Futurama Fridays – S4E2 “Leela’s Homeworld”

Leela finally learns the truth about her cyclopic origins and it will bring a tear to your single large eye.

SUMMARY

The Professor (Billy West) builds a machine to make glow-in-the-dark noses and decode alien language which produces a lot of toxic waste. Bender (John DiMaggio) offers to dispose of it, which he does by dumping it on the sewer mutants. The mutants don’t appreciate this. 

File:Leg Mutant.jpg
Their arguments DID have a leg to stand on. 

Leela (Katey Segal) gets named “Orphan of the Year” for becoming a spaceship captain, and receives it while telling the other orphans that they should be proud of who they are. However, she tells Fry (West) that it was a lie, because she only ever wanted a family to love her. She hopes that her parents are looking down on her, only for it to be revealed that her parents Turanga Munda and Turanga Morris (Tress MacNeille and David Herman) have been watching her the whole time… because they’re mutants living in the sewers. 

Image result for leela's homeworld
The not-so-subtle reveal.

The mutants finally get fed up by Bender’s dumping and pull him, Fry, and Leela into the sewers, preparing to dump them in the lake which Bender’s waste has made so much more toxic. The three are saved by two strangers who know Leela’s name. The crew follows them through the sewers to a house which has a ton of stuff about Leela. The mutants catch up and try to execute them, but the strangers convince the mutants to let them go. Leela dives into the mutagenic lake to pursue them, emerging to find out that it had no effect on her. 

Image result for leela's homeworld
As opposed to this rat.

Back on the surface, Fry gives the note found on Leela’s baby basket as a child to the Professor so that he can decipher it. He uses the nose machine and eventually gets a result. In the sewers, Leela chases the two strange mutants and confronts them in their home covered in Leela memorabilia. She suspects they’re the mutants who killed her parents and is about to kill them when Fry unmasks them, revealing that they ARE her parents (something the audience already knew). Fry reveals that the note, while indecipherable, was written on recycled paper from the sewers, meaning that her parents were mutants, not aliens. In a flashback, it’s revealed that the pair left Leela on the surface so that she wouldn’t be subject to mutant discrimination. Rather than being mad at them for abandoning her, Leela embraces them, happy to find them. It’s revealed in further flashbacks that Leela’s parents have always been looking out for her from afar.

END SUMMARY

Well, this is what has to happen when you suspect that the show is not going to get another season: Wrap up those plot threads. This one had long been dangled, though not as directly as the secret origin of Fry that comes up later in the season. Back in season 2’s “I Second That Emotion,” Leela’s parents are shown in a crowd of mutants, and their resemblance to Leela is painfully obvious, but that is pretty much it until this episode. According to the DVD Commentary, they had decided they should wait at least 3 seasons to reveal Leela’s origins, even though they were written before the pilot was shot (that’s why there are mutants in the sewers in the Pilot). 

Image result for leela's homeworld
That’s them in the corner. That’s them in the spotlight.

This isn’t a bad reveal by any means, since ultimately we were going to need an explanation as to why Leela appeared to be the only real cyclops in the universe despite her searching everywhere for evidence. This resolution shows that the reason why she couldn’t find them is that she was looking everywhere except below the Earth’s surface, because she’d been told she was an alien her whole life. It’s a great way to not impugn Leela’s intelligence while still making the solution viable.

The ending to this episode is one of the best tearjerker moments in the series. It’s so well done and so heartwarming that it would stand out more if it weren’t soon to be overshadowed by “Jurassic Bark,” which pretty much dominates the “I’m not crying, you’re crying, but I’m also crying” charts. Still, they perfectly convey how Leela’s parents have really done their best to be involved in her life, despite not being able to ever be near her. The fact that it’s completely silent aside from the musical accompaniment, like most of Futurama’s best montages, only makes it tug harder at your heart strings. I can’t hear “Baby Love Child” by Pizzicato Five without thinking of this sequence… but to be fair I don’t hear that song much.

Image result for leela's homeworld
I’m not crying, my eyes are just leaking tears.

I enjoy this episode a lot. Sure, it’s not the funniest, but it does do a good job of focusing on Leela’s emotional journey and it gives us a happy ending that was well-earned. I can’t ask for much more than that.

FAVORITE JOKE

The awards that are given to the “Orphan of the Year” always give me a chuckle, because they’re just the right amount of tragic and amusing. They include “Diligent Flosser,” “Has Tasted Every McDonald’s Sandwich,” (which I think is genuinely impressive if you mean EVERY sandwich they’ve made in every country), and “Successfully Switched from Heroin to Methadone,” which is a reference to Annie Hall. However, I have to appreciate the one that says “Often seen in the Background of News Spots,” because a few minutes later, he appears in the background of Leela’s photo with her Orphan of the Year award, one of the most random quick call-backs in the entire run of the show. 

Image result for leela's homeworld

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 55: Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch

NEXT – Episode 57: Love and Rocket

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 – S4E1 “Kif Gets Knocked Up A Notch”

Amy and Kif have been getting serious, but somehow forget the old adage “no glove, no love.” 

