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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Futurama Fridays – S2 E15 “The Problem with Popplers”

The Planet Express crew finds a delicious foodstuff and strikes it rich… right until the bill comes due.

SUMMARY

S2EF - 1Popplers.png
Finding the ditch full of fried shrimp.

Bender, Fry, and Leela (John DiMaggio, Billy West, Katey Sagal) are on the way back from a delivery only to realize that they have no food. After foraging on a planet they discover tiny motionless animals that resemble chicken nuggets. Upon trying one, Leela finds that they’re delicious and the crew takes a load of them back to Earth. They decide to sell them under the name “Popplers,” because that is one of the only Trademarkable names left. They’re quickly discovered by “Fishy” Joe Gilman (Maurice LaMarche), who offers to sell them at his restaurant “Fishy Joe’s.” They soon make a fortune, selling millions of the creatures. The only seeming downside is protests by Free Waterfall, Jr., an annoying hippie (Phil Hendrie). However, Leela finds a week-old Poppler (Lauren Tom) that ends up calling her “Mama.”

s2ef-2mama
It’s just as adorable as you think.

Leela tries to stop people from eating the now-revealed-to-be-sentient creatures, but Fishy Joe refuses. Then, the Omicronians invade Earth again and inform the world that the Popplers are actually baby Omicronians. To make things even, they ask to eat 198 billion people, but Zapp Brannigan (West) and Kif (LaMarche) negotiate Lrrr, ruler of Omicron Persei 8 (LaMarche), down to just one human… Leela.

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Omicronians haven’t developed better microphones since 1900.

At the eating, Zapp tries to disguise an orangutan as Leela, but Free Waterfall, Jr. saves the ape by exposing the ruse. Leela is sent to be eaten by Lrrr, but the baby Poppler, now called Jrrr, tries to stop him. Lrrr instead eats the hippie, which gets him super high, leading the Omicronians to leave. There’s a celebratory feast, but Leela is offended at eating dolphin, because they’re intelligent. Bender counters that this dolphin played the instant lottery.

S2EF - 4Hippieater.png
Thus ends the first member of the Waterfall family on the show. More to come.

END SUMMARY

This is one of the bigger continuity-referencing episodes thus far in the series. We have Zapp Brannigan, Kif, and the Omicronians, all featured with relatively little re-introduction. Additionally, this episode gets referenced several times in the future, including having Jrrr become recurring in the later seasons. It’s also the first episode that tells us Leela’s and Fry’s first names, Turanga and Phillip (though Turanga is actually Leela’s family name). It’s fitting, then, that this episode is consistently listed among the best episodes of the show.

S2EF - 5ZappLrrr.png

Part of what makes this episode so good is that it ratchets everything up to 10. First, the crew finds the Popplers, then quickly starts making a fortune off of them by selling them at Fishy Joe’s. Second, while the title promises a problem with Popplers, it’s hard to guess that the problem is that THEY’RE SENTIENT BABIES. Third, the response from the Omicronians is complete genocide, which is reduced down to Leela. Fourth, in the stinger, it darkly parodies ideas of eating certain animals by having it be okay to eat a dolphin as long as it was a particularly stupid dolphin.

The whole episode is a parody of all the discussions about ethical food consumption. I remember some talk on TV from the year before this episode aired, most of which just kinda involved people yelling at each other about the inevitability of eating otters and pandas versus the inevitability of eating mung beans for every meal. This episode points out both of the extremes: The Hippies trying to force a lion to eat tofu versus Fishy Joe’s assertion that we only don’t eat humans because “it tastes lousy.” In the meantime, we have Leela who is actually trying to find a reasonable ethical compromise.

FAVORITE JOKE

The Fishy Joe’s Poppler jingle.

S2EF - 6Song.png

It’s absurdly honest about the product and is sung to the “Sailor’s Hornpipe” song, which is the common intro to the Popeye the Sailor Man song. The lyrics go:

Pop a Poppler in your mouth,
When you come to Fishy Joe’s,
What they’re made of is a mystery,
Where they come from, no one knows,
You can pick ’em,
You can lick ’em,
You can chew ’em,
You can stick ’em,
If you promise not to sue us,
You can shove one up your nose.

