Futurama takes on classic cartoons.
This episode is divided into three different segments framed by Nixon (Billy West) and Agnew (Maurice LaMarche) watching television on Saturday morning.
The first is “Bendee Boo and the Mystery Crew,” a super thinly-veiled parody of Scooby-Doo with Fry (West), Leela (Katey Sagal), Hermes (Phil LaMarr), Amy (Lauren Tom), and Bender (John DiMaggio) as Shaggy, Daphne, Fred, Velma, and Scooby. The crew is on their way to visit Fry’s nephew the Professor (West) at a cloning lab when they encounter a dragon ghost near a Kabuki theater owned by George Takei. It turns out that the theater is failing because of a local basketball arena. The crew heads to the Cloning Lab where they find out that the Harlem Globetrotters are there hoping to have the Professor clone five Larry Birds so that they can use them as practice. The only problem is that they keep getting thwarted by a dragon ghost. That night, Fry encounters the ghost and the crew hatches a scheme to catch it. They fail, but assume that Zoidbert (West) must be the ghost because he was against cloning, only to accidentally kill him. Finally, the Professor catches the ghost and it turns out to be George Takei who did it because he’s mentally ill. The Professor clones the Larry Birds and the Globetrotters feel prepared, only to discover that the actual game is against six Larry Birds.
In the second vignette, parents are protesting the White House due to a lack of educational or moral content in children’s programming. They call Hollywood to order changes and watch the next cartoon “Purpleberry Pond,” a parody of Strawberry Shortcake. Throughout the episode, the show talks about the healthy nature of the characters’ purpleberries, only for it to have frequent ads for sugary cereals based on the show. The plot is thin and about the cast of Purpleberry Pond rejecting the new Lord Loquat (Fry) for being orange, but Princess Purpleberry (Leela) quickly says that they should accept him and they all do. The Berry Burglar (Farnsworth) tries to steal the purpleberries, only to fail for literally no reason and fire sugar on the group. The show ends with the moral that it doesn’t matter what color they are as long as they buy the cereal.
The final segment is “G.I. Zapp,” which starts off as a violent parody of G.I. Joe until protestors force Nixon to start censoring it. He then tries to manually censor the show as it airs, only to constantly fail in the face of the episode’s gore. The plot is that the G.I. Zapp troops are fighting the forces of A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. (A Criminal Regiment Of Nasty Young Men), a COBRA parody. As most of the characters get killed, Nixon has to come up with increasingly ridiculous ways to explain that everyone is still alive, including landing safely next to a regularly occurring explosion at Disneyland. At the end, Orphan Crippler (Bender) does something so graphic that Nixon just has to pull the plug. He then runs an anti-violence PSA in which Nixon and Agnew stop a fight over a football by destroying the ball. The network then airs six hours of golf.
The first time I saw this, I genuinely didn’t think much of it, but on rewatch I actually found myself liking it more. Each of the sections is a decent parody and tribute to the cartoon that they’re based on and the world in which they aired. For example, the first time, I thought that it was annoying that there are so many commercial parodies in the Purpleberry Pond section, but now I really do appreciate how much it is attacking the fact that shows would incorporate fake healthy images into shows that also were selling unhealthy products and how shameless they were about promoting those products into the shows.
The G.I. Zapp segment is probably my favorite, though, because it really does kind of reflect how much they had to work to censor shows like G.I. Joe to the point that they logically stopped making sense. Entire armies constantly were shooting at each other with tanks, but no one ever seemed to get seriously injured. Even in the movie, when Duke was supposed to die, they ended up having to walk that back due to how people had received Optimus Prime’s death, resulting in the awkward line “Duke’s going to make it!” I would genuinely have preferred G.I. Zapp’s version, I think.
Overall, not a bad episode.
One for each segment:
3) The floor
When Fry and Bender replicate the Scooby and Shaggy slipping run, Takei indicates that it’s because of a well-buttered floor. Just a hilarious take on a classic pratfall.
2) Part of a balanced breakfast
The narrator says: “Purpleberry Puffs are the sweetest part of your complete breakfast, along with juice, toast, ham, eggs, bacon, milk, cheese, liver, waffles and a big horse vitamin.” This is based on how cereals used to get “part of your complete breakfast” on the ads, where they asked doctors “is it healthier to eat nothing or eat cereal, eggs, toast, and fruit?” Doctors would naturally say “food beats nothing,” so the cereals could obliquely say that doctors approved it.
1) Nixon slips
After censoring the whole episode, one of the characters says “I will avenge him, you heartless” and Nixon interrupts with “BASTARDS!” He then defends it with “It’s okay, if I say it.” Just great.
See you next week, meatbags.
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