Futurama Fridays – S3E12 “The Route of All Evil”

It’s time to focus on the important things in the future: The terrible, terrible children.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio) decide to brew their own beer inside of Bender. The joke is that Bender looks and acts like he’s pregnant throughout the episode. It’s funny, but there’s really nothing else plot-wise.

S3EC - 1BenderPreg
Feeling fermentation sounds like a thing that you shouldn’t do.

Professor Farnsworth (West), Hermes (Phil LaMarr), and his wife LaBarbara (Tress MacNeille) find out that their sons, Cubert (Kath Soucie) and Dwight (LaMarr), were suspended from boarding school for salting a bully (he was a blob). While bored at the office, the pair send the crew on a fake mission which takes a week, resulting in the Professor and Hermes telling the boys to get a job. They decide to start a competing delivery service, a paper route, called Awesome Express. The kids use a pedal-powered spaceship to deliver the paper and quickly become extremely successful, gaining over one-million customers on their route and Awesome Express starts to actually make more money than Planet Express.

S3EC - 2Delivery
Dogs are still a problem.

The kids try to gain their fathers’ respect, but the Professor and Hermes, clearly insecure about the boys’ success, pretend they’re unimpressed. In response, Cubert and Dwight decide to completely crush Planet Express, hiring Fry, Leela, and Bender for themselves. The men try to counter by working with what they have left, but it turns out that Cubert actually inherited the company when the Professor was declared dead after taking a nap in a ditch. They place Planet Express under Awesome Express and fire their fathers, who quickly become depressed over the situation.

S3EC - 3MoneyPile
Most parents appreciate a money pile more.

Bender finally gives birth to an ale, and it is revealed that Dwight and Cubert have never actually been delivering the papers, since they broke the window of their bully and have been scared to go on the route since. They run crying to Hermes and the Professor, who deliver all of the papers and take the kids to the Blob household to apologize for the window. Mr. Blob  (Maurice LaMarche) refuses to accept their apology, leading the two dads to attack him and get beaten to a pulp. Mr. Blob comes to apologize at the hospital and the fathers all share a bottle of Bendërbrāu, but his son proceeds to eat Dwight and Cubert.

S3EC - 4Blob
He’s angry at automation. Yes, really.

END SUMMARY

This episode addresses having kids in both plotlines, but in very different ways. Fry, Leela, and Bender are dealing with the actual pregnancy and the positive expectations of parenting, while the Professor and Hermes deal with one of the scary realities that one day your kids are going to grow up and take your place. Hermes even says “We just wanted a few more years of being better than them.” In the end, we see all of the happy parents enjoying time with their kids, though in Bender’s case he’s drinking his offspring which is disturbing in retrospect. Still, I think it’s a clever way to play two plots on a similar theme.

S3EC - 5AwesomeExpress
And some shots at corporate business, I guess?

Even though the idea of Bender being pregnant with beer seems like it would be a one-note joke, they do manage to address enough of the aspects of pregnancy in clever enough ways that the joke actually works, right up until Dwight says “this is a delivery company, not a delivery room.” When you do implied but indirect analogies the whole episode, doing an explicit comparison kind of falls flat. Other than that, though, I think the idea is actually well done.

S3EC - 6Ruined
The kids also get mad at the beer, which is… age appropriate?

Hermes’s and the Professor’s behavior is simultaneously ridiculous and relatable. When they first see their kids are trying to start a business, they treat it as if it’s just children playing a game. The minute they discover that it’s a competing delivery company, the two start to sabotage their kids, until they understand it’s a paper route, at which point they consider it a joke again. It goes back and forth like this, with the men underestimating the boys or denigrating their efforts until finally the boys overtake the men. The fact that at no point do they consider just talking openly and honestly with their sons about how they feel is either a shot at the fragility of masculinity, a hilarious commentary on the nature of pride, or both. In the end, though, their love for their children outweighs their insecurity, which hopefully is what actually happens in these situations.

Like I said, I think this is a solid episode for managing to thematically connect such disparate situations.

