Futurama Fridays – S1 E10 “A Flight to Remember”

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

SUMMARY

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

S1EA-1Zapp.png
He’s a keeper.

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

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

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

END SUMMARY

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

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

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

S1EA-4Limbo.png
He has an Olympian’s build.

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

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Her parents look way too happy about this.

FAVORITE JOKE

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

  1. The Buffet

S1EA-6Buffet.png

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

     2. Bender’s Drawing

S1EA-7Drawing.png
It was the most e-rotic moment of my life. Yes, that’s a joke.

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

     3. iZac (Phil LaMarr)

S1EA-8iZac.png

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

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 9: Hell is Other Robots

NEXT – Episode 11: Mars University

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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E9 “Hell is Other Robots”

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

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Okay, maybe not ALL artistic interpretations.

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

SUMMARY

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

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

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

S1E9-3HellFirst
Look! Iron Butterflies!

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

END SUMMARY

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

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Yep, matches the diagram.

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

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

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

S1E9-6Strip.png
Two minutes after being told to go back to vice.

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

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

FAVORITE JOKE

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

S1E9-AChurchSign.jpg
The candles are on “resistance” symbols and the lamps are nested diode symbols. Love it.

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

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

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

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 8: A Big Piece of Garbage

NEXT – Episode 10: A Flight to Remember

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

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

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

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

SYNOPSIS

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

S1E8-1Smelloscope
Amazingly no one noticed before.

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

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

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

END SYNOPSIS

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

S1E8-3BallOfTrash
Trashy television.

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

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

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

S1E8-5Morbo

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

FAVORITE JOKE

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

S1E8-6Rudy.png

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

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

Guy: With gusto!

It’s so perfectly bad.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 7: My Three Suns

NEXT – Episode 9: Hell is Other Robots

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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E7 “My Three Suns”

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

SYNOPSIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

END SYNOPSIS

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

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She doesn’t have the most passive form of aggression.

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

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Granted, they’ve adapted well.

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE JOKE

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 6: A Fishful of Dollars

NEXT – Episode 8: A Big Piece of Garbage

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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E6 “A Fishful of Dollars”

Welcome to the only episode of Futurama that I have repeatedly used to teach a math lesson.

SYNOPSIS

Fry (Billy West) is sick of being broke after he can’t afford a nice pair of underwear. At the same time, Bender (John DiMaggio) gets arrested. To pay his bail, Fry decides to see if his bank account is still open, remembering that he had almost a dollar in it. After entering his PIN, Fry finds out that, over the last millennium, his $0.93 has grown to $4.3 Billion. Now that he’s rich, Fry goes on a spending spree trying to acquire as much nostalgia from his home millennium as possible, but ends up driving his friends away.

S1E6-1aParty.png
He’s Top Hat Rich, bordering on Monocle Rich.

During an auction, Fry buys the last known container of anchovies on Earth, something that angers evil industrialist Mom (Tress MacNeille) because she believes it to be part of a clever plan to corner the robot oil industry. She sends her three Stooge sons Walt, Larry, and Igner (Maurice LaMarche, David Herman, DiMaggio) to steal either the anchovies or his money. They convince Fry he’s still in 1999, causing him to reveal his PIN. Now broke again, Fry reveals he still has the anchovies. However, he refuses Mom’s offer to buy them, instead choosing to share them with his friends. Naturally, everyone hates them except Zoidberg (West).

S1E6-2Anchovies.png
Billions of dollars are in that can.

END SYNOPSIS

Okay, this is another example of Futurama taking a traditional premise and messing around with it within their unique setting. This is the rags-to-riches-to-rags story where the nouveau riche character suddenly loses interest in everything in their prior life, realizes how terrible it would be to lose their past friends, then loses their money to reset the status quo. It’s a sitcom standard. Hell, I remember a Gilligan’s Island episode that has that same arc, except with imagined wealth. But, kudos to the math-loving writers of Futurama (something that will come up again), they found a semi-practical way to give Fry the money and a completely ridiculous way for him to lose it.

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With a cameo of Academy Award-Winning actress Pamela Anderson.

