Morbo: Morbo can’t understand his TelePrompTer. He forgot how you say that letter that looks like a man with a hat.

Linda: It’s a “T”. It goes “tuh”.

Morbo: Hello, little man. I will destroy you!

S3E7 - 7Bender.png

Bender: Am I a robot?

Fry: Bender, if this is some kind of scam, I don’t get it. You already have my power of attorney.

S3E7 - 8Newton.png
Such a good use of a Newton’s Cradle.

Farnsworth: Ow. Ow. Ow. I’m a genius. Ow. Ow.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 38: Bendless Love

NEXT – Episode 40: That’s Lobstertainment!

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 – S3E6 “Bendless Love”

Bender finds love in the most surprising place: The other side of a picket line.

SUMMARY

Bender (John DiMaggio) is bending in his sleep, due to his lack of having an outlet to bend in his job. He even bends the Professor (Billy West), resulting in the blood pooling in the Professor’s brain and inducing a euphoria. While trying to find a way to get around the urge, Bender finds that there is a mob-backed worker’s strike outside a bending plant. Bender thinks the strike means he can’t work, but then finds out that the “scabs” who work despite the strike get huge pay increases, so he becomes a scab while claiming to be pro-union. Inside, he finds Flexo (DiMaggio), his near-identical twin, as well as a “beautiful” female bending unit named Angle-ine (the late Jan Hooks).

S3E6 - 1Angeline.png
She was built out of old mobile homes.

Bender and Angle-ine flirt and eventually start dating. He decides to take everyone at Planet Express to a celebratory dinner in honor of him being in love. While at Elzar’s, however, Fry (West) spots Angle-ine and Flexo at another table. Bender becomes enraged and confronts the pair, but finds that the two are divorced and having dinner as friends. Bender doesn’t take this well and decides to go through a convoluted plan of impersonating Flexo and try to seduce Angle-ine to prove that she’s cheating on him. Leela (Katey Sagal) suggests just talking to her, but Fry rejects that as not manly enough.

S3E6 - 3Kiss
They have a certain… spark? I hate myself.

On the date, Angle-ine refuses Bender’s advances (as Flexo), but does a number of things that are distinctly un-Flexo-like that end up seducing Angle-ine. During the course of the date, Bender repeatedly uses a large amount of money he got from scabbing to tip well, something that angers the Robot Mafia who are trying to stop the scabs. Eventually, they decide to kill Flexo. After Angle-ine finally gives in and kisses Bender, but his beard comes off and she realizes the scam. Bender vows to kill Flexo to ensure Angle-ine’s love, something that even the episode points out is nonsense.

s3e6-4cheating.png
Cheating is a factory standard.

At the Bending plant, Bender attacks Flexo, but the Robot Mafia drop an unbendable girder on Flexo. Seeing him in mortal danger makes Angle-ine realize that she loves Flexo, so Bender, to make her happy, bends the unbendable girder. She and Flexo then apparently have sex right there on the factory floor, leading Bender to quit and return to Planet Express.

END SUMMARY

I think it speaks well of Season 3 that I actually think this is one of the least funny and least entertaining episodes. It’s not that it’s bad, really, but it definitely is pretty weak by comparison. 

S3E4 - 4Grave
I mean… come on. 

A lot of that comes from the fact that they have to give Bender several questionable character moments in order to move the story along. While Bender is a drama queen, often by his own admission, he still goes way too far into maudlin drama when he sees Angle-ine and Flexo and then the elaborate fake date plan is actually called out as being pointlessly complicated and contrived. It gets even dumber when Angle-ine points out that maybe the reason why it worked was because she was in love with Bender even if he was pretending to be Flexo, to which Bender responds: “Oh,  how I wish I could believe or understand that!” He then immediately decides to kill Flexo, something that makes sense only in the terrible kind of Lifetime movie they’re clearly parodying here.

S3E6 - 5Unbendable.png
He plays like an accordion now.

