Futurama Fridays – S1 E11 “Mars University”

We’re getting to the end of Season One. Time to go see Mars.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio), take a package to Professor Farnsworth’s (West) office at Mars University. It’s a University on Mars. While there, Fry is informed that being a 20th Century college dropout is now less than being a high-school graduate, so he resolves to enroll and drop-out of college. Bender visits his old frat, only to find it filled with nerds: Gearshift, Oily, and Fat-bot (West, DiMaggio, David Herman). They ask him to teach them to be cool, so he stays on campus.

S1EB-1MarsU
Admittedly, best motto.

Fry finds out that he’s roommates with a super-smart monkey named Guenter (Tress MacNeille), who he feuds with. After a run-in with his regular monkey parents, Guenter realizes he’s not happy. Fry tells him to just go be an animal, so he throws off his hat (the source of his intelligence) and heads into the Martian jungle, but is followed by Leela, Fry, and the Professor. Bender and his fraternity enter a rafting contest that goes through the same jungle. Eventually, the trio find Guenter, but are knocked into the water by Bender’s boat and have to be saved by Guenter. Guenter’s hat is damaged in the process, making him only moderately intelligent, which renders him the perfect candidate for business school.

S1EB-2Guenter
The monkey ends up running the FOX Network. No, really, that’s canon.

END SUMMARY

This is probably my pick for the worst episode of Season One. It’s a parody of college movies, but since people have been parodying them since the beginning, and frat films are so absurd they almost inherently are self-parodies, this one just didn’t have that much originality except for “set on Mars.” It’s a funny half-hour of television, but it’s more like they just used “future” words for jokes that already existed. Oddly, I appear to be alone in this, as several sites list this as one of the best episodes of the show. Different strokes, I guess. Update: The lists that put it highly no longer appear to exist, so… I win.

S1EB-3VonSnoot.png
I mean, “Snooty House” is both lazy and funny, but more lazy.

Fry and Guenter’s feud is fun, but it’s also extremely stupid and shallow. It’s literally just there so the roommate conflict tropes can play out. Bender’s fraternity simultaneously is filled with nerds who don’t do anything but also is on super-secret probation, a la Animal House, just so they can do jokes from both of those college-movie subgenres. On the one hand, I appreciate that they took a shortcut for the set-ups so they could focus on the jokes. On the other hand, the jokes are all a little too easy, since it’s just a series of parodies of other films.

S1EB-4PantyRaid.jpg
Is the panty raid joke better if they’re spying on a computer? Maybe.

I do appreciate that the episode really does try to address the concept of whether or not intelligence is inherently isolating, but the joke resolution kind of undercuts it. Admittedly, I think it’s a funny joke. Aside from that, most of the episode isn’t really the level of cleverness I expect from Futurama. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just very safe.

FAVORITE JOKE

When thinking about his college days, Fry flashes back to his time at Coney Island Community College, which, as the name suggests, is located on Coney Island. It has a carnival barker out front who asks people who wants to learn physics. The college itself is apparently located on a ride of some kind. But the best part for me is when he says that their mascot was the “Whitefish.”

S1EB-5ConeyIsland.png
It’s no ITT Tech, but it’ll do.

Aside from all of the species of fish that are called “whitefish,” none of which are located anywhere near Coney Island, whitefish is a term used by fisheries to describe cheap, easily marketable, mass produced fish meat. In other words, the students are literally represented as being cheap, mass-produced, and low-quality. If only other schools were so honest.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 10: A Flight to Remember

NEXT – Episode 12: When Aliens Attack

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.

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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.

S1EA-3Kiss.png
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.

S1EA-5Kiss2.png
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

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

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 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.

S1E7-4FryPunch
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.

S1E7-5Paintings.png
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 E4 “Love’s Labours Lost In Space”

This episode welcomes one of the best characters produced by the series: Kif Kroker! Okay, fine, this is the episode that welcomes Zapp Brannigan into the world and we should all love it for that.