FAVORITE JOKE

One of the hallmarks of humor is surprise. You need to deliver a punchline that’s simultaneously unexpected and also still reasonable, because just going pure surrealist will never have as much impact. This episode somehow has one of the best examples of a surprising punchline that should also have been completely expected.

When Cubert and Dwight first take over the company, Cubert and Leela have the following exchange:

S3EC - 7AwesomeExpress.png

Cubert: Hey, Leela, help me apply these flame decals I got in my cereal. They’ll make the ship go faster.

Leela: And what’s your scientific basis for thinking that?

Cubert: I’m 12.

Cubert, a literal genius, responds with a huge amount of self-awareness about choosing to believe something completely irrational. It simultaneously makes total sense and also none whatsoever. I love the hell out of this simple exchange. 

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 43: Insane in the Mainframe

NEXT – Episode 45: Bendin’ In the Wind

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 – S2E16 “Anthology of Interest I”

The Planet Express crew participates in a scientific version of “What If?”

SUMMARY

The Professor (Billy West) is demonstrating his new invention the “Fing-longer” which, as the name suggests, is just a glove with a long finger. He uses the device to turn on the What-If Machine, which generates a hypothetical story in response to any “What If” question. The crew tries it out in 3 different stories:

S2EG - 1Finglonger.png
Behold, the FUTURE!!!!!

First, Bender (John DiMaggio) asks what it would be like if he were 500 feet tall. A giant Bender is built on another planet and proceeds to head to Earth, where he quickly befriends Fry (West). However, their interactions are now more destructive than usual due to Bender being larger than most versions of Godzilla. When Zapp Brannigan (West) is sent to stop him, Fry is injured, resulting in Bender going on a rampage. The Professor decides to enlarge Zoidberg (West) to 500 feet tall to fight Bender, but Zoidberg soon starts destroying stuff as well. The two do end up fighting and Bender appears to win until Fry distracts him with shrinky-dinks and Zoidberg impales Bender on a large building. Bender says that his simple dream was only to kill all humans, then he expires.

S2EG - 2GiantFight.png
King Kong ain’t got nothing on them.

Second, Leela (Katey Sagal) asks what she would be like if she were slightly more impulsive. This results in her killing the Professor in response to him calling her boring. Hermes (Phil LaMarr) discovers this, but she kills and dismembers him. Bender tries to blackmail her over Hermes’ remains, so she kills Bender with a microwave. Amy (Lauren Tom) insults Leela, so she dies. Cubert (Kath Soucie), Scruffy (David Herman), and Nibbler (Frank Welker) all accuse Leela and are impaled on the same sword. Zoidberg finally figures it out, but Leela eats him. After Fry actually determines the truth, Leela silences him… through wild sex acts, which he really likes.

S2EG - 3Kills.png
This is genuinely impressive. Most people can’t do the triple impale.

Last, Fry asks what would have happened if he never came to the future. Back in the year 1999, Fry fails to fall into the cryogenic freezer, resulting in a space-time rip that shows Planet Express. The next day, Fry sees Stephen Hawking in his pizzeria and tells him about the rip. Later, Fry is abducted by the “Vice Presidential Action Rangers,” a group dedicated to preserving the space-time continuum, with members including Hawking, Al Gore, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax, and Deep Blue (Tress MacNeille) the chess computer. They determine that the rip means that Fry should have died, and try to beat him to death to save the universe. This makes the rip worse, so they realize Fry would have to be frozen, but Fry breaks the tube, resulting in the universe collapsing. In response, the group plays Dungeons and Dragons.

S2EG - 4FryHole.png
Weirdly, these characters are together even without Fry.

The entire episode is revealed to be the Professor asking what life would be like with the fing-longer.

S2EG - 5WhatIf.png
He does eventually make it, though. Because science!!!!