The subplot involving the Robot Mafia, while very funny, is also sadly small, and there’s basically nothing else in the episode. I do love the fact that the word “Intragnizent,” which has since been used on other shows like Parks and Recreation to show a character is not smart enough to know the word intransigent, originates from Joey Mousepad (DiMaggio) in this episode. I also like that the Donbot (Maurice LaMarche) says they are the duly-elected mobsters of the union, indicating that somehow the union holds internal elections to decide which group of criminals backs them.

S3E6 - 6Plant.png

Overall, this episode is only okay for me. I mean, it’s still fun to watch, but this season is mostly filled with really quality episodes, so this one seems lesser by comparison. Although, it did get John DiMaggio an Annie Award for playing two roles, so… good for it.

FAVORITE JOKE

When they first introduce Angle-ine, she’s pictured behind frosted glass. This is designed to mimic the style of early black-and-white (and maybe some color) films where the cameras were rubbed with vaseline or frosted lenses were used in order to make the females appear softer and with fewer flaws. Since the rest of the episode is filled with the kind of nonsensical “emotions change so we can move on to the next scene” storytelling that permeated 30s and 40s romance films, this actually is fairly consistent. If they’d gone further into trying to pay tribute to those films, I might even consider Bender’s behavior more appropriate, as Futurama does do some pretty good genre-shifting episodes.

S3E6 - 2Angeline2.png
This is a thing people did, kids.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 37: The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz

NEXT – Episode 39: The Day The Earth Stood Stupid

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 – S3E5 “The BirdBot of Ice-Catraz”

Bender causes a massive environmental disaster and then loses his mind twice. Comedy!

SUMMARY

The crew are told by the Professor (Billy West) that they are going to have to take a delivery of Colombian dark matter aboard the Juan Valdez tanker. Leela (Katey Sagal) worries about the risk of leaking and ends up refusing to participate when she finds out that it flies through a penguin preserve on Pluto. She goes to join the group protesting the tanker and Bender (John DiMaggio) is made captain, much to Fry’s (West) chagrin.

S3E5 - 1JuanValdez.png
It has 6000 hulls.

Leela joins Free Waterfall, Sr. (Phil Hendrie) in his organization “Penguins Unlimited” and tries to help them in their incompetent efforts to stop the tanker. On the ship, Bender quickly goes mad with power and annoys Fry until he quits. Depressed without Fry, Bender refuses to drink alcohol, resulting in him acting like a drunk, and crashes the tanker into Pluto, flooding the penguin preserve with the dark matter. Bender is sentenced to help clean up the penguins, but quickly decides to escape by putting on a tuxedo, retracting his limbs, and sliding off, but he ends up getting attacked by a killer whale and knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, his system re-defaults to penguin, making him believe he’s actually a penguin. He tries to start a penguin family, with mixed results.

S3E5 - 2PenguinBarf
Not the first picture of a guy in a tux puking on this website.

Back at Penguins Unlimited, it’s revealed that the dark matter has made the penguins ultra-fertile, to the point that they’re laying 420,756 times their previous egg rate (I did the math), and the eggs hatch 136 times faster than normal. I don’t know how all of these eggs are getting fertilized, but… well, let’s just not think about that. To avoid the population boom, the conservationists plan on hunting the penguins, something that Leela finds horrifying, but eventually agrees to do. However, she shoots Bender, resetting him back to normal. Leela tries to convince the conservationists not to hunt, but they refuse. Bender leads the penguins to attack the humans, resulting in them eating Waterfall. His father, Old Man Waterfall (Hendrie) vows to avenge him.

S3E5 - 3HongKong
The overpopulation is a legitimate problem.

The penguins attack the rest of the humans, then Bender and Leela when he takes off his tuxedo. They flee onto an ice floe, but the penguins give chase and surround them. Fry returns in the ship and lands it on part of the ice floe, resulting in the penguins being dropped into a killer whale’s mouth. The trio escape, with Fry and Bender making amends. On Pluto, it’s revealed that the penguins now have guns… but appear to be using them on each other.

END SUMMARY

Two quick thoughts from this re-watch: First, baby penguins are adorable. This episode points that out multiple times and I give it credit for properly cashing in on the magical cuteness of the baby penguin.