SUMMARY

Leela’s (Katey Sagal) social life is in the toilet due to her cycloptic nature (and the fact that she judges other people with physical deformities). Amy (Lauren Tom) takes her out to meet guys at a bar called “The Hip Joint” and the rest of the crew comes along because we needed funny vignettes. At the end of the evening, Amy, Fry (Billy West), and Zoidberg (West) all find companions for the evening, while Bender (John DiMaggio) goes to see a saucy puppet show, leaving Leela all alone.

S1E4-1LizardTongue.png
If your standards can’t incorporate a long, prehensile tongue, get better standards.

The next day, Professor Farnsworth (West), gives the crew a charity mission that they’re doing for a tax write-off. They are to go to the planet Vergon 6, which has been mined hollow to collect Dark Matter starship fuel, and collect two of every species there before the planet collapses. Leela, an animal lover, is onboard while Fry and Bender have to join her because it’s their job.

S1E4-2Vergon6.png
It’s a happy little doomed planet.

Meanwhile, on the starship The Nimbus (I’m sticking with “the Nimbus” even though it’s referred to as both “Nimbus” and “The Nimbus”), we’re introduced to the glorious velour-clad creation that is Captain Zapp Brannigan (West) and his long-suffering alien first officer Kif Kroker (Maurice LaMarche). Zapp sees the Planet Express Ship coming and suspects a fight, but the ship docks to talk to Zapp, who Leela knows as a famous hero. The crew joins Zapp for dinner, where Leela informs him of the mission to save the animals and asks for his help. Zapp refuses, saying that there is a rule against interfering with undeveloped worlds called “Brannigan’s Law.” When Leela says they’ll do it without him, Zapp has them imprisoned.

S1E4-3ZappIntro.png
He’s showing off the medal he won for sacrificing waves of men.

Zapp then determines the best plan of action is to seduce Leela, so he has her brought to his cabin. However, Zapp’s attempts fail, resulting in him breaking down crying over how pathetic he is. Leela tries to comfort him, clearly pitying him. Meanwhile, Bender and Fry try to escape the brig, but instead just turn it into a steam bath. It’s then revealed that Leela slept with Zapp.

S1E4-4SexWithZapp
When pity sex is just too pitiful.

The next morning, Leela says that everything was a mistake and that she’s going to leave and save the animals. Zapp, now being a pompous jackass again, says that he’s not going to stop her, confident that she’ll be too horny for his sweet man-candy to complete her mission. She avoids telling Fry and Bender as they head down to the planet.

S1E4-5Promo.jpg
And, yes, he does call himself candy.

On Vergon 6, the group collects two of every animal (or just one Hermaphlamingo) and puts them onboard. They also find a cute little three-eyed creature that Leela says isn’t on the checklist, but decides to take anyway, calling him Nibbler (Frank “I’m your childhood” Welker). While Leela worries that the other animals might eat Nibbler, when the trio returns to the ship, they find that Nibbler has eaten all of the other animals, rendering their mission pointless. Before they can try to get more, the planet starts to collapse. They get on the ship and try to leave, but Bender didn’t refuel the ship. Fry tells Leela to ask Zapp for help, resulting in the truth of her pity-sex coming out.

S1E4-6Hermaphlamingos
Nibbler and the Hermaphlamingos could totally be a band.

Leela calls Zapp and tries to suck up to him, but Zapp says he’ll only save them if they dump Nibbler, so she refuses, calling him a pitiful child inside of a big, pompous buffoon. She gives up on survival, but Nibbler craps out Dark Matter, the fuel they need, allowing them to escape. At the end of the episode, Leela writes a diary entry about not finding love and Zapp updates his Captain’s Log to mention that he had made it with a hot alien babe, “And in the end is that not what man has dreamt of since first he looked up at the stars?”