SUMMARY

Kif Kroker (Maurice LaMarche) and Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) have been dating long-distance for a while, but the lack of contact is starting to hurt their relationship. The crew of the Planet Express ship is sent on a delivery near Kif’s ship, so Amy smuggles herself onboard and re-directs the ship while the others are asleep. When they finally arrive at Zapp Brannigan’s (Billy West) ship The Nimbus, Kif takes Amy onto the Holo-Shed, where he tries to romance her until it malfunctions and brings a number of evil beings to life. Amy and Kif flee to the bridge where Zapp shoots a hole in the ship. In the process of saving Kif from explosive decompression, he loses his right glove and has skin contact with everyone in the room. After the situation is resolved, it’s revealed that Kif is pregnant, as his species can reproduce from absorbing genetic material from anyone they touch if they’re in love with someone.

S4E1 - 1Gun
Zapp actually doing some Zapp-ing.

Kif is happy, but Amy isn’t ready for kids. The Professor (West) tests Kif’s offspring against everyone in the ship (and Zoidberg (West), who was sleeping in the testing machine), it’s revealed that Leela (Katey Segal) is the one whose DNA impregnated Kif. Kif points out that in his culture, it doesn’t matter who the DNA was from, but who caused Kif to become fertile that is considered the mother of the offspring, so he names Amy his “smizmar.” At the baby shower, Amy’s parents talk about her new responsibilities, leading Amy to run away.

S4E1 - 2KifPregnant
Kif, finding out he may be a single father/mother.

Kif goes into labor and is returned to his home planet in order to give birth, accompanied by Bender (John DiMaggio), Fry (West), Leela, and Zapp. They meet the Grand Midwife (Tress MacNeille), who begins the birthing ceremony without Amy, until she arrives to assist in the birth of Kif’s tadpoles and defend them from predators. Kif reveals that the babies will come out of the swamp in 20 years and Amy says she’ll be ready then.

END SUMMARY

This episode’s a good inversion of the traditional unplanned pregnancy story that shows tend to do, like Murphy Brown having to give birth alone after the father of her baby wanted nothing to do with her. For reasons that are mostly because humans tend to anthropomorphize protagonists even if they aren’t human, the pregnant character in most stories pretty much had to be female. Because of this, most stories about a male character having a baby makes the focus the shock THAT a male can have a baby, rather than dealing with it as a normal pregnancy like this episode. However, aside from that, this episode doesn’t have much to distinguish it in the 2nd or 3rd acts, aside from Tress MacNeille’s hilarious work as the Grand Midwife. Also, if anyone points out the movie Junior, I’ll be really disappointed in you. 

S4E1 - 3Midwife
I love that they brought her back later.

The funniest part of the episode is absolutely the first act where the holo-shed figures come to life, mostly because the show immediately throws out a few of the horrible repercussions that could come out of that or even out of having a “holo-shed.” It’s not just the idea of bringing random horrible villains to life, but Zapp points out that last time it happened he got stuck with a bunch of paternity suits. In other words, in this universe the holo-deck is actually used for EXACTLY what everyone knows that technology would be used for in real life. To paraphrase The Good Place, humans will immediately use any nascent technology for porn. In addition, the randomness of the assortment of the holo-shed villains is hilarious (see below). 

S4E1 - 4HoloShed
No relation to any decks from Star Trek.

The one thing that really bugs me about this episode is: Why didn’t Kif mention this is a thing his species does? If he’s in love with Amy, then every time they kiss they’re risking him getting pregnant and that’s DEFINITELY the kind of thing that you should be telling a partner before intimacy. 

S4E1 - 5Babies
Just a few hugs, then BAM! Tadpoles.

Other than that, this episode is kind of middle of the road for Futurama, but still funny.

FAVORITE JOKE

7 Words: Real holographic simulated Evil Lincoln is BACK!!!

S4E1 - 6Lincoln.png

Seriously, the emergence of the random villains in the holo-shed is the best part of the episode. They are: Attila the Hun, Jack the Ripper, Professor Moriarity (of Sherlock Holmes fame), and, of course, Evil Lincoln. I love this assembly: One real figure (Attila), one real figure of unknown identity (Jack the Ripper), one character from real fiction (Moriarity), one character from speculative fiction (Lincoln). It’s just so perfectly odd.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 54: The 30% Iron Chef

NEXT – Episode 56: Leela’s Homeworld

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 – S3E22 “The 30% Iron Chef”

Bender decides to be the greatest chef in the universe without a sense of taste, a title formerly belonging to Guy Fieri.

SUMMARY

Bender (John DiMaggio) is watching Good Morning Earth with Morbo (Maurice LaMarche) and Linda (Tress MacNeille) and special celebrity guest chef Elzar (John DiMaggio). Desiring to be a cook, Bender tries to make brunch for the crew as the Professor (Billy West), shows Zoidberg (West) and Fry (Still West) a bottle with a tiny ship in it. Zoidberg promptly breaks it after the rest of the crew leave the room to go to brunch. It’s revealed that Bender’s cooking is completely inedible, something he overhears the crew complaining about. Hurt, he runs away and tries to convince Elzar to teach him to cook. Elzar refuses, so Bender joins a group of hobos riding the “space rails.” At the same time, Zoidberg attempts to frame Fry for breaking the Professor’s bottle.