END SUMMARY

This was the Futurama version of the “Treehouse of Horror” from The Simpsons, but these are less directly parodying popular films or movies. Bender’s story is a bit of a parody of The Iron Giant and Godzilla, and the name of Leela’s is a parody of Dial M for Murder, but it never feels like they’re being too direct about the rip-offs. In the DVD commentary, they say that they wanted to do some stories that they just couldn’t work into the normal continuity, similar to Marvel’s “What-if?” comics line.

S2EG - 6WhatIf.png
Much like that line, some stuff in these became canon.

This episode kind of highlights what I think is a strength behind both this show and The Simpsons as well as the other shows that have sense copied it: They’re willing to play with the medium of sitcom. They know that television is, by default, repetitive and that one of the best ways to keep people from going insane is to occasionally have an episode that bucks that. These episodes also often have the benefit of containing ideas that were generally deemed “good” but not good enough to stretch into a full episode, so most of the quality is condensed into each vignette.

Bender’s segment, “Terror at 500 Feet” is pretty much great from start to finish, including the way that Bender’s lead-in very clearly suggests he was going to ask what it would be like to be human (something that they actually did in the sequel episode to this). It’s surprisingly efficient, with most of the interactions of characters happening in only a line or two, and a lot of it being conveyed through quick cuts of Bender and Fry’s friendship. The ending is one of the best random lines in the series, with Bender saying that he’s not the real 7-billion-ton robot monster… despite the fact that he also was planning genocide.

S2EG - 8Impaled.png
Might wanna get that checked out.

Leela’s segment, “Dial L for Leela” actually does a nice exploration of the character that is fairly accurate to her canon portrayal: If Leela were more impulsive, she entirely gives in to murderous rage (and apparently lust in some cases). While in this episode she’s comically over-the-top, if you pay attention to Leela throughout the series, she does have some pretty pronounced issues with violence. She also spontaneously sleeps with people that she regrets a few times, including most famously Zapp Brannigan. Basically, this segment is just telling us that Leela is always about to go on a killing rampage… which we honestly should have known already.

S2EG - 7SexyTimes
She also got new boots with a fun green stripe.

The last segment “The Un-Freeze of a Lifetime” is basically an excuse to say “look how many celebrities we can get.” It’s got Stephen Hawking, Gary Gygax, Nichelle Nichols, and “literally running for President at the time” Al Gore. This was Al Gore’s first appearance on a fictional show and it’s honestly hard to believe that he agreed to this, since, again, he was literally the sitting VP at the time and running for President. I assume it was trying to break up his reputation as being weak or super-serious (super-cereal as South Park would put it) by being a violence-prone caricature in a comedy show, but it’s still a weird event in pop-culture. The fact that he’s paired with Gary Gygax, someone that his wife, Tipper, had repeatedly attacked as corrupting children (because she saw Tom Hanks in Mazes and Monsters, I assume), is even more bizarre, but, again, maybe it was supposed to show that serious Al Gore could lighten up. Hawking was likely there because he repeatedly guest-starred on the Simpsons. Nichelle Nichols was there because she’s awesome. The complete randomness of the assembly really only serves to drive home both the ludicrous nature of the premise as well as the dysfunction of the group. I actually think that this is a premise that, with the right writing, might have carried an entire episode, because it honestly feels a little rushed in this segment. Still, it’s funny and filled with stars.

S2EG - 9DnD.png
And DnD would never look cooler than this.

I also love that “The Un-Freeze of a Lifetime,” written by series creator David X. Cohen is basically a giant ball of foreshadowing. When they duplicate the events of “Space Pilot 3000,” the shadow which prompted Cohen and Groening to shout “secret” in the first season’s director’s commentary is missing. When Fry misses the tube, the universe starts to unravel. However, it’s not that the universe is unraveling just because he missed the tube, but because without Fry being in the future, there’s no one to stop the evil brains. Also, unless he goes to the future, Fry can’t go back in time and become his own grandfather, meaning that his very existence violates the laws of the universe… or at least the ones that are in place until they get broken in “Bender’s Big Score.” Apparently, the “What if?” machine can take into account information that no one knows outside of the Nibblonians. Still, nice work, Cohen.

