Futurama Fridays – S3E4 “The Luck of the Fryrish”

Futurama spends an entire episode setting us up for a punchline, but instead decides to gut punch us with emotion.

SUMMARY

This episode constantly bounces between Fry’s life in the 20th Century and his life in the 30th Century.

In the 20th Century, we see Fry (Billy West) being born on the day that the Mets win the World Series (which doesn’t really track, since the Mets won in 1986 but Fry is 25 in 1999. Presumably in the Futurama universe this is 1973 and the “You Gotta Believe” Mets team didn’t lose to the Oakland Athletics in Game 7. This is all the baseball I know.). His father, Yancy Sr., (John DiMaggio) names him Philip after the screwdriver. Fry’s brother, Yancy Jr. (Lauren Tom as kid, Tom “Ice King” Kenny as adult), quickly establishes a trend of being jealous of anything Fry has, including the name “Philip.” As kids, Fry is shown to be worse than Yancy at most things, until Fry finds a seven-leaf clover which makes him unnaturally lucky, even at things which would normally be considered skill-based, like basketball or break-dancing. Yancy is always jealous when Fry is successful and tries to take the clover, but Fry runs home and hides it in a Ronco Record Vault inside The Breakfast Club’s soundtrack.

S3E4 - 1Clover
Such Clover. Much Luck. So Wow.

In the future, Fry is having a streak of bad luck at the racetrack. Not only does Bender (DiMaggio) drug Fry’s horse, resulting in a shameful loss, but when his last dollar gets blown onto a power line, he gets struck by lightning, twice, and blown into a dumpster. Back at Planet Express headquarters, Fry mentions the clover and Zoidberg (West) points out that it might still be in the ruins of Old New York. Fry, Bender, and Leela (Katey Sagal) head underground to the remains of the New York of the 20th Century and make their way to Fry’s old house. However, the clover is no longer in the vault. The three give up on finding the clover, only to run into a statue of Fry’s brother with the clover in his lapel and the nameplate reading “Philip J. Fry.” Fry, incensed, punches the statue and breaks his hand, declaring that his brother “stole his life.”

S3E4 - 2House.png
You can go home again, but it looks like crap.

A video on the internet informs the crew that the Philip J. Fry that is immortalized on the statue was actually a massive celebrity in the 20th century, famous for his perpetual luck, culminating in him being the first man on Mars (if you don’t count the native Martians). He was buried with the clover, so Fry tells everyone that they’re going to go rob the grave. At the graveyard, Fry, Leela, and Bender start digging up the body, but Fry knocks some of the moss off of the other Philip’s grave.

S3E4 - 3Statue.png
He looks taller than Fry, too.

In the past, Yancy breaks into the Ronco Record Vault to find music for his wedding and takes the clover in memory of Fry. Later, Yancy and his wife name their first son Philip after the brother Yancy says he misses every day. In addition to the name, he gifts young Philip with the clover.

In the Future, Fry finds out the truth: The Philip J. Fry they’re digging up is actually his nephew, who was, per his tombstone, “named for his uncle, to carry on his spirit.” Although Bender does dig up the clover, a tearful Fry leaves it to rest in his nephew’s grave and smiles, realizing that his brother wasn’t taking his legacy, but making sure it endured.

S3E4 - 4Grave
Dear everyone who makes TV: We need more of this.

END SUMMARY

Holy flaming carp, this episode. I mean, everyone remembers “Jurassic Bark,” and I already have cookies ready to deal with that episode’s punch to the feelings, but this one’s not far behind for me. The difference is what kind of emotions this episode evokes compared to that one, and the fact that this one actually could potentially have been building up to a comical misunderstanding, but instead decided to change it into a powerful dramatic moment.

S3E4 - 5Grave
Definitely better than a comical misunderstanding.

Throughout this episode, the B-plot in the past portrayed Yancy as the kind of person who actually would bother to steal his dead brother’s name, because from the day Fry was born, Yancy wanted to be Philip. The show presents this idea to us in a little bit of a deceptive manner, showing us a few objective moments of Yancy, while the rest of the time we’re only hearing about Yancy through Philip’s perception of him as jealous. The few objective moments we have don’t contradict Fry’s perception, so it cements that image in our minds. That’s why it’s so surprising when it’s revealed that, upon losing Fry, Yancy spent the rest of his life missing his brother, to the point of entrusting his son with Fry’s legacy. That’s why the moment we share with Fry is so powerful, because we’re going through the realization about Yancy’s true nature at the same time as Fry. We aren’t hit with a wave of sadness like watching a dog waste away waiting for its master, it’s more of a complex series of emotions related to the realization that people aren’t always who you think they are, but that sometimes you don’t learn that until after they’re gone. It’s sad that Fry couldn’t find this out about his brother while he was alive, but he does finally get closure and a reassurance that they did love each other, which is still beautiful.