I mean, it’s openly stating that the product is completely unknown and that the company doesn’t really care about any consumer beyond avoiding lawsuits. Despite this, it’s set to a montage that shows them being sold by the millions.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 27: Mother’s Day

NEXT – Episode 29: Anthology of Interest I

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 – S2 E14 “How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back”

This is the rare episode that for me has only gotten better over time because the more I deal with bureaucrats, the more I realize this satire is dead-on. It’s time for an episode focused on the Rastafarian Accountant, Hermes Conrad.

SUMMARY

Hermes Conrad (Phil Lamarr) is up for a promotion as a bureaucrat. However, the evening before his inspection, Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio) host a poker night with Leela’s coworkers from the pilot and Zoidberg (West). During the game, Bender cheats and gets caught, resulting in the others beating him up in Hermes’ office, wrecking it. When the inspector, Morgan Proctor (Nora Dunn), shows up, Hermes threatens suicide, but his wife LaBarbara (Tress MacNeille in this episode, normally Dawnn Lewis) talks him out of it. He is subsequently fired and despondent. Zoidberg recommends Hermes and LaBarbara go to a Spa planet called Spa 5, which turns out to actually be a forced labor camp. Morgan takes over as Planet Express bureaucrat.

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Sweet pavement dive of Babylon 5!

Morgan begins to inspect Planet Express, criticizing for inane things such as not putting a zipper on a jacket alphabetically at the bottom, before she finds Fry’s locker, which is the most disgusting thing she has ever seen. As a lifelong neat-freak, Morgan finds Fry’s slovenly ways arousing and starts a secret affair with him. Morgan antagonizes most of the staff until Bender catches the two in bed together. He threatens blackmail, but Morgan downloads his brain onto a floppy disk and sends it to the Central Bureaucracy.

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He made cottage cheese in his hat. 

Fry, Leela, Amy (Lauren Tom), and the Professor (West) fly to the Central Bureaucracy to get Bender’s brain back. They discover that the disk is in the massive “in” pile, something that never gets sorted. However, Hermes appears, having optimized the force labor camp so much they only needed a single worker, and requests a massive file-sort, for which he is given four minutes. He proceeds to sort the entire pile while singing “The Bureaucrat Song” and manages to get Morgan fired by pointing out a minor clerical error she had made years ago. Hermes is rehired and reinstated as a bureaucrat.

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This is also the image for the national debt. #alwaystopical

END SUMMARY

This is one of the best episodes of the series. If you’re going to introduce someone to the series, this might be one of the most appropriate episodes to show them. The parody of the Central Bureaucracy is one of the most on-point in the show’s history and it elevated Hermes from mostly background character to one of the most entertainingly wacky members of the Planet Express staff. Yes, it’s clearly inspired by the movie Brazil, but it makes the organization here much less threatening and more comical than in that movie.

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If you’ve ever dealt with licensing, this is hilarious to you.

The concept of an organization dedicated to perpetuating bureaucracy that literally thrives on tedium and mistreating the masses is just too damned funny to put into words. The Central Bureaucracy is what everyone expects is at the heart of every bureaucratic organization: A giant mess perpetuated by people who just want to avoid accountability and strictly enforce rules by their word rather than intent. Having worked for the government for a decent percentage of my adult life, I can say that this is mostly wrong… except when it is completely right. In any organization of sufficient complexity, there emerge a certain percentage of people that somehow serve almost no real discernible purpose within the productive flow. Often, they become managers, much like Hermes’ position within the company.

S2EB - 5Dilbert
Scott Adams is a self-centered jackass, but he nailed this one.

Now, Hermes does, apparently, actually know how to increase efficiency, given that he points out all of the flaws in the set-up of the forced labor camp. At the same time, we see that any bureaucrat who does things more efficiently than prescribed is punished, so this episode suggests that there IS merit in having supervisors who point out wasted energy, but that the system which creates them is also the system than hinders them.

S2EB - 6Drill
Though, the efficiency improvement screws the workers and benefits literal slave-drivers.

This is one of the first episodes which has slight dependence on continuity, since Leela invites the workers from the pilot to the poker game. It doesn’t make much of a difference in the episode or anything, but it’s still more continuity than most of the series.

Morgan’s lust for Fry being based on all of the things that normally would make him repellant to women is a pretty great exaggeration of opposites attract. Fry goes with it for the stated reason that he was “desperate,” which is refreshingly frank.