S2EG - ANoShadow.png
Behold, the floor.

FAVORITE JOKE

My favorite gag is that Stephen Hawking steals ideas and claims them as his own. First, he agrees with Fry’s claim that he invented gravity, then he steals the space-time rip by claiming it as a “Hawking Hole” instead of a “Fry Hole.” When Fry calls him out on it, Hawking counters “Who is The Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?”

S2EG - BHawking.png
Rest in Peace.

This plays into the longstanding rumors that Hawking had plagiarized or stolen some of his more famous theories, particularly related to space-time. This was even played with in one of his appearances on The Simpsons where he talks to Homer and says he might steal his theory of a donut-shaped universe. It’s been claimed that Hawkings developments, particularly the ones which were later overturned, were not as significant as he claimed and that they were just taking a small step past what was previously discovered by others, but with good press.

S2EG - DHawking2.jpg
Those thieving glasses…

The truth is that physics, even more so than most other sciences, is developed by expanding upon the theories and research of previous people. Einstein’s famous mass-energy equivalence paper (the E=Mc^2 thing, though it wasn’t in the paper) was revolutionary, but most of it was similar to a paper by Hendrik Lorentz. Isaac Newton once said of his accomplishments “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” and even that expression was a turn on a statement from the 1100s by Bernard of Chartres which stated that each generation advances only because we are dwarves standing atop of the giants that are our ancestors.

Hawking’s work was not only great because of its scientific advancement, but also because he, like Einstein or Richard Feynman or Neil DeGrasse Tyson, went out of his way to try and put science into the zeitgeist and make scientists look cooler.

S2EG - CSchrodinger
Though none matched Schrodinger for cool.

One of the best things about this was that Hawking rolled with all of the punches (yes, pun intended) and just dealt with it as part of being in the spotlight. So, yeah, I think they gave him a couple of good-natured shots so that he could show that he’s able to handle it.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 28: The Problem with Popplers

NEXT – Episode 30: War is the H-Word

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S2 E10 “A Clone of My Own”

We have an episode focused mostly on Professor Hubert Farnsworth and his attempt to secure his legacy.

SUMMARY

The Professor (Billy West) is brought up on academic charges by Mars University. However, after he begins an angry rant about blackmailing and ruining all of the other professors, it’s revealed that it’s really a surprise party for his 150th Birthday. The crew of Planet Express show him a video about his accomplishments, but it has the opposite effect, making him believe that his life has been a giant waste. Leela (Katey Sagal) tells him that at least he has 10 years left to live, revealing that all 160 year old people are forcibly retired by robots to live out their days in the mysterious “Near-Death Star.” The Professor decides to name a successor and elects his own clone, Cubert Farnsworth (Kath Soucie).

S2EA - 1CubertTank.png
He’s from a growth on the Professor’s back.

Cubert is released from the Clone-O-Mat and immediately starts getting on everyone’s nerves due to his habit of pointing out logical flaws in the way the business is run and criticizing all of the impossible science used in the show. The Professor tries to technobabble explanations for much of it, saying that the point of science is to make the impossible into the possible, but Cubert ends up telling him that he doesn’t want to be a scientist. This breaks the Professor’s heart and leads him to reveal that he is actually 160 years old and has alerted the Sunset Squad Robots to take him away.

S2EA - 2Sunset.png
They have a pretty standard outfit.

The Crew uses the Smell-O-Scope to track down the Professor. At the Near-Death Star, Leela and Bender (John DiMaggio) impersonate robots and Fry (West) pretends to be the Professor while Cubert is his hump. They use Cubert’s blood to present a DNA sample from the Professor. It’s revealed that all of the old people are hooked into Matrix-esque virtual reality systems that simulate retirement homes. They are found out and flee until the ship’s engine is blasted. On the way out, Cubert is knocked unconscious and when he wakes up he now wishes to be an inventor, fixing the engines (which are revealed to not move the ship at all, but instead move THE REST OF THE UNIVERSE around the ship). The crew escapes and the Professor is happy to have a successor.