S3E4 - 6PhilipII.png
I cried a little while screenshotting this.

The key to this episode is the perfect interplay between the A and B plots, allowing for both of them to progress rapidly by letting the audience just assume that nothing important happened between the time that we leave one plot and return to the other. If you’re looking for some gold-standard examples of this, check out the Rick and Morty episode “Meeseeks and Destroy” or the I Love Lucy episode “Job Switching,” but this episode also uses it to great effect, particularly with how it finally has the two plotlines converge into something beautiful and meaningful to both. Interestingly, Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, and writer Ron Weiner used The Godfather II as a model for writing two timelines simultaneously and organizing them by using different colored storyboards.

Overall, this is one of my favorite episodes of the show. It’s also typically rated in the top 10 on most fan polls, so I don’t think I’m insane for that. I don’t think it’s the best, nor even the second or third best, but it is brilliant and touching and writing this review made me tear up a few times.

FAVORITE JOKE

First, a joke amendment that I didn’t find out until this episode. When looking into Fry’s stuff, there’s another pennant for the Whitefish from Coney Island College, the same roller-coaster college Fry says he dropped out of in “Mars University.” At the time, I thought that the choice of whitefish for Coney Island was a hilarious joke about how crappy the university was. It turns out I missed two pieces of information:

  1. “Coney Island Whitefish” is a song by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts about a guy who is a complete waste of time who never tries to improve or do anything. That kinda fits Fry during the 20th century.
  2. Coney Island Whitefish is also a slang term for a discarded used condom, because humanity is gross. I’m hoping this doesn’t apply to anything on the show.

I’ve updated the previous entry in “Mars University” and now I never need to admit to making a mistake.

Second, a wonderful observation and set-up is the fact that Fry’s dad, brother, and his great-grandfather are all named Yancy, as were all of the other men in the line going back to the Revolutionary War. The fact that Fry’s dad doesn’t mention his father is also named Yancy is the first hint we get that there is something unusual in Fry’s lineage, because the Yancy name skips one generation… due to Fry being his own grandfather. Also, I can never prove it, but I think the name Yancy was picked because Billy West who voices Fry also voiced Doug Funnie on Doug. Doug’s middle name was Yancy, and he hated his middle name with a passion.

S3E4 - 7Yancy
It was interesting to see what kind of people made Fry.

Last, the actual best joke, when the horses cross the finish line at the race, they announce a measurement by Electron Microscope which results in a winner by “Quantum Finish.” The Professor (West) immediately shouts out: “No fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it!” This is one of the best jokes in the series, because 1) it works if you just think the Professor is complaining that he was going to win until they announced a different winner and 2) it works better if you know that the Professor is referencing the Observer Effect of Quantum Physics, which suggests that the mere act of measuring something on a quantum level inherently changes the outcome. This is a perfect example of Futurama’s humor: Works if you know the joke, works if you don’t.

S3E4 - 8QuantumFinish

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 35: A Tale of Two Santas

NEXT – Episode 37: The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz

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 – S3E2 “Parasites Lost”

Fry eats a bad egg salad sandwich and finds himself infected with awesomeness.

SUMMARY

While at a gas station, Fry (Billy West) buys an egg-salad sandwich from the men’s room vending machine. Despite the awful taste, he ends up eating the whole thing. While she’s cleaning the windshield, several truckers insult Leela (Katey Sagal). Fry tries to defend her honor, but ends up insulting her more. When they get home, Fry and Bender (John DiMaggio) are sent to fix the building’s boiler, because Scruffy (David Herman), the Janitor, is too busy reading pornography. The boiler explodes and a pipe is lodged in Fry’s abdomen. Surprisingly, Fry seems fine, until the pipe suddenly is cut in half and the hole in Fry’s stomach regenerates. Zoidberg (West) gives Fry a deep colonoscopy and determines that his body is actually filled with superintelligent worms, which were actually the eggs in the egg-salad.

S3E2 - 1Bathroom
Best place to buy food at a truckstop.

In order to get the parasites out, the Professor (Billy West) creates a series of micro-droids remotely controlled by the crew and a miniature planet express ship. They are going to journey into Fry’s body (without his knowledge, because the worms know everything he knows) and travel to the pelvic splanchnic ganglion to cause Fry to completely void his bowels (including the worms). Leela distracts Fry by taking him on a date, but it’s revealed that the worms aren’t harming Fry. In fact, they’re making him stronger, smarter, better looking, and healthier, something that impresses Leela immensely, especially when he beats up one of the truckers that insulted her.

S3E2 - 2City
I love that the worm city has forks and knives, like they’re the only things the worms knew.