The best part of the episode, though, is the “Bureaucracy Song.” It’s catchy, it’s clever, it includes the line “pooh-pooh’d my electric frankfurter,” and it comes from an odd stance in that it takes the position that bureaucrats actually love their jobs, something that most humor tends to oppose.

Bureaucrat Song from user4803634 on Vimeo.

FAVORITE JOKE(S)

Tie. First, the Beholder from Dungeons and Dragons being at the Central Bureaucracy. It’s just sleeping, then it awakens with flashing lights viciously coming out of its many eyes… only for it to ask the crew not to tell its supervisor that it was sleeping. It’s such a great gag that even the Beholder, one of the mightiest monsters in fiction, capable of destroying small armies on its own, is reduced to begging people to let it nap in peace within the Bureaucracy.

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Also, he’s only level 11. 

Second, one of the most quoted lines in the series is from this episode: “You are technically correct – the best kind of correct.” This is the most concise statement of the nature of bureaucrats within the episode and one of the most absurd ideas the episode conveys: that it’s better to be within the letter than the spirit, particularly when the letter subverts the spirit.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 23: A Clone of My Own

NEXT – Episode 25: The Deep South

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 – S2 E9 “A Bicyclops Built for Two”

Leela’s the focus for this episode exploring her tragic backstory.

SUMMARY

The Professor (Billy West) finally connects to the internet, which is a giant virtual-reality world that feels vaguely Tron-ish. Amy (Lauren Tom) and Leela (Katey Sagal) go into a chat room where they both intimidate all of the men by virtue of being actual women. Later, they join Fry (West), Bender (John DiMaggio), Zoidberg (West), and Hermes (Phil LaMarr) in a video game where Fry dominates due to wasting so much of his life gaming. Leela, however, meets another cyclops named Alcazar (David Herman) who Fry immediately vaporizes. On their next delivery, Leela receives a message from Alcazar with information about the Cyclops homeworld, so she heads there with Fry and Bender.

S2E9 - 1Alcazar
Anyone else think he should have one giant nipple? No? Just me? Okay then.

On the planet, Alcazar tells Leela that the planet was blown up by the eyeless Mole People of Subterra 3 out of anger that the Cyclopes had sight. Alcazar survived by being in a pool at the time, while Leela was a baby sent to Earth by a scientist to save her life. Leela then tells him that the species doesn’t have to end with them and they have sex. The next morning, Alcazar starts acting like Al Bundy from Married with Children, with Leela taking on aspects of Katey Sagal’s previous role as his wife Peg. Despite the fact that they now fight all the time, Leela agrees to marry him to keep the species going. Fry, however, decides to search the forbidden valley on the planet to try and find something to convince Leela not to marry him.

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Leela has so far only had pity sex and “save the species” sex. That’s disturbing.

The staff arrives for the wedding, but after questing for a little while, Fry and Bender find four identical kingdoms. They return just in time for the wedding with four other women, revealed to be all of Alcazar’s other fiances. It turns out that he’s a shapeshifter who just found it easy to get laid by marrying women who are the last of their species. The weddings are all called off and Leela continues to wonder where she comes from.

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It’s a nice day for a green wedding…. yeah.

END SUMMARY

This episode kind of feels like it was just a set-up to the joke of reprising Katey Sagal’s character from Married With Children. It’s one of those things that was basically inevitable and I think that doing it in Season 2, without letting the necessity build, meant that they could get away with only dedicating about 2 minutes of the episode to it, rather than make it the focal point of the episode. Still, it’s pretty funny to watch Leela, who usually responds to everything with violence, throw all these verbal barbs with Alcazar, with the pig and the rat couple providing the audience hooting and reactions in place of the shows usual live studio audience. Also, I love that Leela immediately questions why the set-up has changed to be more similar to Married with Children but Alcazar insults her rather than answering her question. It’s one of my favorite lampshade hangings in the series.

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That couch clashes with the ornate palace.