Fry even makes the lesson explicit when he says that he finally found what he needs to be happy and “it’s not friends, it’s things.” Bender even humorously points out that he IS a thing. But, rather than it being the loss of his money that makes Fry realize he was wrong, it’s actually thinking he’s back in the 20th Century and that Leela (Katey Sagal) and Bender were never real in the first place. It’s a nice twist, because it means that Fry probably would have learned the lesson even if he’d kept the money. If it was just that he was forced back into his old life and learned it, then it’d feel disingenuous, because he didn’t have other options.

S1E6-4Hallucination.png

The idea that a renewable resource could threaten an industrialist’s monopoly is also not exactly new, but this one is pretty damned funny. I love that Mom already has figured out that the easiest way to harvest anchovy oil isn’t by recreating anchovies, but by putting the oil-making gene in a bunch of third-world kids. However, she doesn’t intend to do that, because it would stop her from being able to constantly sell her own oil. It’s like the argument people give for why there’s not a cure for diabetes: It’s not that it can’t be made, it’s that companies don’t want to cure something they can sell tons of treatments for. This idea is actually stupid, of course, since the first company to come up with the cure could patent it and make insurmountable profits selling the cure, which they would do because, otherwise, someone else could develop it and do the same. However, since Mom is the only robot oil manufacturer, the plan actually makes sense for her.

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Mom and her Stooge sons

For the record, I’m not criticizing them for re-using old ideas, I’m giving them credit for making old ideas work in original ways.

Btw, if you care about doing the math on Fry’s money using the compound interest equation, you find out that the numbers actually do work out if Fry’s account compounded annually. In fact, when I’ve taught compound interest, this is my go-to example to work through, since people tend to like pop-culture-based lessons more. I’ve also had to watch a lot of students get disappointed when I inform them that banks have safeguards in place to prevent people or businesses from doing this kind of thing. As if a lot of them were going to be cryogenically frozen. In any case, I appreciate that they at least made the numbers work. However, I cruelly have made students calculate the purchasing power of that $4.3 Billion if inflation is 3%, something that makes it worth much less than a penny, because inflation ruins everything.

S1E6-6Interest

FAVORITE JOKE

It’s pretty easy in this one. It’s the Petridge Farm ad. It’s short, and it’s a play on Pepperidge Farm, and I think this joke was just the right amount of ahead of its time. It’s not shown, but you hear the ad as:

Do you remember a time when chocolate chip cookies came fresh from the oven? Petridge Farm remembers.

Do you remember a time when women couldn’t vote and certain folk weren’t allowed on golf courses? Petridge Farm remembers.

At the time this aired, there wasn’t as much of a cultural recognition of how much we whitewash our past, because it was the ‘90s and it felt like everything was going up. But, in the last few years, we’ve really had a lot of discussion about how much the US, and people in general, tend to romanticize the past or forget about all the people that were getting the short-end of the stick back then, instead idealizing it as a time where everything was just magical and people were better, despite all of the statistics. Well, this joke just cuts out all the pretense and reminds us that what people who want the past really want is a time when other people were suppressed. It’s not that life was easier, it’s that life was easier for some people, because it was harder for others. And the companies that market to that nostalgia are contributing to that. South Park would later do this idea in a more complex way with their Memberberries in Season 20.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 5: Fear of a Bot Planet

NEXT – Episode 7: My Three Suns

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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E5 “Fear of a Bot Planet”

I think this is the first episode that doesn’t introduce a major recurring character. However, it does give us Earth’s favorite pastime, Blernsball!

S1E5-1Blernsball.png
Baseball: As boring as mom and apple pie. Blernsball: As exciting MILFs and Apple Brandy

Changing up the format. Synopsis here, then analysis, then if you want the annotated summary, click on the link at the bottom.

SYNOPSIS

Bender, Fry, and Leela (John DiMaggio, Billy West, Katey Sagal) are sent to make a delivery on Chapek 9, a planet populated entirely by human-hating robots. Bender is captured by locals for knowing humans, so Fry and Leela go to rescue him. However, Bender has lied to the population and become a hero to the other robots. Fry and Leela are then captured, tried for being human, and sentenced, but it is revealed that their trial was just a show for the people and that the planet is actually controlled by Robot Elders, who use humans as scapegoats for their terrible leadership. The trio escape and complete their delivery, giving precious lug nuts to the robots, presumably ending all of their hatred of humans… until the next time we see the planet.

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Yes, these costumes work.