END SUMMARY

Zapp. F*cking. Brannigan. God, I love this character. He’s been described as what would happen if William Shatner, not Captain Kirk, were in charge of the Enterprise. He’s incompetent, he’s overconfident, he’s cowardly, and he’s obsessed with his appearance. Despite this, he’s considered a brilliant captain by all who don’t meet him, somehow managing to come out of every conflict sounding like a winner, even though his strategy is literally “send wave after wave of men to die.” To be fair, throughout the series, most of his campaigns are against planets which don’t have armies or don’t know they’re under attack, so I guess he actually has a decent W/L record.

S1E4-7Killbot.png
In a deleted scene, it’s revealed that the Killbot army is 1 button push away from going evil.

You’ve known a Zapp Brannigan, someone who is a bad person, a bad leader, a buffoonish idiot who constantly massages his own ego, and yet, despite all of that, somehow constantly seems to be able to stay in power, often through unethical acts (like, you know, declaring war on a planet of pacifists). There are so many of them out there, from managers to politicians, it’s impossible that you don’t. What’s crazy is that it almost makes sense that they are allowed to continue, because they’re just such a spectacle to watch. Hell, it’s almost worth dealing with Zapp’s incompetence just to watch his idiocy at work. But, let’s be honest, you’d hate to be under his command, because you know that, sooner or later, his screw-ups will get you killed. Still, it’s the fact that he’s just a slightly more ridiculous version of reality that makes the character so perfect.

S1E4-8ZappBed
I’m sure not all of them wear short-cut robes, though.

Aside from Zapp, this episode introduces Nibbler (or does it?) and Kif, both of whom will be recurring characters for the rest of the series. Nibbler becomes Leela’s physics-defyingly-carnivorous pet and Kif usually sticks with Zapp (despite hating him).

The episode’s plot exists mostly as a vehicle to give us the character interactions within the episode, but I also like the creativity of the animals on Vergon 6 and the scene of Leela being introduced to dating prospects in the 31st Century is pretty funny. This episode also reinforces Leela’s loneliness, which is probably her biggest motivation and character arc in the series. Aside from that, IT GAVE US ZAPP BRANNIGAN, WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED???? Do you need a 50s sci-fi film style title card of the episode?

S1E4-9Centerfold
Because here you go!

Favorite Joke:

No question on this one, it’s Zapp Brannigan’s Big Book of War.

S1E4-ABigBookOfWar

Don’t get me wrong, almost anything Zapp says or does in this episode could be on here, but the fact that while Zapp is talking about military strategy (incorrectly) he still plugs his own book, which is revealed to be a Dr. Seuss-esque children’s book about combat, is somehow the most perfect representation of his character. He thinks he’s a tactical genius, writes a hilariously underwhelming book, and manages to bring it up anyway while thinking he’s under attack by people who are peacefully hailing them. Then, when the Planet Express Ship arrives, he tells Kif that he’s going to abandon The Nimbus to save himself. Truly, this is a great sequence at showing us the nature of this man in almost no time.

See you next week, Meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 3: I, Roommate

NEXT – 5: Fear of a Bot Planet

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 E3 “I, Roommate”

Welcome to the third episode of the series. This was the first episode of the show to air on Tuesday, with the first two having aired on Sunday after The Simpsons. It hurt the ratings but, since the show didn’t get cancelled for many years, clearly not too much.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West) has been living in the Planet Express building and his lifestyle is clearly hurting the business. He leaves food out (mostly Bachelor Chow, now with flavor!), uses a high-volume Chemical Burn Shower to bathe (having been in one for chemical burns, it’s not good on the hair), burns the ship’s exhaust to get his hair dry, eats a 29 million-year-old alien mummy (which the Professor (West) wanted to eat), and just generally gets in everyone’s way.

S1E3-1BachelorChow.png
Thank you for not drawing a more elaborate ass.

Leela (Katey Sagal), Bender (John DiMaggio), and the Professor confront Fry over his living situation, but Fry is too caught up watching hit robot soap opera All My Circuits with Bender to pay attention until finally the Planet Express staff just drags the couch he’s sitting on out of the building. Fry and Bender talk about his living situation and Bender offers to have Fry move in with him. Unfortunately, it’s revealed that Bender lives in a 2 cubic meter blank space that’s basically a small broom closet. It doesn’t even have a bathroom, because Robot. Also, Bender talks in his sleep… about killing all humans.