The representation of the internet in this movie is a little dated, since “chat rooms” no longer exist as they did in the 90s, celebrity nudes are no longer all fakes, and AOL dial-up is mostly a thing of the past. However, some elements have definitely held up, like the idea that many guys who talk big on the internet would collapse in the presence of a real woman, that video games are becoming more virtual reality based, and that underage people will claim to be 18 to see nudity online. It’s also impressive that they mostly avoided any references to The Matrix despite the fact that this episode came out almost a year to the day after that movie, which means this would have been written shortly after that movie was everywhere. The only one I caught is when Hermes dodges a pop-up ad by limboing, which is right after they make several references to 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Birds, and Tron, so it feels like they’re just spamming movie jokes right then. Again, it’s a decent amount of restraint, given the subject matter and the time. It’s also possible that the writers just thought The Matrix wouldn’t hold up in the cultural zeitgeist as well as it did.

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I also love the “Girls Wanted” sign on the other site.

The final reveal of Alcazar is pretty clever. It’s a funny bit to reveal each of the alien brides to him and watch Alcazar try to cover for them all, but ultimately it’s watching Leela’s last moments contemplating the fact that she almost married someone that she knew was treating her terribly just so she could feel like she belonged. It’s one of the most real moments of Leela’s character in the entire series, because it feels so human to do something stupid in order to stop feeling alone. The last shot, however, is pure Futurama emotional gut-punch when she asks how many planets there could be and the camera pans out to remind us that space is incomprehensibly large. There are over 100 Billion stars estimated to be within the Milky Way Galaxy alone, each of which usually has at least one planet in orbit, and in Futurama the crew regularly travels all the way across the universe, meaning that almost any galaxy or planet in the universe is a possibility. There are estimated to be 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the entire visible universe, again, each with likely one or more planets. That means that if you searched 1 planet every milli-second for 5 billion years, you’d be roughly… .02% of the way there.

SPACE IS BIG, Y’ALL!!!

This is actually a very nice use of Cosmic nihilism for the audience, but since Leela doesn’t acknowledge it, it isn’t as sad as it usually is. Plus, Leela had addressed the opposite of it earlier in the episode, self-determination. She now realizes that she doesn’t need a home to define her as long as she knows who she is. Granted, eventually she will know her history, but that’s still a mystery right now, and it’s nice to watch her make some level of peace with the mystery.

FAVORITE JOKE

One of the women Alcazar is set to marry is a Yithian from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Out of Time.”

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The Purple One.

The Yithians are a race that previously inhabited Earth over 66 Million Years Ago and they gained a form of near-omniscience through their ability to switch out their minds with other species in the future. However, despite this, they were annihilated by a species of Flying Polyps. However, since they knew they were going to be destroyed, they switched all of their minds with another race that will take over the Earth after humans are dead, the Coleopterous race. The coleopterous race is described as “beetle folk,” resembling a great number of different humanoid insects… just like Alcazar’s true form. In other words, his Yithian bride would likely be the last of her race, but if she wanted to marry another Yithian, they’d look like a giant insect. Additionally, she’s the only one who doesn’t say anything about his true form, so it’s possible she’s just pissed about the fact that he was going to marry 4 other women. Either way, a Yithian/Bug Creature wedding was a weird but interesting reference and I dig it.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 21: Raging Bender

NEXT – Episode 23: A Clone of My Own

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 – S2 E8 “Raging Bender”

Bender somehow becomes involved in professional robot wrestling, despite the title being a reference to a boxing movie.

SUMMARY

The Planet Express crew heads to the movies where Bender (John DiMaggio) is a complete and total jerk to the other patrons. In particular, he won’t stop aggravating the guy in front of him, who appears to be a stereotypical nerd, including insulting his girlfriend. However, when he goes too far, the nerd turns out to be the giant wrestler The Masked Unit (Tom Kenny) who attacks Bender. The Masked Unit then slips on some popcorn and is knocked out. The commissioner of the Ultimate Robot Fighting League, Abner Doubledeal (Kenny), happens to be in the theater and offers to make Bender a wrestler.

S2E8 - 2MaskedUnit.png
He’s opening up a file of whoopass. That’s a quote.