S3EM - 1Morbo
I would watch this show every day.

Eventually, Bender lands at a hobo jungle named “Bumbase Alpha,” where he meets a homeless cook named Helmut Spargle (David Herman), who used to be a celebrity chef and the teacher of Elzar, until Elzar replaced him. In order to get revenge on Elzar, Helmut trains Bender to cook. Bender finally attempts to prove his skills by making a meal for Helmut, but the food is so awful that it kills him. Before he dies, the old cook gives Bender a diamond vial containing the “essence of pure flavor.” Bender challenges Elzar to a battle on the program Iron Cook. Meanwhile, the Professor falls for Zoidberg’s ploy to frame Fry via fake confession and an “I Hate Bottles” shirt, so Fry pays him $10 for the broken bottle. Zoidberg begins to feel guilty.

S3EM - 2Training.png
If they’re literally -5 lbs, they shouldn’t just float, they should fly.

On Iron Cook, Bender and Elzar are ordered to cook a meal with the secret ingredient of Soylent Green (probably not the one that’s made of people… probably). Elzar makes a delicious looking meal that includes its own bribe, while Bender’s food resembles burnt piles of mud. Bender secretly adds a few drops of the “essence of pure flavor” to his dishes. Despite the horrifying appearance, everyone agrees Bender’s dish is superior. Bender gives a speech which leads Zoidberg to confess to framing Fry, trying to kill himself (what the hell, show?), then framing Fry for his suicide attempt breaking a sword. The Professor reveals that the vial contained only water… laced with LSD. 

END SUMMARY

This episode is one perfect example of how Futurama can take a tired trope and make it hilarious. This is the traditional hero’s journey a la Star Wars and Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, except that everything in it is broken. 

S3EM - 3Monomyth.jpg
If your story doesn’t follow this, congrats, you’re averting the most common trope.

Bender’s motivation for going on the journey is based on him supposedly being offended that his friends (accurately) describe his food as horrible. This is less a call to adventure and more just being petty. He tries to find a mentor only to have Elzar refuse to teach him, which Bender accepts, and for Helmut to teach him but not improve his abilities at all. He undergoes a challenge against Elzar and wins, but unlike the monomyth, he’s completely unchanged at the end. He gives a speech indicating that he’s realized that fame is unimportant, only for it to be revealed that he’s recorded it and forcing everyone to watch it repeatedly. He hasn’t even become a better cook, he just has a vial of LSD that will never be referenced again. I honestly think this kind of episode inspired the version of the journey that Dan Harmon uses as a model for Rick and Morty that I covered in “The Ricks Must Be Crazy.”

  1. The main character
  2. notices a small problem,
  3. and make a major decision.
  4. This changes things
  5. to some satisfaction, but
  6. there are consequences
  7. that must be undone
  8. and they must admit the futility of change.

Admittedly, the subplot about Zoidberg breaking the bottle and framing Fry is pretty weak and honestly only seems to be in there because they wanted to have Zoidberg do some Vaudevillian slapstick with the bottle. He does deliver the fun line of “Oh, no! Professor will hit me. But if Zoidberg fixes it, then perhaps gifts!” but aside from that, not much to it.

Overall, the Bender plot is strong enough and has enough fun elements to make this episode a solid finale for Season 3.

FAVORITE JOKE

I think it’s the future railroad names. The ones we see are: “Baltimore and Orion,” which is a take off of “Baltimore and Ohio,” the famous B&O Railroad from Monopoly; “Wrath-of-Conrail,” a reference to the rail system that serves the Northeast US; and “Starlight Express,” a reference to the musical about a steam engine which is performed on roller skates. I dunno why, but those make me laugh every time.

S3EM - 4Conrail

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 53: Future Stock

NEXT – Episode 55: Kif Gets Knocked Up A Notch

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 – S3E21 “Future Stock”

It’s time to get a heavy dose of the 1980s in the year 3000. It’s awesome… awesome to the max.

SUMMARY

Planet Express is having a stockholder meeting and Fry and Zoidberg (Both Billy West) sneak off to find food at another meeting. First, they go to a Bot-Mitzvah, which doesn’t let Zoidberg in due to not permitting Shellfish or Swine (get it?). They then go to a recovery group for people who were cryogenically frozen, like Fry, where he meets “That Guy,” (David Herman), a 1980s stockbroker who had himself frozen to get a cure for his terminal boneitis. Fry invites him to join the Planet Express company at the stockholder meeting, then nominates him to be CEO of the company. He ends up being elected by 1 vote, due to Scruffy the Janitor (Herman) having four times the shares of anyone else and Hattie McDoogal, the crazy cat lady (Tress MacNeille), hating the Professor (West). 

S3EL - 1Vote.png
Democracy: It totally works every time.

Now that That Guy (real name Steve Castle, but it’s never mentioned) is in charge of the company, he makes Fry Vice-Chairman and decides to attack Mom’s Friendly Delivery Company, the leading package company. Mom (MacNeille) vows revenge, but with That Guy’s 80s know-how, he gives the company a complete makeover to raise its stock price, then sells it to Mom, firing everyone.