Realizing that Fry is actually better because of the worms, Leela travels inside his body and kills the micro-droids of the crew before they can tickle the ganglion. The crew explain to Fry what happened, and Fry elects to keep the worms. Later, Leela takes Fry to her place and he plays a piece he wrote on the Holophonor, an instrument which creates an elaborate holographic art film as he plays it, causing Leela to become completely infatuated with him. Unfortunately, Fry realizes that it might be the worms she loves, not him. He goes inside his own body and orders the worms to get them out. When they refuse, he starts to damage his own brain, threatening to kill himself if they don’t. They concede and leave.

S3E2 - 3Holophonor
That’ll get you laid, man.

Fry comes back to Leela’s apartment and tries to play the holophonor again, but does it terribly. Leela realizes he’s an idiot again. He attempts to seduce her his way, but fails immediately. Leela kicks him out. He is later seen taking a lesson in playing the holophonor.

END SUMMARY

This is easily in my top 10 episodes of Futurama. Maybe in the top 5. It has some of my favorite one-liners, contains one of the more perfect twists on a sci-fi premise in the show, and really cements that Leela might reciprocate Fry’s feelings if he would just work on himself. It’s also an episode that is referenced, either directly or indirectly, multiple times throughout the rest of the series. Even the original series finale “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings” directly references this episode and Fry’s effort to play the holophonor at the end of this episode forms the last shot of that episode, and the series, until the restart.

S3E2 - 4Kiss.png
Yeah, this was a good ending to the show.

The bulk of the episode is a tribute to the film Fantastic Voyage, in which a team of people shrink down to microscopic size to remove a blood clot. In this episode, the Planet Express crew instead controls tiny robots, because Professor Farnsworth can’t afford the “tiny atoms” which are required. I’d point out that the tiny robots also solve the issues of how being tiny would make you super dense, freeze you to death because your body wouldn’t generate enough internal heat, and that you couldn’t breathe enough oxygen to stay alive at that size, even scaled down, but I’m not going to do that because that would make me a nerd. The great twist on the episode is that unlike the clot, the worms aren’t harming Fry. In fact, they’re making him superhuman. Futurama often does these nice twists on classic media, but I still think the idea of the mysterious parasites being a good thing is one of the better ones.

S3E2 - 5Swords.jpg
Also, the tumor didn’t have swords.

It’s also notable that this episode has the fewest speaking roles in the series. It’s focused almost exclusively on the internal workings (haha) of the Planet Express Crew. Every one of them has at least one solid joke, too. In fact:

FAVORITE JOKE(S)

Everyone has a great line in this, so I’m going to do all of them:

Zoidberg: (After Fry is said to be as strong and flexible as Gumby and Hercules) Gumbercules? I love that guy!!!

Fry: Leela, there’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time but every time I try I get nervous and my mouth feels like it’s stuffed with peanut butter, even when it’s not.

Professor: Listen, this is gonna be one hell of a bowel movement. Afterwards he’ll be lucky if he has any bones left!

Amy: (On seeing Fry’s bowel) It’s gorgeous. That place used to be a big dump.

Leela: I don’t have words to say how wonderful you are, Fry. I haven’t felt this happy since double-soup Tuesday at the orphanarium.

Bender: (After Fry’s been dumped)  If it’s any consolation, my life is great! Babes! Bucks! I got it all!

Hermes: (describing his famous “Jerk Prunes”) I call it “Caribbean Drain-o”!

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 33: Amazon Women in the Mood

NEXT – Episode 35: A Tale of Two Santas

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S3E1 “Amazon Women in the Mood”

An episode on chauvinism also gives us every man’s chosen way to die: DEATH BY SNU-SNU.

SUMMARY

Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) has been receiving calls on her cell-phone. They feature a man’s voice breathing heavily, but no words. It turns out that the person on the other end is none other than Lieutenant Kif Kroker (Maurice LaMarche), who has been trying to work up the courage to ask Amy out since their sudden romance on the Titanic. He decides to ask Zapp Brannigan (Billy West) for advice, who agrees to set up a double-date as long as Leela (Katey Sagal) goes out with him. Amy talks Leela into it.

S3E1 - 1Zoidberg.png
Meanwhile, Zoidberg goes wild.

The four go out on a date to an orbiting restaurant, but Zapp’s advice to Kif backfires at every turn. Finally, Kif tries to sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at karaoke, but Zapp does a spoken-word version of “Lola” with Leela’s name substituted. It’s so terrible that the people in the restaurant all leave, resulting in Zapp trying to fly the restaurant and crashing it into a planet. Searching the area, the group finds that they’re on Planet Amazonia, which is populated by giant women that capture them.