S3E5 - 5BabyPenguin

 

Second, Penguin Preserve on Pluto would be a good name for a prog-rock album. I am surprised it’s not been done yet, but Google found nothing. It also bugs me that they call it the penguin preserve, but there are also orcas and puffins on Pluto. If it’s a preserve, why did you import one of their biggest predators? Also, I get that the penguins are the big attraction, but if you’re going to have other things there, why not call it the Polar Preserve on Pluto?

S3E5 - 6Orca.png
That Orca choked to death.

This episode is one of the more ripped-from the history books plotlines in the series, as opposed to a twist on a classic sci-fi trope, because it’s basically just a hilarious take on the Exxon Valdez disaster from 1989. Given that this episode aired in 2001 and when I watched it then I thought it was hilarious, apparently 12 years is the amount of time for an oil spill to move from tragic to comic. Admittedly, that’s because in this version all the penguins were fine and, in fact, improved by the accident, as opposed to the real version, but it’s still impressive that they depict a horrible environmental tragedy and make it hilarious. I think the best crystallization of how it works is when they have Morbo (Maurice LaMarche) and Linda (Tress MacNeille) show the penguins slipping and sliding on the oil with funny sounds added and the caption “Sound Effects Added To Lessen Tragedy.”

S3E5 - 7PenguinSlips
The news we deserve.

Penguins Unlimited is a shot at Ducks Unlimited, a conservation group that preserves wetlands but also advocates population control through hunting. Leela points out that it’s not exactly “natural conservation” if you’re just doing it because you enjoy killing the animals. However, the end of the episode basically points out that everything is kind of pointless because all of the efforts now are just designed to counteract what we’ve already done in the past, so human involvement is implicitly always a very mixed bag.

Overall, I think this episode is fun from start to finish. It’s not particularly insightful and doesn’t have as many gags that I can point to and go “this was great,” but it’s such a goofy and interesting premise that I always enjoy it.

FAVORITE JOKE

Because I’m 12 years old on the inside, I’m going to have to say it’s the following exchange:

Free Waterfall Sr.: Good way to avoid frostbite, folks: Put your hands between your buttocks. That’s nature’s pocket.

Leela: Uh … I think I’ll go check on Bender.

Free Waterfall Sr.: Watch that he doesn’t pick your pocket.

Free Waterfall has a few of these pieces of old-timey wisdom, including rubbing your body with permafrost to keep warm, but this one is definitely the best. He’s literally got his thumb up his ass while he says this, and I can’t think of anything funnier than that.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 36: The Luck of the Fry-rish

NEXT – Episode 38: Bendless Love

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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Futurama Fridays – S3E4 “The Luck of the Fryrish”

Futurama spends an entire episode setting us up for a punchline, but instead decides to gut punch us with emotion.

SUMMARY

This episode constantly bounces between Fry’s life in the 20th Century and his life in the 30th Century.

In the 20th Century, we see Fry (Billy West) being born on the day that the Mets win the World Series (which doesn’t really track, since the Mets won in 1986 but Fry is 25 in 1999. Presumably in the Futurama universe this is 1973 and the “You Gotta Believe” Mets team didn’t lose to the Oakland Athletics in Game 7. This is all the baseball I know.). His father, Yancy Sr., (John DiMaggio) names him Philip after the screwdriver. Fry’s brother, Yancy Jr. (Lauren Tom as kid, Tom “Ice King” Kenny as adult), quickly establishes a trend of being jealous of anything Fry has, including the name “Philip.” As kids, Fry is shown to be worse than Yancy at most things, until Fry finds a seven-leaf clover which makes him unnaturally lucky, even at things which would normally be considered skill-based, like basketball or break-dancing. Yancy is always jealous when Fry is successful and tries to take the clover, but Fry runs home and hides it in a Ronco Record Vault inside The Breakfast Club’s soundtrack.

S3E4 - 1Clover
Such Clover. Much Luck. So Wow.