S1E3-2BendersPlace.png
Spacious!

While Bender is happy about the situation, Fry is extremely uncomfortable (especially after Bender puts carpeting in, causing Fry’s head to hit the ceiling). Fry says he’s moving out but agrees to stay roommates if they just find another apartment. They try an underwater apartment that has cephalopod attacks, an apartment filled with orthogonal gravity wells (an homage to M.C. Escher’s Relativity… the crazy stairs one, okay?), an amazing apartment that is technically in New Jersey, and, finally, an apartment belonging to Professor Farnsworth’s old friend Dr. Mbutu, who was recently ripped to shreds. After being shown the apartment by the building manager, Hattie McDoogal (Tress MacNeille), Fry and Bender move in (to the Odd Couple theme, no less) and invite the rest of the Planet Express staff to come to their housewarming and viewing of All My Circuits’ big wedding special.

S1E3-3Stairs.jpg
Admittedly, if you can make it work, it’s a great use of space.

As the staff arrives, Bender goes on a quick beer run. When he returns, the TV transmission goes out. Hattie and the other building tenants come in to complain and it’s determined that Bender’s antenna is interfering with the building’s satellite reception. His thoughts apparently get amplified by the building, even broadcasting on a woman’s cell phone (which is not a smartphone, because this was 1999). Bender asks Fry to move out with him, but Fry declines, stating that he likes the apartment. This hurts Bender’s feelings, but he does agree to leave. Leela criticizes Fry for his behavior in prioritizing his comfort over his friend’s feelings, but Fry, being an idiot, ignores her.

S1E3-4Hattie.jpg
Hattie McDoogal makes her what-cha-call-it… Debut!

Having been kicked out, Bender goes on a bender (oh, I get it!) which, for robots, means not drinking for several days, since alcohol keeps robots functioning in the future. Leela asks him about removing his antenna, but apparently the antenna is the robot equivalent of a penis, so he takes it about as well as most men take a request to cut their manhood off. Two weeks pass, during which Leela badgers Fry constantly to apologize and Bender continues not drinking until finally he stumbles into Fry’s apartment and cuts his antenna off. Fry isn’t fazed by this as he doesn’t understand the significance, but as soon as the television comes back on, a scene from All My Circuits explains how the two should reconcile. Hilariously, they do it exactly backwards, with Bender apologizing to Fry.

S1E3-5SoberBender.png
Blind-Stinking SOBER!

They find Bender’s antenna, get it reattached, and move back to Bender’s apartment. Fry worries that the fruit salad tree they have is going to wilt from lack of light, but Bender says there’s a window in the closet, opening a wall and revealing that his “closet” is actually just a normal apartment. Fry moves in, happily.

S1E3-6BenderCloset
Why indeed?

END SUMMARY

So, I actually think this is one of the least clever episodes of Futurama, lacking most of the edge that other episodes had. Apparently, this was because the Fox Network, famous for f*cking with a good thing, asked them to tone down this episode after the previous ones had suicide booths and ennui. So, Eric Horstead cranked out this script, handed it to the executives, who responded, according to the DVD commentary, with “Worst. Episode. Ever.” This was actually probably for the best because it led Matt Groening and crew to stop caring about what they thought. Still, this episode is pretty formulaic, even if it does give us more development of Fry and Bender’s relationship. It’s still funny, but it’s funny in a way that most other shows could give us. It doesn’t have that Futurama-ness.

The Odd Couple premise of a robot and a human living together doesn’t really have the same “opposites attract” as most shows, because Bender and Fry aren’t that different aside from the fact that they’re a robot and a human. They’re both lazy, they drink a lot, they’re selfish, hell, they even want the apartment to mostly contain the same things. Without more material, that joke plays out mostly in one 3-minute montage, thankfully.