S3EL - 2Mom.png
Fry’s executive intimidation is underwhelming.

Fry tries to block the takeover to save everyone’s jobs, but it turns out that Zoidberg sold all his shares to That Guy for a sandwich, giving That Guy majority control over the company. Just as the takeover is approved, That Guy dies of boneitis, which he never bothered to cure. Fry takes over the company, then ends up deciding to turn it back over to Professor Farnsworth. Leela (Katey Segal), Bender (John DiMaggio), Hermes (Phil LaMarr), and Amy (Lauren Tom), show up and try to convince Fry to sell the company, because as major stockholders they’d all be wealthy, only to find out that giving it to Farnsworth made the company worthless again. The crew ends up going back to work.

S3EL - 3Boneitis.png
What a funny name for a horrifying disease.

END SUMMARY

This is one of the funniest episodes of the show and certainly one of the episodes that I most frequently quote. It’s basically putting Gordon Gekko in Futurama and watching how it plays out. Naturally, this results in the episode completely and totally satirizing the common image of 80s stockbrokers as greedy, soulless, monsters by making That Guy the greediest monster imaginable, having no real substance as a person.

S3EL - 4ThatGuy.png
He has whiskey with Boesky and cookies with Milken… both billionaire felons.

That Guy is just a perfect pastiche. He only ever references the 80s and its culture, from the music (Safety Dance) to the language (Awesome… Awesome to the max) to the commercials (the Apple 1984 Commercial) to the business ethics (“Friendship to me means that for two bucks I’d beat you with a pool cue till you got detached retinas”). He is focused solely on profit through appearance, rather than through actual work (noted by the fact that after he takes over, Planet Express stops delivering packages). His focus is solely on tearing down the work of other people for his own gain. Even more than Gordon Gekko, That Guy is self-aware that he’s being a complete monster, and he relishes every second of it. He considers being an 80s guy who wants to make as much money as possible as the whole of his identity, to the point that he forgets to cure his boneitis just because he gets too caught up on trying to capitalize on Planet Express. I have to give a special recognition to David Herman’s performance, because no matter how insane the things That Guy says can get, I always genuinely feel like he’s really trying to sell them to the listeners. He makes me think of Alec Baldwin’s speech from Glengarry, Glen Ross, but done by a muppet (sadly, that video is not yet real):

This episode also brings back Mom as an antagonist, something that I never realized only happened once per season for the first three seasons, but this time she’s really not directly trying to destroy Planet Express. Instead, she’s just serving as an equally plutocratic ally to That Guy, while simultaneously being a target for his own plot. Despite the fact that Mom hates That Guy’s attacks on her, she still gives in and agrees to his terms for the buyout, something that would have made him richer than ever. I suppose maybe vengeance just works differently for billionaires?

Overall, this is just a fun episode from start to finish. If you aren’t quoting it now, watch it and I guarantee that you will. 

FAVORITE JOKES

So many of the jokes in this episode are amazing that it’s basically just a string of hits. From the beginning where they do the Bot Mitzvah and the Cryo Support Group to the final sequence of watching the price of Planet Express fluctuate with every line Fry says, I think it’s all gold. That’s why it’s pretty hard for me to pick, so I’ll do the top 3:

1) When Hermes tells That Guy that they can’t compete with Mom

Hermes: We can’t compete with Mom! Her company is big and evil! Ours is small and neutral!

That Guy: Switzerland is small and neutral! We are more like Germany, ambitious and misunderstood!

2) That Guy’s first speech to the team:

That Guy: Let’s cut to the chase. There are two kinds of people: Sheep and sharks. Anyone who’s a sheep is fired. Who’s a sheep?

Zoidberg: Uh, excuse me? Which is the one people like to hug?

That Guy: Gutsy question. You’re a shark. Sharks are winners and they don’t look back ’cause they don’t have necks. Necks are for sheep. I am proud to be the shepherd of this herd of sharks. 

3) The stocks on the exchange, including Kirk – 1.25 and Gorn +2 (because Gorn would really win the fight), are all hilarious, but it’s the one that I spotted this time that takes the cake: eπi -1. That’s a reference to Euler’s identity (e^(i*π) = -1), one of the most profoundly beautiful equations in math. It’s quick, but I love that Futurama is filled with math jokes.

S3EL - 9Joke.png

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 52: Godfellas

NEXT – Episode 54: The 30% Iron Chef

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 – S3E20 “Godfellas”

In what I consider to be not just the best episode of this show but one of the best half-hours of television ever made, Bender is god and meets God. It’s already on my list of the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time

SUMMARY

S3EK - 2Pirates.jpg
He’s like 350% of a human pirate.

While on a delivery, the Planet Express crew are attacked by Space Pirates (they’re like pirates, but in space). Bender (John DiMaggio) is trying to take a nap in a torpedo tube and ends up getting shot at the pirates’ ship. Since the Planet Express ship was already going at max speed when they fired him, they cannot ever catch up with him, leaving Bender to drift through the cosmos, alone, until an asteroid lands on him. The asteroid is populated by tiny people called “Shrimpkins,” who quickly start worshipping Bender as the “Great Metal Lord.” 