In the future, Fry is having a streak of bad luck at the racetrack. Not only does Bender (DiMaggio) drug Fry’s horse, resulting in a shameful loss, but when his last dollar gets blown onto a power line, he gets struck by lightning, twice, and blown into a dumpster. Back at Planet Express headquarters, Fry mentions the clover and Zoidberg (West) points out that it might still be in the ruins of Old New York. Fry, Bender, and Leela (Katey Sagal) head underground to the remains of the New York of the 20th Century and make their way to Fry’s old house. However, the clover is no longer in the vault. The three give up on finding the clover, only to run into a statue of Fry’s brother with the clover in his lapel and the nameplate reading “Philip J. Fry.” Fry, incensed, punches the statue and breaks his hand, declaring that his brother “stole his life.”

S3E4 - 2House.png
You can go home again, but it looks like crap.

A video on the internet informs the crew that the Philip J. Fry that is immortalized on the statue was actually a massive celebrity in the 20th century, famous for his perpetual luck, culminating in him being the first man on Mars (if you don’t count the native Martians). He was buried with the clover, so Fry tells everyone that they’re going to go rob the grave. At the graveyard, Fry, Leela, and Bender start digging up the body, but Fry knocks some of the moss off of the other Philip’s grave.

S3E4 - 3Statue.png
He looks taller than Fry, too.

In the past, Yancy breaks into the Ronco Record Vault to find music for his wedding and takes the clover in memory of Fry. Later, Yancy and his wife name their first son Philip after the brother Yancy says he misses every day. In addition to the name, he gifts young Philip with the clover.

In the Future, Fry finds out the truth: The Philip J. Fry they’re digging up is actually his nephew, who was, per his tombstone, “named for his uncle, to carry on his spirit.” Although Bender does dig up the clover, a tearful Fry leaves it to rest in his nephew’s grave and smiles, realizing that his brother wasn’t taking his legacy, but making sure it endured.

S3E4 - 4Grave
Dear everyone who makes TV: We need more of this.

END SUMMARY

Holy flaming carp, this episode. I mean, everyone remembers “Jurassic Bark,” and I already have cookies ready to deal with that episode’s punch to the feelings, but this one’s not far behind for me. The difference is what kind of emotions this episode evokes compared to that one, and the fact that this one actually could potentially have been building up to a comical misunderstanding, but instead decided to change it into a powerful dramatic moment.

S3E4 - 5Grave
Definitely better than a comical misunderstanding.

Throughout this episode, the B-plot in the past portrayed Yancy as the kind of person who actually would bother to steal his dead brother’s name, because from the day Fry was born, Yancy wanted to be Philip. The show presents this idea to us in a little bit of a deceptive manner, showing us a few objective moments of Yancy, while the rest of the time we’re only hearing about Yancy through Philip’s perception of him as jealous. The few objective moments we have don’t contradict Fry’s perception, so it cements that image in our minds. That’s why it’s so surprising when it’s revealed that, upon losing Fry, Yancy spent the rest of his life missing his brother, to the point of entrusting his son with Fry’s legacy. That’s why the moment we share with Fry is so powerful, because we’re going through the realization about Yancy’s true nature at the same time as Fry. We aren’t hit with a wave of sadness like watching a dog waste away waiting for its master, it’s more of a complex series of emotions related to the realization that people aren’t always who you think they are, but that sometimes you don’t learn that until after they’re gone. It’s sad that Fry couldn’t find this out about his brother while he was alive, but he does finally get closure and a reassurance that they did love each other, which is still beautiful.

S3E4 - 6PhilipII.png
I cried a little while screenshotting this.

The key to this episode is the perfect interplay between the A and B plots, allowing for both of them to progress rapidly by letting the audience just assume that nothing important happened between the time that we leave one plot and return to the other. If you’re looking for some gold-standard examples of this, check out the Rick and Morty episode “Meeseeks and Destroy” or the I Love Lucy episode “Job Switching,” but this episode also uses it to great effect, particularly with how it finally has the two plotlines converge into something beautiful and meaningful to both. Interestingly, Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, and writer Ron Weiner used The Godfather II as a model for writing two timelines simultaneously and organizing them by using different colored storyboards.