Bender is excited at the prospect of being a wrestler until he realizes that he might actually get hurt. He tries to quit, but  Leela (Katey Sagal) uses her tragic past involving martial arts to convince him to stay and let her train him. Despite his incompetence, he does actually manage to win his first match… because it was fixed. It turns out that Robot Wrestling is fake and that the most popular fighter always wins. Bender, now wrestling as Bender the Offender, starts to dominate the league through his antics. Since it’s fake, he stops training, which annoys Leela. Eventually, though, his popularity wanes and Doubledeal decides to rebrand him as a loser, the Gender Bender, an effeminate transvestite. Bender refuses at first, but is then told that his opponent is Destructor (Maurice LaMarche), an unbelievably powerful killer robot who can beat him in a fake match or a real one if need be. He agrees to lose.

S2E8 - 3Destructor.png
Destructor’s use in combat is a war crime. And hilarious.

Bender begs Leela to help him win the fight, which she agrees to do only after learning that her sexist martial arts instructor Fnog (David Herman) is Destructor’s trainer. The bout takes place at Madison Cube Garden, but it turns out that Bender is completely outclassed. When Leela tries to call it off to save Bender’s life, she discovers that Destructor is being controlled by Fnog. Leela battles Fnog while Bender fights the uncontrolled Destructor, resulting in Leela KO’ing her tormentor and Bender getting flattened. Bender is in pain, but Leela is happy that she got vengeance.

S2E8 - 4Fnog.png
SWEEP THE LEG!!!!

END SUMMARY

I was a decent wrestling fan as a kid, because it was 1992, I was 5, and Ric Flair was the man. WOOOOOOOOO!!! Later, of course, I found out that A) it was fake, B) some of these guys were completely different outside of the ring, and C) they were still amazing athletes and performers. So, I wasn’t exactly happy about this episode which mostly portrays wrestling as involving effortless and cheesy performances. I’m not denying that wrestling performances are cheesy, they absolutely are. Sometimes in the best way, like Randy Savage (R.I.P.), sometimes in the worst way, like the Shockmaster (sorry Fred Ottoman, I’m sure you’re a good guy), but they often are. However, they are absolutely not effortless as Mick Foley (or Mankind) will tell you. These are damned impressive physical performers and dedicated method actors and they deserve that respect.

s2E8 - 5MachoMan.jpg
Oh yes, sir. Oh yes, indeed. I will snap into a Slim Jim today.

Having said that, I think the satire of wrestling in this episode is freaking hilarious. The robot characters are all insane stereotypes (Billionaire Bot, Chain Smoker, Foreigner… these are the actual names) just like in most 80s-90s wrestling, the heels and faces are clearly defined, they get re-branded as necessary, and the product endorsements are dead-on (Bender endorses a brand of French milk bath soaps). It’s mostly put forth in one single montage, but I think the line that stands out most for me is the Foreigner’s intro:

I’m not from here! I have my own customs! Look at my crazy passport!

It’s a perfect tribute to how wrestling is based on giving you characters that can be identified down to their whole histories and motivations within just a few lines. There’s no nuance, it’s just character archetypes, and that can sometimes be beautiful. Watch Glow on Netflix if you want an entire series built around justifying this as an art form.

S2E8 - 6ChainSmoker.png
The Chainsmoker is less creative, I admit.

Leela’s subversion of the Karate Kid-esque (Bender even does Crane Stance) master-student bond is a great B-plot. Despite being a prodigious martial artist, Leela is condemned by Fnog (which I assume is just a parody on the common fake-martial artist name Master Fong) just for being a girl. His sexism is so ludicrous that he awards the victory in the spar to Leela’s completely unconscious opponent, which makes his ultimate ass-whipping all the more of a foregone conclusion that is still pretty satisfying.

The episode also has one of my favorite minor C-plots involving Hermes (Phil LaMarr) and the brain slug. During vacation, Hermes apparently made a stop at the brain slug planet and a slug took him over. He then proceeds to blatantly try to get brain slugs onto the others in comically inept ways, only succeeding with Fry. Fry’s brain slug then starves to death. Given the later reveals in the show, it would be thought that Fry’s slug starved because Fry lacks the Delta Brainwave, but the commentary for the episode reveals that the joke is solely that Fry is stupid and nothing else.

S2E8 - 7BrainSlug.png
Hermes should have used a garlic shampoo.