S3EK - 1BenderColony
I’m amazed that he can somehow sustain an atmosphere.

Bender attempts to be a god to the Shrimpkins, choosing one, Malachi (Maurice LaMarche), as his prophet. Bender orders them to make him alcohol, which quickly starts to ruin the Shrimpkin’s society, causing massive deaths, maimings, and crime rates. Bender sheds a tear for the plight of the people (which he caused), which causes a flood that threatens Malachi, Jr. (Lauren Tom). Bender saves Malachi, Jr., earning him praise and prayers from the rest of the people. He attempts to answer the prayers. The ones that pray for wealth are given a quarter, which kills them. The ones that pray for sun are burned by Bender reflecting light and then blown into space by Bender when he tries to extinguish it. Bender begins to realize that his actions tend to harm the Shrimpkins more than they help.

S3EK - 3Crime.png
I mean, the drive-bys alone are really hurting Shrimpkin property values.

On Earth, Fry (Billy West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) go to meet the Monks of either Dschubba (a star) or maybe Teshuvah (Hebrew for “Answer”), the possessors of the most powerful radio telescope in the universe, to try and search for Bender. When Fry actually asks them for permission to use it, they refuse, but when they are revealed to be pacifists, Leela locks them in a laundry room. Fry tries to survey the entire universe, but Leela points out that even if he spent his entire life there, he wouldn’t even be able to check even one billionth of the observable universe, because duh. 

S3EK - 4Priest.jpg
They also visit the first Amalgamated church of Earth.

Malachi warns Bender that the colony of Shrimpkins on his ass have turned into non-believers because he doesn’t talk to them (which is weird, because A) he can turn his head 180 degrees and talk to them and B) they could easily move). Bender refuses to intervene in the conflict, citing the fact that he keeps making things worse. The two sides start a sudden nuclear conflict that obliterates everyone except Bender. As Bender goes through space, he spots a galaxy signalling him in binary. He signals back and the Galaxy (West) talks to him, leading Bender to suspect that the Entity is actually God or at least a computer that collided with God. Bender and the Entity talk about the nature of being God, with the Entity giving him the advice: “If you do too much, people get dependent on you. And if you do nothing, they lose hope. You have to use a light touch like a safecracker or a pickpocket.” The Entity reveals that it can’t send Bender back at this time. 

S3EK - 5God
What? You thought God was a white dude with a beard? That’s Santa.

On Earth, Fry is about to give up searching, when he randomly spins the dial and broadcasts a message saying “I wish I had Bender back,” which happens to be beamed directly to the Entity, who sends Bender back to Earth, resulting in him landing directly in front of Fry and Leela. As they start to leave, they realize that they left the monks locked inside. Tempted to just let them pray for help, Bender says that God told him that they can’t trust God to do anything, so he leads them back to release the monks. The image pans out to God laughing that “’When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.”

END SUMMARY

Look, this is a masterpiece. The writer, Ken Keeler, wrote 14 episodes of Futurama, most of them excellent, but this is his magnum opus. This entire episode has provoked hours of thought from me and when a work manages to inspire an amount of introspection that is dozens of times longer than it takes to consume, then it has officially gone above and beyond just entertaining. 

S3EK - 6Showoff
Keeler, seen here being a show-off.

There are so many different ways to look at the events of this episode. Honestly, you might have more questions than you got answers from the viewing. Bender certainly seems to have received almost no definitive answers from talking with the Entity, which is, appropriately, exactly what the Entity was trying to convey:

If you’re doing things right, you aren’t going to give people the answers, you’re only going to remind them that the answers exist, and then let them find things on their own. 

Basically, in this episode, the purpose of a god is to have a source of hope when things seem hopeless, not to give you the power to part seas or command bears to kill children (II Kings 2: 23-24). Without hope, people turn to despair, and when people despair, they don’t give a thought towards preserving or improving the world. This has long been a position adopted by a number of schools of philosophy and philosophers (including, famously, Voltaire). Here, we find out that this idea has so much merit that even God decided it was the best way to do things. 

S3EK - 7Voltaire.jpg
I mean, not from this quote exactly, but this is the famous one.

The episode also shows us the fault in the alternative: Granting everyone’s wishes would make them complacent if done perfectly, and would likely come with a ton of unexpected side-effects if done poorly. Bender tries to be a helpful god to the Shrimpkins, but giving them what they want only brings about their destruction, albeit in a more gradual manner than when he fails to heed them at all.

S3EK - 8Nukes.png
I mean, this is about as “failed as God” as it gets.

The episode also indirectly addresses one of the greatest questions in theology: Why do we praise God for saving us from himself? Bender is praised and worshipped for the “miracle” of saving Malachi, Jr. from a flood that he actually caused. Similarly, people who are saved from fires or even have their bible saved from a fire that takes their home and kills their pets often praise God for that small salvation, seemingly missing that God could have just stopped the fire in the first place… or not started it. In this episode, the answer is not “god is a dick,” but more “everything is part of a plan too grand to be comprehended.” Is that a satisfying answer to why kids get cancer and die or why earthquakes devastate entire countries? No, but it’s enough to keep you from despair. 