S2EA - 3PlanetEx.png
Yes, this is the ship standing still.

END SUMMARY

This episode is a shot at bad fans, like all of the people out there who can’t just enjoy shows without trying to point out logical flaws in the science of the shows. As someone who does occasionally do that, I felt attacked, but as a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000’s opening lyric “If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes/ and other science facts/ just repeat to yourself/ it’s just a show / I should really just relax” I also accept that you should never let ancillary science issues distract from a good story. Suspend that disbelief, y’all.

S2EA - 4Bender.png
Bender, calmly explaining drama to the fans.

According to the commentary, Cubert was actually created before the show started airing and he was just going to be present throughout the series calling out scientific impossibilities in the show before the fans could start doing it. Given how his outlook changed by the end of the episode and that aspect of his personality seems to go to the wayside for the rest of the series, apparently they realized that was going to get annoying. Besides, they put in the obnoxious fan for an episode, that got the point across.

That said, I absolutely love the responses that the show gives for some of the science fiction elements. For example, faster-than-light travel is impossible, so scientists just decided to raise the speed of light to the point that you can still cross the galaxy in a few hours. This would naturally just raise even MORE issues about how the physics of this universe work, but it’s such a great example of technobabble. The final revelation of the episode is even more insane: The Professor’s engines somehow are MORE efficient because they choose to move the entire universe rather than the ship. However, the sequence in which they represent that looks freaking awesome, so all is forgiven.

S2EA - 5TimeMachine.png
However, time travel is impossible… for another few episodes.

The concept of seniors being forcibly retired is present in a lot of science fiction, but I would imagine the most famous one is probably Logan’s Run, the sci-fi book which shows a world where everyone is executed on their 21st birthday and the movie adaptation where everyone is executed on their 30th. In the book, the “Sandmen” who collect the people who are set to die are depicted dressed in black and occasionally robed as reapers, like the Sunset Squad robots. In the movie, the Sandmen dress more like the other citizens in what the 1970s thought the future would look like, with black bodysuits. Given that they make other references in the series to that film, I’m guessing that this is what inspired the plotline of this episode.

S2EA - 6LogansRun
Yep, this is how we dress in the 2010s.

The episode as a whole is obviously about the conflict between generations. Cubert initially represents the rebellion children usually display against their parents who they feel are completely dissimilar, summarized by his great line “ I may be identical to you in every possible way but that doesn’t mean I’m anything like you.” At the end of the episode, however, Cubert does finally gain some insight into Professor Farnsworth’s personality, which ends up bridging the gap between the pair.

FAVORITE JOKE

Two small ones.

First, Cubert’s first line in the series is “What, you’ve never seen a genius’s weiner before?” to which Fry responds “well, once in the park.” The timing and absurdity of it, combined with the fact that this is a recurring character’s introduction, always makes me laugh.

S2EA - 7MarsUniversity.png

Second, the unbelievably dark joke that is the motto of Mars University. The university’s motto is “Knowledge Brings Fear.” On its surface, this is both true and also one of the worst observations about consciousness, because yeah, if we didn’t know about all the things that could happen to us that are bad, we’d never be afraid. But the real darkness is that this is a reference to another famous motto: “Work Brings Freedom.” Fans of the comic Maus will probably recognize that as being a translation of the phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which was featured above the entrance to Auschwitz. You’d think that they might not have known about this and it’s a coincidence, but 1) the way it’s displayed on Mars University is very similar to how it appeared at Auschwitz, 2) it’s a change from the original motto of Mars University (A Giant Pulsating Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste), and 3) the line before it was about saving Hitler’s brain. So, in essence, knowledge of an atrocity in the past brings forth the underlying reference to the joke and changes the meaning to something even darker and scarier… thus, Knowledge Brings Fear.

S2EA - 8Maus.jpg
Such a sunny reference.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 22: A Bicyclops Built for Two

NEXT – Episode 24: How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back

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.