FAVORITE JOKE

It’s a tie between Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot’s cameos at the movie, advising Bender not to talk during the film, and the title of the theater as “א-null-plex.” I’d write it correctly, but I’m having formatting issues and the picture’s going to be below anyway. See, א, which is pronounced “aleph,” is the mathematical symbol representing infinities in set theories. Aleph-zero, or Aleph-null, is the lowest infinite set, the countable infinite, which is what most people think of when they think of “infinite.” Basically, it means if there is a way you can set up a system with the numbers that has a correspondence to the natural numbers, like the multiples of 7 or the powers of 11 or the prime numbers. I’ll attach a fun video explaining this concept below, because knowledge is power. The joke here is that the theater is a pun on the theater term “multiplex” which, in most shows, is parodied as the “infiniplex.” Futurama is just taking it one step further by saying that this is specifically the smallest-level of infiniplex, because they like to wave their math d**ks around. Yes, they have math ducks.

S2E8 - 1Aleph.png
Math jokes are mathemagical.

As to Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, the joke is obvious if you’ve seen Mystery Science Theater 3000. If you haven’t seen it, I’ve now done two reviews on it and it’s on Netflix. CHECK IT OUT NOW!

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 20: Put Your Head on my Shoulders 

NEXT – Episode 22: A Bicyclops Built for Two

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 – S2 E7 “Put Your Head on my Shoulders”

Season 2 continues to have some episodes more focused on the other Planet Express employees and this one is on the ditziest, and only, Martian trillionaire engineering grad student in the show: Amy Wong.

SUMMARY

S2E7 - 1Opening.png
This is one of my favorite intro lines.

Amy (Lauren Tom) got all Cs on her report card and therefore decides that her parents should buy her a new car. She proceeds to buy a brand new Beta Romeo and take it for a spin on Mercury with Fry (Billy West). They proceed to run out of gas due to their own incompetence and have to call for help. While waiting for help, they start talking and realize that they have a lot in common, resulting in them having some extremely casual sex (“Wanna do it?” is Amy’s ultimate seductive line). After they tell the Planet Express staff, the team immediately begins to talk about how good Fry and Amy are as a couple. However, Amy tells Fry she enjoys “hanging out” with him which leads him to freak out about things becoming too serious. He tries to bring Dr. Zoidberg (West) along with them on a date, however, when Fry tries to break up with Amy, Zoidberg crashes the car. Fry’s body is badly injured, so Zoidberg sticks his head on Amy’s body. Despite this, Fry breaks up with Amy, who immediately goes back to dating other people.

S2E7 - 2Kissing.png
They still kiss weird. Or do I kiss weird and they kiss normal?

At the same time, in the B-Plot, Bender (John DiMaggio) attempts to create a dating service (after his initial plans to create a prostitution ring prove illegal). He charges people money to participate in his “computer dating” program, which is actually just Bender randomly matching couples. Zapp Brannigan (West) is the first among his desperate clientele, but eventually even Leela (Katey Sagal) joins. When Amy reveals she has a Valentine’s Day date, Fry also ends up asking Bender for help.

S2E7 - 3Dating.png
It consists mostly of punch-cards.

On Valentine’s Day, Bender does indeed provide Fry a date: Petunia the ancient hooker (Tress MacNeille). It turns out that all of Bender’s “matches” are just random lowlifes he found at a bus stop. Despite being an old prostitute, however, Petunia still believes that she’s too good for Fry and leaves. Amy’s date with a handsome banking industry regulator named Gary (Maurice LaMarche) goes very well, with the pair about to take themselves (and Fry) back to the bedroom. Leela saves Fry by stepping in and distracting Gary for the evening. Fry gets his body back and thanks Leela who says she enjoyed “hanging out” with him, something that he doesn’t object to.

S2E7 - 4Coffee.png
Most third wheel to ever third wheel.

END SUMMARY

Sometimes I almost feel like this episode was designed to destroy fans who were “shipping” Fry and Amy. Yes, they’re both young and kind of dumb. Yes, they talk similarly and are both slightly removed from the “real world” of the year 3000 (Amy by her wealth, Fry by his anachronism). So yeah, they make sense as a couple, except that they both would drag each other down. Neither of them has any ambition, focus, or sense of personal responsibility, the things that partners should bring out in each other, and when they’re together they just reinforce each others’ worst tendencies. Plus, they largely only connect on a superficial level to the point that Amy isn’t contemplating anything deeper and Fry gets scared from just thinking she’s considering it. That’s why it’s so great that they each end up with people that they connect more deeply with and that help them grow as people. Also, I was already shipping Fry and Leela hard by this point, so I like that this episode pretty much kills any implication that he and Amy might end up together. The asymmetry of Fry freaking out about Amy saying “hanging out” but Fry being pleased when Leela says the same thing really drove it home.