Ironically, despite the fact that the episode often interacts with the Entity as if he is the Judeo-Christian God, the message of “when you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all” is closer to the teachings of Taoism, which states that when a master governs well, the people will believe they did everything themselves. At the end of the episode, we don’t know exactly whose wishes are being answered. Does the Entity send Bender back because Bender wants to go? Or because Fry prayed for it? Or because the monks are praying to get out? Is it all of them or none of them? We don’t know, and that’s the point of this literal Deus Ex Machina… involving both God and a machine.

Faith is believing that things are being done for a reason, even if it’s one that we’re never able to fathom. It’s believing that there is something watching over the universe. This episode tries to not only justify faith, but also to justify why faith is supposed to be difficult. If you knew God existed for sure, you can’t have faith. If the universe seems completely without meaning, then you can’t have hope (although, other episodes on this list have posited philosophical answers to that). For a 22-minute cartoon about a robot, this episode manages to touch upon and convey an incredibly complex set of concepts, and, true to the nature of such things, leaves it to the viewer to find their own answers. 

The craziest part? “Roswell that Ends Well” was sent for consideration at the Emmy Awards rather than this episode. It won, so I’m glad that the Emmys recognized the fact that Futurama deserved it. I imagine they just thought it would be controversial to submit an episode where God tells someone “You were doing well until everyone died.” 

FAVORITE JOKE

Oddly, I don’t think there are that many great jokes in this episode, because the episode itself is so much more than just the usual series of gags. That said, my favorite joke is when Bender finds a candelabra within the swag he stole from the Space Pirates and the ensuing scene:

… [w]hat good is a candelabra without– Wait! I know! 

S3EK - 9Piano.png
Given that Bender can fit that inside him at all times, he might actually BE a god.

Ah, the pity. Fated to drift forever through the void as gravity’s plaything. Oh, cruel fate, to be thusly boned. Ask not for whom the bone bones. It bones for thee. The only thing that keeps me sane is the thought that I have all eternity in which to perfect my art. 

Naturally, he immediately breaks the piano when he misses a note twice. This whole scene is just so wonderfully odd, while also encompassing what a being who is facing an eternity of solitude might feel. It basically gets us through all of Bender’s initial existential crises that arise from dealing with his situation, allowing the episode to move on from there. 

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 51: Roswell That Ends Well

NEXT – Episode 53: Future Stock

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 – S3E19 “Roswell That Ends Well”

The Planet Express crew gets blown into the past and Fry tries to keep his grandfather safe… with sexy results.

SUMMARY

The Planet Express crew is viewing a supernova. Fry (Billy West) attempts to make popcorn in the microwave, but puts metal in it, resulting in microwave radiation hitting the supernova’s radiation, which blows the team back in time, though they don’t initially realize it. When they return to Earth, they crash due to the presence of an Ozone Layer and the lack of GPS navigation. Bender (John DiMaggio) gets ejected from the cockpit during the crash and is smashed to pieces. Zoidberg (West) offers to pick his parts up as Leela (Katey Sagal) fixes the ship, but Zoidberg ends up getting abducted by soldiers from a nearby air force base located in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. The Military starts experimenting on Zoidberg, mostly to their detriment more than his.

S3EJ - 1Clock
You can tell it’s time travel because of the clocks. It’s science.

Farnsworth (West) realizes that they can only return to the future if they go through the hole in space-time that they came through, but they need a working microwave for that. He and Leela go to get a microwave, only to find out that they aren’t available commercially yet (which isn’t exactly true, as the first one went on sale in 1946, but we’ll assume it just hasn’t gotten to Roswell). Fry reveals that his grandfather, Enos Fry (West), is stationed at Roswell, which presents a problem as he’s the only one in the ship that can infiltrate the military base to recover Zoidberg and Bender. Naturally, he quickly runs into Enos, who introduces Fry to his fiance, Fry’s grandmother, Mildred (Tress MacNeille). Fry tries to protect Enos from dangers, but ends up killing him by putting him on a nuclear test site. 

S3EJ - 2Enos.png
You can see the family resemblance… except that you can’t.

Leela spots a radar dish on the base which would produce the radiation, but Farnsworth is hesitant to interfere with history. Fry then reveals he killed his grandfather, but still exists somehow. Fry breaks the news of Enos’s death to Mildred, who responds by coming on to him. Fry realizes that Enos can’t be his grandfather, meaning Mildred isn’t his real grandmother, so he gives in. The next morning, the remaining crew tracks him down and Farnsworth points out that Mildred is his grandmother, but Fry is now his own grandfather. Abandoning any thoughts of preserving the timestream (because Fry banging his grandmother is more ridiculous than any of the damage they could do at this point), the ship breaks into the base, rescues Zoidberg and steals the radar dish. They drop Bender on their way back to the future, but dig his millenium-old head up and put him back together. 

S3EJ - 3Bender
Eh, Data on Star Trek: TNG already did this bit.

END SUMMARY

This is one of the funniest episodes of this show and also one of the most important to the overarching “plot” of the series, even if it’s not established at the time. Because of that, it’s also one of the episodes that is most frequently referenced in the future. It’s interesting because the writers established in the beginning of the series that they never wanted to do much with time travel, despite the fact that the pilot episode’s spoiler ends up being dependent on Fry getting down with his grandmother. I suppose maybe they originally had a different mechanism for Fry becoming the chosen one, but this one is funnier. I think it helps that it reminds everyone of Back to the Future, though in this version Marty does bang his mom.