Overall, this is one of my favorite episodes of the show. It’s also typically rated in the top 10 on most fan polls, so I don’t think I’m insane for that. I don’t think it’s the best, nor even the second or third best, but it is brilliant and touching and writing this review made me tear up a few times.

FAVORITE JOKE

First, a joke amendment that I didn’t find out until this episode. When looking into Fry’s stuff, there’s another pennant for the Whitefish from Coney Island College, the same roller-coaster college Fry says he dropped out of in “Mars University.” At the time, I thought that the choice of whitefish for Coney Island was a hilarious joke about how crappy the university was. It turns out I missed two pieces of information:

  1. “Coney Island Whitefish” is a song by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts about a guy who is a complete waste of time who never tries to improve or do anything. That kinda fits Fry during the 20th century.
  2. Coney Island Whitefish is also a slang term for a discarded used condom, because humanity is gross. I’m hoping this doesn’t apply to anything on the show.

I’ve updated the previous entry in “Mars University” and now I never need to admit to making a mistake.

Second, a wonderful observation and set-up is the fact that Fry’s dad, brother, and his great-grandfather are all named Yancy, as were all of the other men in the line going back to the Revolutionary War. The fact that Fry’s dad doesn’t mention his father is also named Yancy is the first hint we get that there is something unusual in Fry’s lineage, because the Yancy name skips one generation… due to Fry being his own grandfather. Also, I can never prove it, but I think the name Yancy was picked because Billy West who voices Fry also voiced Doug Funnie on Doug. Doug’s middle name was Yancy, and he hated his middle name with a passion.

S3E4 - 7Yancy
It was interesting to see what kind of people made Fry.

Last, the actual best joke, when the horses cross the finish line at the race, they announce a measurement by Electron Microscope which results in a winner by “Quantum Finish.” The Professor (West) immediately shouts out: “No fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it!” This is one of the best jokes in the series, because 1) it works if you just think the Professor is complaining that he was going to win until they announced a different winner and 2) it works better if you know that the Professor is referencing the Observer Effect of Quantum Physics, which suggests that the mere act of measuring something on a quantum level inherently changes the outcome. This is a perfect example of Futurama’s humor: Works if you know the joke, works if you don’t.

S3E4 - 8QuantumFinish

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 35: A Tale of Two Santas

NEXT – Episode 37: The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz

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 – S3E2 “A Tale of Two Santas”

Robot Santa returns, bringing sacks of holiday pain and suffering. It’s like Christmas with extended family, except with robots.

SUMMARY

The Professor (Billy West) sends Fry (West), Bender (John DiMaggio), and Leela (Katey Sagal) to Neptune in order to deliver a sack of children’s letters to Santa (begging for mercy). On Neptune, the crew are met by Neptunians who are short and elfish due to all of the malnutrition under Robot Santa’s (DiMaggio) rule. They’re also out of work because Robot Santa finds everyone naughty, so the toy factory went under. The crew heads to Robot Santa’s death fortress, sneaking in and attempting to destroy Robot Santa with a logical paradox.

S3E3 - 1Neptune
A Gingerbread house is either food or shelter, not both.

Unfortunately, Robot Santa is immune to logic and chases them with a missile launcher. They escape to the ship and try to take off, but Santa grabs the ship and holds it in place. However, the engines melt the ice around Santa and he is trapped in the ice when Leela shuts off the engines. The Neptunians rejoice and return to making toys while singing and Bender is chosen, reluctantly, to be the new Santa.

S3E3 - 2Frozen
Let’s not question how this worked.

Using Santa’s sleigh to head to Earth, Bender tries to deliver presents to families, but most of them either attack him or try to kill themselves. He runs into Kwanzaa-Bot (Coolio) who can’t help, as he has to give out the traditional Kwanzaa book What the Hell is Kwanzaa? Bender returns to Planet Express and is instinctively attacked by the Professor. Bender decides to quit and drops all of his toys into the sewer, which results in Smitty and Url (West and DiMaggio) arresting him. Bender is put on trial and sentenced to death for Santa’s Slayings.