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Yeah, this is a real timeless gag.

Now, the actual emotional core of the episode, whether or not it’s appropriate to abandon your friends for your own convenience, is a bit better, but it runs a little shallow since it’s over an apartment that they actually didn’t need. It gets even more ridiculous when it’s revealed that the closet also has a bathroom, making Bender’s confusion about it stupid… well, stupid-er.

The problem really is that the whole situation is actually pretty stupid. Is it wrong that Fry leaves Bender back at his old place in order to keep an AFFORDABLE, GIANT LOFT IN THE MIDDLE OF NEW YORK? I think my capitalization speaks for itself. Hell, it’s stupid if Fry doesn’t sub-let the damn thing and make a fortune (and he doesn’t, obviously). Fry and Bender would still see each other to go drinking and at work, something that has to intentionally be ignored during the episode. I have plenty of friends whose apartments I never go to and that’s even more true of my coworkers I’m friends with. Bender just doesn’t have a realistic reaction to the situation. The only thing that actually justifies the conflict is the fact that the antenna turns out to be Bender’s robo-dong, meaning that there are actual stakes. The fact that the concept of mistreating your friends for your own gain is something that most people will actually be one at least one side of at some point makes it even sadder that the episode really doesn’t address it fully.

S1E3-8Apartment.png
If you make this affordable, the question is who wouldn’t I kill for it?

Again, I don’t think that this is a bad episode. It just feels like it had more that it could have done. Still, a lot of solid jokes are in this episode, including Amy slipping on a doll-sized banana peel, the running gag about eating alien mummies, and the introduction of the series-long great parody show All My Circuits. This brings me to…

Favorite Joke:

This one’s pretty simple on its face, like all the best jokes, but gets better the more you think about it. It’s this wall hanging.

S1E3-9HomeSweet.jpg

In case you don’t know the computer language (probably BASIC), this is supposed to be a gag where it says “HOME SWEET HOME,” except that this would produce (though not print) “HOME SWEET HOME SWEET HOME SWEET” over and over until the heat death of the universe. The reason I love it is that it’s putting a computer program on a knitted wall hanging in the apartment of a robot in the year 3000. It’s the most traditional of decorations in the most sci-fi of locations. However, that’s not the only reason I love it. So, as I said, if you were to put that in a computer, it would form an infinite loop without end. And what is a knitting? It’s a series of loops interacting. Get it? Loops are both a thing that happens in computing and knitting and… okay, you got it. Whatever, it makes me laugh and think.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 2: The Series Has Landed

NEXT – 4: Love’s Labours Lost in Space

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 E2 “The Series has Landed”

Welcome to the second episode of the show. It’s the way we really get welcomed into the status quo of the series after the pilot set it up.

SUMMARY

Professor Farnsworth shows his new employees Fry, Bender, and Leela an ad for Planet Express which advertises the company as having a replaceable crew, something that clearly drives employee loyalty up.

S1E2-4GiantBird.png
Giant Birds are just part of the job.

At breakfast, Fry is talking about how he’s having trouble adjusting to the 31st Century, including the new cereals “Admiral Crunch” and “Archduke Chocula.” For the record, according to the US Navy’s Website, an Admiral is 4 ranks above a Captain and, according to Wikipedia (not a good source, I know) an Archduke is typically 4 ranks above a Count, so it’s good to know that the mascots’ careers advanced at the same rate. Granted, Chocula probably had to off a few people to get up the ladder, but he’s still below King Candy.

S1E2-5Cereals.png

The crew is introduced to Hermes Conrad (Phil “I’m Samurai Jack, mother*ckers” LaMarr), a Jamaican accountant and professional bureaucrat. Farnsworth also appoints Leela the captain of the ship, disappointing Fry. Fry is sent to meet the staff doctor, Dr. John Zoidberg (Billy West), a large crustacean from the planet Decapod 10. Zoidberg, despite being the staff doctor, has essentially no knowledge of human anatomy or medicine, something that somehow was used sparingly enough that it never really felt old in the show. Impressive. They also meet Amy Wong (Lauren Tom), Farnsworth’s engineering doctoral candidate and an heiress to a fortune so large that the concept of money isn’t real to her. Also, she wears a pink track suit to piss off her parents.