S3EJ - 4Mildred
Granted, Marty’s mom wasn’t quite this forward.

While Futurama has never been adverse to subplots, this episode clearly plays them up more, having three plot threads going at once: Zoidberg being dissected, Fry and Bender’s head trying to protect Enos, and Leela and the Professor trying to find a microwave. Zoidberg’s is a hilarious subversion of the normal alien dissection, because not only is Zoidberg unaffected by most of the organs that they remove, his constant chattering and eating ends up making the soldiers, and eventually President Truman (Maurice LaMarche), get increasingly frustrated. Fry’s is made funny by the presence of Enos, who is a Futurama parody of Gomer Pyle (including having a catchphrase “Gadzooks” like Pyle’s “Shazam”). Enos is shown to be a complete rube, unable to realize when he’s eating metal, not noticing when Fry keeps shoving him into danger, and finally dying from his own ignorance of the testing grounds. He’s also shown to be homosexual, or at least bi-curious, something that seems to eliminate the obvious solution to how Fry survives his destruction: Enos had already impregnated Mildred. Farnsworth and Leela’s plot is shorter, but it contains some strong criticisms of the 1940s, particularly the salesman’s sexist attitudes. It also mocks the fact that we lose any concept of time periods as the years pass by having Farnsworth and Leela have no idea what people are like during that time period, including having the Professor order a stein of mead and two mutton pills. 

S3EJ - 5Shops
I also love that there’s a “Hard Croon Cafe.” 

Overall, this episode managed to do a lot of things at the same time, but all of it is easy to follow and amusing. Very impressive.

FAVORITE JOKE

The Conspiracy Nut who is brought with the President in order to provide a version of events that nobody will believe. Everyone always wonders why the witnesses to alien abductions or bigfoot sightings tend to be people who aren’t exactly “normal.” It turns out this is on purpose, and that the government always chooses to leak information by giving it to people who will completely remove any credibility from their claims. Basically, by having a crazy person spout the idea, they make the idea seem crazy. It’s made even better by the fact that when the conspiracy theorist takes photos, they emerge as photos from completely different conspiracy theories. His photo of President Truman at Roswell is revealed to be the 1997 Arizona UFO sighting…

S3EJ - 6Roswell

and the photo of the Planet Express ship is actually the “Surgeon’s Photograph” of the Loch Ness Monster. 

S3EJ - 7Nessie

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 50: Anthology of Interest II

NEXT – Episode 52: Godfellas

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 – S3E18 “Anthology of Interest II”

The gang approaches the What-If machine for another bout of hypothetical hilarity… and also the Wizard of Oz.

SUMMARY

The Professor (Billy West) fine-tunes his What-If machine from the previous “Anthology of Interest” and starts taking requests. 

S3EI - 1WhatIf
Marvel is making a show based on this premise, which amuses me greatly.

The first is from Bender (John DiMaggio), who asks what it would be like if he were a human. In the simulation, the Professor builds a “reverse fossilization machine,” which turns machines into organic beings, like turning a toaster into a raccoon. Bender becomes human, but quickly starts to fall for human vices like smoking and drinking (which he did before but are now harmful to him) and soon discovers his love of sex and food. He goes on a week-long bender (oh, now I get it) until the crew manages to find him and bring him to Farnsworth’s presentation to the Nobel Prize committee. He’s revealed to now be essentially a gigantic ball of fat, leading the Prize committee to attack Farnsworth, but Bender intercedes and claims that everyone should try to live his way to see what indulgence can bring. A party ensues and everyone agrees that Bender’s lifestyle was amazing, but it’s revealed that Bender has been dead since the party started. He is saluted for teaching them the joys of excess, then rolled into the trash.

S3EI - 2HumanBender
Also drives home how much Bender is just Homer Simpson the Robot.

In the second vignette, Fry (West) wishes that life was more like a video game. In this new world, space travel resembles the game Asteroids and Donkey Kong is the ambassador of planet Nintendu 64, which is populated by video game characters. The Nintendians declare war on Earth and invade, being led by Lrrr (Maurice LaMarche). They attack using the ships from Space Invaders and Fry is tasked by the military to combat them using the tank from the game. Despite listening to Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” Fry reveals that he never could get the last ship when playing the game. Lrrr lands and reveals the demands of their planet: A million allowances worth of quarters. Earth refuses, but agrees to let the invaders throw their laundry in with them to save on coins. 

S3EI - 4Mario.png
So many people think this is real.