END SYNOPSIS

This episode is about discrimination. Isn’t that cheerful? I mean, the title is even a parody of Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy, an album that was created to address a very specific version of race theory, involving white supremacy and its potential counterpart black supremacy.

S1E5-3FearOfABlackPlanet
Sorry, “world” supremacy. My mistake.

It’s a pretty clear theme, however, the message is a little more… let’s go with palatably relayed… by having it be human and robot relations. Granted, much like in Zootopia, the analogy starts to fall apart under scrutiny, but at least, within this episode, that’s what they’re going for. From Bender talking about “Robot League Blernsball” to his quoting “Ol’ Man River” to his complaints about robot exploitation, he’s evoking themes of a past discrimination in the real world.

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The actor who sang it in “Show Boat” used the stage name “Stepin Fetchit.” No further comment.

Of course, Bender doesn’t actually care about any of those things. He’s literally just using them as an excuse to avoid doing work under the guise of protest. He even comes up with the holiday of “Robanukah” to take two weeks off, which is, apparently, the third holiday he’s made up since coming to work with Planet Express.

S1E5-5Kwanzaabot
Kwanzaabot did not appreciate creating “Robanzaa.”

However, once they get to Chapek 9, the situation is reversed, with robots now being the ones who are discriminating against humans. The difference is that, while there is actually a justification for why humans might not let robots play Blernsball (like, the part where the pitcher is just a modified howitzer), the robots actually have to come up with completely illogical reasons to hate humans, like having propaganda films where humans eat robots or suck their oil out and turn them into humans. It’s like the insane claims that the Nazis made about the Jews or those made about black people by white supremacists. You’d have to be an idiot to believe them, but, unfortunately, a lot of people believed them.

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Like how human organs digest microchips.

Probably the best part of the episode, and the point they were actually trying to make, comes from the revelation that the robotic discrimination isn’t actually based on robot-human relations, but instead has been cultivated by a ruling class as a way to avoid ever having to be held accountable for their terrible leadership. Which, lets be honest, has been the history of a lot of racism/nationalism/whateverism. It’s really easy to get away with being a shitty leader if you can just tell everyone else it’s the fault of the Jews or the Swiss or Ted Nugent fans. Sure, it’s going to require you to make some stuff up, like that they hoard gold causing inflation or that they eat lug nuts causing a shortage. Sure, you have to suffer, but, in exchange, they’re protecting you from those monstrous humans.

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Oh, and corrupt. Man, you can be corrupt as hell if you have a scapegoat.

By having humans be the cause of dread and anguish for Chapek 9, the episode also drives home the truth that discrimination is derived from fear. Anyone who interacts with humans for an extended period knows that, while some of them are crappy, most of them are harmless. Well, Mostly Harmless. However, since the Robot Elders control all of the media within the planet and eliminate contact with outsiders, there’s almost no way for the robots to understand how foolish their misconceptions sound.

So, it’s not perfect, but its an entertaining way of pointing out that most discrimination is actually used as a deflection by the powerful so that people don’t notice that they usually have a much more immediate cause of their problems.

FAVORITE JOKE:

This billboard.

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Come on, you laughed. Admit it.

Is it complicated? No. Is it dated? Oh yeah. But if you sat through the two decades of those ads being everywhere, then you know this was kind of the response you always wanted. Btw, the first got milk ad, featuring the Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton museum curator, was directed by Michael “I’m not going to try harder if you keep paying me not to” Bay. Not every joke I love in this show requires a long explanation.

But, since it was short, back-up joke: When Fry and Leela are identified, we hear two robots say “Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!” and “Get the Humanoid! Get the Intruder!” These are from the game Berzerk. This game is famous for three reasons: First for having speech, all the way back in 1980, despite each word costing developers $1000. Second is Evil Otto, the villain who took the form of a smiley face, famous for being literally unkillable. Third is that in October 1982, Peter Burkowski played Berzerk for 15 minutes, made the high score list twice, then dropped dead of a heart attack at 18 years old. This is one of the only games to have ever been claimed as a cause of death to a human. Thus, it’s perfect for dialogue on a planet filled with human-killing robots.

S1E5-9Berzerk
Still a fun game, honestly.

See you next week, Meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 4: Love’s Labours Lost in Space

NEXT – 6: A Fishful of Dollars

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.

Continue reading Futurama Fridays – S1 E5 “Fear of a Bot Planet”