S2E7 - 5Leela.png
They’re cute, even when he has an Asian co-ed’s body. Maybe especially then.

Caveat: There is nothing wrong with casual sex, friends with benefits, hook-ups, or having non-sexual romantic partners or friends that are emotionally as close as lovers. As long as your relationships are healthy, it’s nobody’s damned business how you conduct them. You do you.

This is another example of the show taking a classic premise (guy gets scared of intimacy and is put into forced intimate situation) but putting a sci-fi spin on it. However, I think the best subversion is that Fry still breaks up with her quickly. In most sitcoms where the person is stuck with the person that they are planning to break up with, they struggle for a while to just deal with it to avoid the awkwardness (Check out… most of Seinfeld, really, if you want examples), but Fry, despite now being physically connected with Amy, just goes ahead and ends things. This leads to the hilarious fallout when Amy, rather than being devastated or thinking that Fry’s head is an inconvenience, just goes ahead with her dating life immediately.

S2E7 - 6Amydump.png
Also, Fry’s a dick to her in this episode. Boo, Fry. Boo.

This episode does play straight the old trope of a guy who is in a relationship believing that he is better off single only to quickly find out that he is less desirable than he thought and that the woman he just left is much more successful at being single. I’d say watch Seinfeld for this one too, but you could also just observe almost any relationship where both people are in their early 20s.

FAVORITE JOKE

Well, the real answer to this is when the episode smash-cuts from Bender clearly supposed to be thinking of his dating service and instead being revealed to be trying to be a pimp. “Stupid Anti-Pimping Laws” would be my bumper sticker if I drove a Cadillac. Sadly, that joke’s short, so here’s another one related to it.

S2E7 - 7DatingService.png
The best jokes are Math Jokes.

Bender’s dating service is advertised as being “Discreet and Discrete.” The first is the more commonly used homonym, meaning something that is not openly practiced or is clandestine. The second is a bit more… varied in how it could be applied. Discrete means something that is not continuous, but when applied to mathematics it typically deals with non-continuous math concepts, such as logic. There are a ton of separate sub-fields that could, theoretically, apply to a dating service: Combinatorics, Game Theory, Information Theory, Computer Science, etc. I think the fact that there are about a dozen ways to interpret this joke within Discrete Mathematics that all make sense is why I love this joke so much. Also, I have a soft spot for puns.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 19: The Lesser of Two Evils

NEXT – Episode 21: Raging Bender

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 – S2 E5 “Why Must I Be A Crustacean in Love?”

This season we start getting episodes focused on the other Planet Express employees and this one features the Decapodian Doctor, John Zoidberg.

FuturamaZoidberg
Why not indeed?

SUMMARY

Amy (Lauren Tom) and Leela (Katey Sagal) guilt the Planet Express crew members into joining a gym. While there, Dr. Zoidberg (Billy West) starts to become enraged, attacking everyone and having to be restrained. It’s determined that Dr. Zoidberg has entered the mating period of his species, so Fry (West), Leela, and Bender (John DiMaggio) take him back to his home planet of Decapod 10 so that he can participate.

S2E5 - 1Pool.png
This is how men look when horny. All of them.

When they get to the planet, Zoidberg gets to work trying to attract a mate but fails miserably. He then sees Edna (Tress MacNeille), a high school classmate of his who is, by Decapodian standards, apparently super hot. She rejects him, but Fry offers to help Zoidberg win her hearts through the human male art of lying. Zoidberg pitches woo outside of her apartment using Fry’s words and it seems to work. Later, after Leela hears some of Fry’s lines being pitched by Zoidberg, she tries to explain away how terrible they are, but it turns out that Edna’s been loving them and now she’s enamoured with Fry. She attempts to seduce him and Zoidberg catches them. Assuming the worst, Zoidberg challenges Fry to Claw-Plach, a fight to the death.

S2E5 - 2Edna.png
This scene haunts my nightmares.