In the last one, Leela (Katey Sagal) asks to find her one true home, but Farnsworth accidentally knocks her unconscious, resulting in her dreaming that she’s caught in a space cyclone and lands on Oz. Playing the role of Dorothy, Leela kills Scruffy (West), the Wicked Man-Witch of the East, and proceeds down the Yellow-Brick Road on the advice of Amy (Lauren Tom), the Cute Witch of the North. She meets with Fry who needs brains, Bender who needs a heart to pump blood out of his basement, and Zoidberg who needs courage for some reason. They’re found by the Mom (Tress Macneille), the Wicked Witch of the West, who sends her flying monkey sons Walt (LaMarche), Larry (David Herman), and Igner (DiMaggio) to attack the group. She reveals that she wants to raise Leela as a witch, something that makes Leela happy until Bender accidentally kills Mom with champagne. The group heads to the Professor’s lab in the Emerald City, where Leela uses the ruby boots to turn herself into a new witch until Zoidberg accidentally melts her. 

S3EI - 5Oz.jpg
Also, Bender tries to rob everyone. Because Bender.

Leela wakes up and the Professor laments that he can’t steal her organs. Hermes reminds her there’s always next year.

END SUMMARY

There was no next year. While there is another season in the original run of Futurama, this is the last Anthology of Interest. We do eventually get a number of other non-canon episodes, but they aren’t titled accordingly. 

S3EI - 6Holidays.png
Including the *sigh* holiday special.

Of the two Anthologies of Interest, I firmly believe this is the superior one. I think that the gag of Bender being human, while it’s a one-note joke, plays the absolute hell out of that note. Bender’s bender (oh NOW I get it!) is so over-the-top that its feelings of indulgence actually match the theme of what’s being depicted and benefits from being a well-paced time-lapse montage. When he’s finally unveiled in his true form, it actually manages to somehow be exactly what you imagined it would be and also more grotesque than you’d want to conceive of. I particularly love him hitting on a woman by offering her a grilled cheese he pulls out of his own fat fold. The fact that he actually is just flat-out dead at the end is the perfect cap-off for the segment.

S3EI - 3FatBender.jpg
If I had to see this, so do you.

The second segment is, in my opinion, the funniest of all of the six stories from the Anthologies, but unfortunately it also appears to have inspired the movie Pixels, which might have given me cancer. If you’re asking “did you even see it” or “didn’t it come out after you already had cancer,” I would state that you don’t understand how terrible that film is. Time and space are powerless against that much suck. Still, this segment is awesome. The references are used well, rather than just being name-dropped (*cough* Big Bang Theory *coughing for real now*), the new rules of the world are conveyed very quickly and mostly visually, and the jokes are all pretty funny.  I think it’s even more impressive that I get a kick out of things like Fry having an extra guy or randomly appearing Pac-Man cherries just because the episode successfully treats it like something that is just a normal part of their world. Nobody makes a big deal out of it, because, presumably, that’s just a natural occurrence in this version of reality. I also love that Fry, who asked for this simulation on the basis that he’s better at video games than anything else, is ultimately unable to win the battle, revealing that his brother always beat the last ship for him. Lrrr even tells him after landing that Fry never realized that he should shoot at where the ship was going to be, rather than where it was, which is the most annoying part of Space Invaders. This ending actually makes a lot more sense than if, say, Adam Sandler, Josh Gad, and Peter “I’m only taking this role because it has nothing to do with my height and therefore potentially opens up more opportunities for little people in acting” Dinklage managed to take out an alien invasion by humping Q*Bert. No, I didn’t see Pixels, but I did hear enough rants by people who did in order to know that is, in fact, a plot point. Also, I’m pretty sure that plot point was based on Q*Bert saying “Where can a guy get a pair of pants around here?” in this episode.

S3EI - 7DonkeyKong
This should be most UN meetings.

The third segment had to be a dream sequence because, otherwise, it would completely spoil Leela’s eventual revelation as a mutant. After all, she does find her true home, it’s just on Earth with her parents and friends. Plus, otherwise it’d be hard to justify a Wizard of Oz parody. I love how they change it around, from having Fry be offended that everyone keeps telling him he needs a brain to the Wicked Witch actually just wanting a daughter to love. My personal favorite and weirdest aspect is that Zoidberg, the Cowardly Lobster, gets a gun, then Bender, the Tin Man, takes it. This means that the only one of the three characters who doesn’t hold a gun is Fry, the Scarecrow, who is the character that had a gun in the original film. If you think I just made that up, AU CONTRAIRE!

S3EI - 8Gun.jpg
WHERE DID HE EVEN GET A GUN?

Yes, that’s right, the Scarecrow has a gun in the original film and somehow people ignore that. 

Overall, all three of these segments are funny. For an anthology, this was really a step up, except that it may have caused Pixels

FAVORITE JOKE

Look, I admit that I love the second segment the most and, honestly, almost any line could do it, even just talking about Fry playing an all-Rush mixtape during the game. However, it’s a single line from the third segment that will always hold a special place in my heart.

S3EI - 9Monkeys
Fly, Fly My Stupids!!!

When Igner complains about being sent out as a Flying Monkey, he tells Mom “But Mom, you promised you’d bake monkey cake today.” She responds with one of my favorite lines:

By “monkey cake” I meant your ass!

Few things are as hilarious as an angry old woman shouting that line. Really, it just confirms that Tress MacNeille is a genius, because every single phoneme in it is perfect. I almost hope that the line was thought up and then they wrote the entire episode around it, but I doubt that’s the case. 

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 49: A Pharaoh to Remember

NEXT – Episode 51: Roswell that Ends Well

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.