S1E2-6Crew
The gang is now all here

The crew, along with Amy, go on a delivery to Luna Park, on the moon, something that excites Fry the way that, well, going to the moon should excite anyone. However, it only takes them about 2 seconds to actually get there (the moon is only 1.3 light seconds away from Earth, so that tracks), killing the grandeur of the trip. Once they arrive, Fry finds out that the moon is actually now mostly just Luna Park, a Disneyland knock-off and “the happiest place orbiting Earth.” Leela just wants to finish the delivery and go, but Fry convinces her to let him see the park.

S1E2-7LunaPark

Amy and Fry deliver the crate of toys for the crane games, but Amy accidentally drops the keys in the crate. The group goes into the park, which is revealed to be whimsical and fairly similar to “Main Street, U.S.A.” in Disney World. When looking through gift shop memorabilia, it’s revealed that Bender wants to be a folk singer, and that magnets reduce his inhibition. I’m only mentioning this now because it comes up a few times.

The group makes their way onto the ride Luna Park: Whalers on the Sea of Tranquility which contains one of the more bizarre jokes in the show, as it’s an “It’s a Small World” ride but with whalers who sing the, admittedly catchy, song:

We’re whalers on the moon,
We carry a harpoon,
But there ain’t no whales,
So we tell tall tales,
And sing our whaling tune!

S1E2-8WhalersOnTheMoon

This is the kind of gag I wish I could have been present for writing, because it represents something that’s obvious and yet I know I never would have thought of it. They then see an animatronics show with gophers in craters brought to you by Monsanto. As of this writing, that company name no longer exists, but neither do the original sponsors of most Disney rides, so the joke still works. Fry is getting sick of the park and wants to see the “real” moon, so Leela takes him on the Lunar Rover Ride, which goes out onto the moon’s surface.

On the ride, it’s revealed that history has become a little “muddled” over the last millennium, with the ride suggesting that Ralph Kramden was the first astronaut for threatening to hit his wife “to the moon” and that whalers actually DID come to the moon. Fry, annoyed, knocks the rover off its track and drives out onto the moon’s surface. He tries to find convince Leela to find the original moon landing site, but she points out it’s been lost for centuries. Back in the park, Amy and Bender find out that the keys to the ship are now in a crane machine. Amy tries to use the claw to win them back. Bender tries to help her, but gets caught by security, who throw him out, leading him to utter one of my favorite lines in the show:

Yeah, well, I’m gonna go build my own theme park, with blackjack and hookers.

S1E2-9BlackjackHookers.png
In fact, forget the park!

Fry drives into a crater, wrecking the car, and requiring Leela to use their oxygen tank to save them, leaving them stranded with almost no air. They stumble upon a hydroponic farm run by a Moon Redneck (Billy West), who tells them they’ll have to work all night to pay for the oxygen to get back to the park. Fry thinks that’s not so bad until Leela points out that night lasts 2 weeks on the moon. However, the temperature also drops to -173°C, so they really don’t have a choice. In the tradition of farmers in old jokes, he does have three beautiful daughters, they just happen to be robots: Lulabelle 7, Daisy-Mae 128K, and THE CRUSHINATOR (Tress MacNeille, Tress MacNeille again, and Maurice LaMarche).

S1E2-1ThreeDaughters.png

As Fry and Leela work milking buggalo (the mutated bugs that have replaced the now-extinct cow), Leela takes shots at Fry for not accepting that the moon just isn’t that interesting. They then see Bender being shot at by the farmer for sleeping with his robot daughters (though, not THE CRUSHINATOR, because “[a] lady that fine you gotta romance first”). They flee in a moon buggy across the lunar surface, barely escaping the farmer by jumping over a crater full of crocodiles. However, the buggy immediately breaks down.