S3E2 - 2Zapp.png
Zapp Brannigan: 10% Kirk, 90% Shatner

Fry (West) and Bender (John DiMaggio) take the Planet Express ship to save the girls, but they are quickly captured. When going through a tour of the village, Zapp, Fry, and Bender all mock the various feminist aspects of the culture, including their comedy and basketball. The Amazons take them to their leader, the Femputer (Bea Arthur). The Femputer, upon learning that the men all mocked their civilization, orders the men to be killed… by snu-snu, the Amazon word for sex. It’s also revealed that all the men on Amazonia died from this. Bender points out that he can’t have sex, so he is pardoned. Zapp and Fry are somewhat excited about dying mid-coitus, but Kif is horrified. Facing death, he finally confesses his feelings to Amy.

S3E1 - 3Amazons.png
Oddly, the society divides Snu-Snu up by physical appearance.

The girls come up with a plan to save the three men. They send Bender to try and hack the Femputer while Amy pretends to be an Amazon to save Kif (Fry and Zapp are enjoying their violent snu-snu). Bender finds out that the Femputer is actually a Fembot, who he seduces into forcing the other Amazons to release everyone. Now free, Kif and Amy start going out.

END SUMMARY

My opinion on this episode has shifted a lot throughout my life. A lot of the humor is derived from the women on Amazonia behaving like overblown stereotypes and the men responding to them… as overblown stereotypes. At times, it seems like a lot of the jokes are just too easy to be funny, but, well, no, they’re still freaking funny. The fact that there are so many jokes that are easy make it all the better that there are so many really, really clever jokes embedded in the episode, and it also serves to highlight the absurd premise.

S3E1 - 4BBall.png
Admittedly, the shot at the WNBA was REALLY cheap.

A lot of what makes this episode work is the heavy dose of Zapp Brannigan. While he’s always fun to have along for the ride, this features him without any restrictions whatsoever. His book of pick-up lines include such gems as “if I said you had a beautiful body would you take your pants off and dance around a little?” and “I find the most erotic part of the woman is the boobies.” He tries to seduce Leela with a spoken-word version of “Lola,” a song about a drag-queen. He attempts to wrangle a threesome out of Amy and Leela by arguing it’s to repopulate the human race (not being smart enough to remember that Leela isn’t human… yet). When Kif is frightened of being killed by snu-snu, Zapp assumes that something is wrong with his sexuality. Basically, he’s the perfect male chauvinist to feature in an episode picking apart chauvinism.

S3E1 - 5Smile.png
Death by Snu-Snu is a bag of mixed emotions.

I think that the final twist in the episode, that the Femputer is a Fembot, ends up being doubly hilarious when she reveals that she only has taken over Amazonia because she lived on a planet which she discovered was run by a chauvinist Manputer which was actually a Manbot. She decided that the best way to deal with an oppressively masculine society was to create an oppressively feminine society. Despite this, she asks Bender if he can understand what it’s like to live in a social structure that’s engineered towards the other gender, and he ends up not even understanding the question. If that’s not social commentary… well, it is, so I don’t need to contemplate the rest of that sentence.

S3E1 - 6Fembot.png
Also, it’s Bea Freaking Arthur.

Amy’s and Kif’s romance really begins in this episode, and it’s one of the most interesting relationships in the show, since they seem to have literally nothing in common. Amy is a wild party girl who isn’t much into monogamy, while Kif is socially awkward and a little obsessive towards her. Despite this, the show manages to actually sell that the two should be together, because they each make the other better. It’s weird to realize, in retrospect, that it started with him semi-stalking her.

FAVORITE JOKE

I’m a sucker for calling out double standards, and this episode has one of the most succinct and funny ones in media. When informed that the leader of Amazonia is a Femputer, this exchange happens:

Fry: A female leader? Hahahahaha.

Leela: Fry, shut up.

Fry: Yes, captain.

This episode makes this shut-down funnier than it normally would be because, while encouraged by Zapp and Bender, Fry is actually being more of a stereotypical male than he usually is. This line reminds us that the status quo is still operating, and that Leela is still not just in charge, but the most competent person on the team.

S3E1 - 7Salute.png

Oh, and DEATH BY SNU-SNU. Everything about it is hilarious.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 32: The Cryonic Woman

NEXT – Episode 34: Parasites Lost

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S2E16 “Anthology of Interest I”

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

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S2EG - ANoShadow.png
Behold, the floor.

FAVORITE JOKE

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

S2EG - BHawking.png
Rest in Peace.

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

S2EG - DHawking2.jpg
Those thieving glasses…

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

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

S2EG - CSchrodinger
Though none matched Schrodinger for cool.

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

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 28: The Problem with Popplers

NEXT – Episode 30: War is the H-Word

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S2 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.

S2EF - 3Mic.png
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.

S2EB - 2Kissing.png
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.

S2EB - 3InPile.png
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.

S2EB - 4CBSquare.png
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.

S2EB - 7Beholder.png
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.

S2E9 - 2SexyTimes.png
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.

S2E9 - 3TrueForm.png
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.

S2E9 - 4MWC.png
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.

S2E9 - 5AmyNaked.png
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.”

S2E9 - 6Yithian.png
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.