S3E3 - 3Post
Fun fact: The Chanukah Zombie is the Wandering Jew’s brother.

Bender is put on death row while the Crew heads to Neptune to try and bring the real Robot Santa back. Unfortunately, global warming has melted much of the ice and he escapes. The Crew flees, but Santa stows away on the ship. The crew, all dressed up like Santa Claus, try to claim that they are Santa (except Zoidberg, who shows up as “his friend Jesus”), but Mayor Poopenmeyer (David Herman) doesn’t believe them (except for Zoidberg). The countdown on Bender’s execution reaches 0, but, before Bender is killed by a giant magnet, the real Santa breaks in. Robot Santa reveals that he wants Bender’s help to do his Xmas work. Bender agrees and goes on a rampage with Robot Santa. Hiding at Planet Express, Fry mentions that fear brings everyone together the same way that joy does, so it’s still Xmas. At the end of the night, Santa gives Bender an empty box, saying “Oh, it might appear empty but the message is clear: Play Santa again and I’ll kill you next year!”

S3E3 - 4TwoSantas
The whip’s not for the robo-reindeer.

END SUMMARY

I know some people complained that John Goodman didn’t return to play Robot Santa in this episode, but I think John DiMaggio did such a good job that I almost didn’t notice the switch. I also like how they expanded on the Robot Santa mythos, particularly showing us the Neptunians who, unlike Elzar or any of the others in the series, are only a few feet tall due to malnutrition. They’re also constantly demonstrating fairly overused stereotypical gay behavior that, and this is the joke, Fry somehow manages to miss. This didn’t age as well as most of the series, but they’re nowhere near as bad as some other shows back in 2001.I also like that we get to watch a perfect representation of how messed up Robot Santa’s logic is:

Mobsters beating up a shopkeeper for protection money. Very naughty!

Shopkeepers not paying their protection money. Exactly as naughty!

Interestingly, in the commentary, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen mention that Fox told them not to do a second Robot Santa Xmas story after getting multiple complaints over the airing of the first one. Not giving a sh*t what Fox said, they made this one anyway, but were forced to premiere it at comic panels since Fox wouldn’t air it like a normal episode. In the same discussion, Matt Groening says that he generally hates doing Christmas episodes, something that shocked me, since the first episode of The Simpsons was a Christmas special. Maybe he only likes his own.

S3E3 - 5Kwanzaa.png
Never did a Kwanzaa special, though…

The final act for this episode is one of the better ones in the show. It’s even got a ticking clock in the form of Mayor Poopenmeyer’s random number generator counting down to Bender’s execution. I thought it was funny that the generator actually can pick any integer, positive or negative, and can pick the same one over again, and yet it gets to 0 in 10 selections. Technically we never see a three digit number, so it’s possible that it only goes between positive and negative one hundred, but that’s still 1 in 199 on each pick, so it could have taken an incredibly long time.

FAVORITE JOKE

The “I’m Spartacus” scene with all of the crew dressed as Santa is a decent joke, but the real winner is Zoidberg coming in dressed as Jesus. It just gets kicked up to 11 by the fact that the Mayor actually buys it, going so far as to say “How dare you lie in front of Jesus?!” When Robot Santa comes in to attack the group, the Mayor begs Jesus to attack Santa, only for Zoidberg to say “I help those who help themselves!”

S3E3 - 6Jesus
I refuse to make a Jesus Christacean joke. I refuse. 

I think this joke works on 3 different levels. First, it’s just funny that rather than dress up like Santa, Zoidberg chooses to dress up as the other main figure of Christmas. The fact that he’s so enthusiastic about it only makes it funnier. Second, a big part of the Xmas holiday episodes is that, in the future, they have literally taken the Christ out of Christmas. This is Zoidberg directly putting it back in. Third, I think it’s hilarious that Zoidberg, whose entire species is composed of Jewish stereotypes, decides to appear as the central figure to Christianity.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 34: Parasites Lost

NEXT – Episode 36: The Luck of the Fryrish

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.