S1E2-2Crocodiles.png
Never explain this. It’s beautiful just as it is.

Night begins to come across the moon as a wave of freezing darkness, so the three all start running away, finding the original Lunar Lander from the 1969 Moon Landing which was apparently put there by the “Historical Sticklers Society,” aka the people who would point out the lander left the moon with the astronauts. Bender gets left outside, leading him to say he’ll build his own lunar lander, with blackjack and hookers, before saying “screw the whole thing.”

S1E2-ALander
Also, the flag is no longer white.

Inside the lander, Fry tells Leela that he always dreamed of being an astronaut and that, to him, the moon was this untouchable, beautiful, romantic dream. But, in reality, it really is just a rock. Leela, feeling for him, tells him that it really is beautiful as they watch the Earthrise together. Meanwhile, Bender is being chased again by the farmer because he went back for THE CRUSHINATOR. He’s rescued by Amy in the Planet Express Ship using the magnetic crane, which then picks up the lunar lander. It’s revealed that Amy spent the day at the crane game, getting so good she won back all the prizes and the keys. Bender, hit with the magnet, is stuck singing “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” as the episode ends.

S1E2-BEnding.png

END SUMMARY

First off, I have to congratulate the writers on knowing when a joke just wasn’t funny. In this episode and the pilot, the Professor tries to use the catchphrase “I am already in my pajamas” as an excuse not to do anything to help the crew. These are the only two uses of it, because it was dumb. Great job recognizing your mistake, guys.

This really was a solid follow-up to the pilot and it allowed people who missed the first episode to be brought up to speed really quickly with the opener about Fry being uncertain about the 31st Century. The advertisement at the beginning drove home exactly how Professor Farnsworth treats his crews. We’re introduced to the Cliff’s Notes versions of our future recurring characters, Hermes, Zoidberg, and Amy and we get a decent idea of who they’re going to be. Hermes is the bureaucrat, Zoidberg the incompetent doctor, and Amy is the… I don’t want to say ditz, but “absent-minded” character. She is a Ph.D. candidate in engineering, she’s clearly got brains.

The idea of the moon, one of the most romanticized objects in human history, becoming a cheap commercialized theme park is just brilliant. It’s a statement on humanity’s tendency to normalize what had previously been wondrous, like how we complain about airline meals or streaming speeds. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, in fact it’s why humanity progresses so rapidly, I’m just saying that the point they’re making is completely valid: Whatever was once a dream will quickly become a gewgaw.

The recurring theme that nobody in the future really knows anything about the past is also sadly perpetually relevant. The show comes back to it a lot for that reason, but I do think the idea that they mistake Ralph Kramden, a media figure, for the brave men who went to the moon is also a solid joke. On that note:

Favorite Joke: Oh, God, this is tough. I love CraterFace getting a beerbottle shoved in his eye to resemble “A Journey to the Moon,” the amazing short film by Georges Méliès, but I’m going to have to give it up to a joke I only just got: That the Professor’s tape player has VCR++. Okay, so, I’m dating myself now, but back in the 90s, kids, when you wanted to record a TV show without being present, you had to use a VCR, set the clock and the date, then set a timer to record the show. This was considered so difficult that only our most advanced scientists could dare hope to record As the World Turns. However, eventually, a system was created called VCR Plus where, instead of having to figure out the timer, you just read a 6-digit code for the show out of the TV Guide and pushed it into the VCR, which coded it to record the date, time, and duration of the program. This alone would be a fun joke on the fact that they’d still be using tapes for some reason in the future, but it’s that it says VCR++ that made me laugh, because that’s a joke on C++, the coding language that was the next step forward in C (the language used to code VCR Plus). It’s a complicated joke, but I sometimes think those can be the best because it makes you feel like you earned the chuckle.

S1E2-3VCR++.png
TiVo killed his joke shortly after this episode debuted.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 1: Space Pilot 3000

NEXT – 3: I, Roommate

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.