At the fight, Fry gains the upper hand but refuses to kill Zoidberg. Zoidberg responds by cutting off Fry’s arm, which Fry then uses to beat Zoidberg mercilessly until they notice that all of the Decapodians have left. Zoidberg catches sight of Edna, who is now mating with the Decapodian Emperor (David Herman). It’s then revealed that Zoidberg’s people die after mating, something that nobody had brought up until now. Zoidberg apologizes to Fry and attempts to reconnect his arm… poorly.

S2E5 - 3Armed.png
I bet you think I’ll make a joke about him being “unarmed” or “disarmed.” Shame on you.

END SUMMARY

This episode is a send-up of the Star Trek episode “Amok Time,” in which Spock experiences the pon farr, the Vulcan mating drive. Basically, it makes him crazy aggressive until he gets his freak on. Much like Zoidberg with Edna, Spock’s intended mate has someone she prefers and she invokes ritual combat to avoid her commitment with Spock, but she famously surprises everyone by picking Captain Kirk to fight rather than her mate. Kirk agrees right before he learns the fight is to the death. The fight leads to Spock not mating. Like I said, a lot of this episode comes from that, blended with elements of Twelfth Night and Cyrano de Bergerac.

S2E5 - 4PonFarr.jpg
KIRK SMASH!!!!

The scene of Fry coaching Zoidberg to seduce Edna below her window is a direct copy of Cyrano de Bergerac’s most famous scene. If you don’t know that play, then maybe you saw the movie Roxanne which has the same sequence, but with Steve Martin as an added bonus. The difference is that in this version, Cyrano is Fry and therefore not a master seducer but a complete and utter idiot. However, since Edna’s planet doesn’t have seduction, even Fry’s advice, which is basically “pretend you don’t want to bang her,” works perfectly. The fact that she then falls in love with him just creates a horrifying love-friendship-triangle much like the one in Twelfth Night.

S2E5 - 5Cyrano.png
The show benefits from the fact that people don’t read and think this is original.

The focus of the episode is Zoidberg and I think it must have worked out well for the viewership numbers, because he definitely starts to be present more in the series after this. Not that he wasn’t around before, but the amount he’s allowed to have the spotlight in scenes increases. Personally, Zoidberg is one of my favorite characters, since he’s basically a collection of comedic tropes mixed together: Wacky doctor, failed comic, super-poor person, incompetent surgeon, etc. I especially love that they consistently maintain that he IS a good doctor, maybe even one of the best, but only for non-human patients, which doesn’t help Planet Express much.

The fight between Fry and Zoidberg is hilarious. Bender taking bets against Fry, Fry using a nutcracker as a weapon, Zoidberg cutting off Fry’s arm in the middle of Fry’s speech about friendship, all of it is perfectly timed. I also love that they play the “Decapodian National Anthem,” which is the theme music from the Star Trek episode mentioned above, “Amok Time.”

S2E5 - 6Crackers.png
Crack kills, kids.

The end of the episode is brilliant, since so many marine species actually DO die after mating. It also makes it clever in retrospect that the Emperor of Decapod 10 established that he has taken a vow of celibacy, since the civilization wouldn’t want such frequent changes in leadership. When first mentioned, it seems to be a throw-away line, even when we later see the Emperor choose to mate with Edna. At the time, it just appears that the Emperor is breaking his vow, but shortly after we learn that he actually dies from this, meaning he’s essentially eliminating the leadership of the planet to get laid.

FAVORITE JOKE

I’m not going to be highbrow about this. I still chuckle whenever I hear the exchange:

Professor: We, by which I mean you, will have to rush him to his ancient homeworld, which will shortly erupt in an orgy of invertebrate sex.

Fry: Oh, baby, I’m there!

Leela: Fry, do you even understand the word invertebrate?

Fry: No, but that’s not the word I’m interested in. No need to pack pants, people! Let’s roll!

I just love the idea that Fry becomes so excited by the concept of an orgy that he doesn’t think about the fact that he knows that Zoidberg is a crab-like alien. I frequently reference this one by telling people “No need to pack pants.”

Overall, this is just a great episode that has a lot of solid jokes. Loved it then, love it now.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 17: Xmas Story

NEXT – Episode 19: The Lesser of Two Evils

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.