Futurama Fridays – S2 E2 “Brannigan, Begin Again”

This is an episode that I basically forgot existed, despite it being one of the funniest episodes in the series. It focuses on the fall and somehow rise of Zapp Brannigan (Billy West)

SUMMARY

S2E2 - Chess.png

Bender (John DiMaggio) and Fry (West) are playing futuristic holo-chess, which Bender wins by having his pieces attack Fry. Later, the Professor (West) sends Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender on a delivery to the headquarters of the Democratic Order of Planets (DOOP), a futuristic United Nations that orbits the Neutral Planet. The crew tries to deliver the oversized ribbon-cutting scissors, but Zapp Brannigan intercepts and arrests them for being part of a plot organized by the Neutral Planet, which Zapp hates for increasingly stupid reasons. However, since Zapp was supposed to use those scissors to cut the ribbon, he decides to improvise with the ship’s laser, which destroys the station. Zapp is then court-martialed, but so is the innocent Kif Kroker (Maurice LaMarche) due to Zapp being a jerk.

S2E2 - 2Laser.png
In his defense, Hyperdeath DOES cut ribbons.

The pair are now homeless and briefly replicate scenes from Midnight Cowboy before showing up at Planet Express begging Leela for a job. Leela refuses, but the Professor overhears and hires them to distract from their horrible safety record. While Kif immediately proves to be extremely competent, he won’t stop complaining about Zapp to Leela’s constant irritation. Zapp, meanwhile, is even less competent than Fry and Bender, while also feeding into their laziness. Soon, Zapp convinces the pair to mutiny against Leela so that they can get drunk in their underwear.

S2E2 - 3Girdle.png
We also find out the limits of a Shatner-class Girdle

This works until Zapp resumes his plans to attack the Neutral Planet, choosing a suicide bombing will result in everyone dying but him. Zapp takes Kif with him, after Leela forces Kif to go. Leela works with Fry and Bender to prevent the crash. At the hearing, Zapp tells the DOOP that he heroically prevented the attack, something that Leela confirms, even “the parts that made no sense,” just to get rid of him. Zapp and Kif are reinstated and the crew returns to the status quo.

END SUMMARY

I love this episode for the amount of time they spend on the complete idiocy of Zapp Brannigan. It’s basically comedy gold, including his wonderful accusation that the safety scissors could be used to attack the Yarn people of Nylar 4. It’s a perfect example of Futurama absurdity.

S2E2 - 4Yarn.png
Also, they wear sandals to a fancy dinner. They deserve to die.

Zapp in this episode is shown to not only be incompetent and lazy, but also to have an insidious nature that manages to save him. He has no qualms about leading a mutiny against Leela and lies blatantly to get the others to support it, but then complains when a completely reasonable mutiny is held in response to him trying to kill the crew and millions of innocents. He hates the Neutral Planet more than his enemies because he’s paranoid about what they’re up to and completely unfamiliar with the concept of Neutrality. When he is confronted at the end with his attempted attack, he responds by concocting such an over-the-top lie that most of the people seem to buy it out of belief that no one would make such a stupid lie and then Leela supports it solely because she doesn’t want to deal with Zapp anymore. If you haven’t met someone who tries the “Big Lie” technique… you’re probably the one doing the lie.

S2E2 - 5Zapp.png
Also, he blames Kif for his failures and is a poor loser.

This episode is also the debut of the Hyper-Chicken (LaMarche), who is another of the best characters in the series. He’s a completely incompetent pastiche of a Southern Matlock-esque lawyer… although apparently he’s supposed to be Jimmy Stewart from Anatomy of a Murder, which predates Matlock. Having been a lawyer in Florida, I can tell you that there are indeed lawyers who play up being the “humble country lawyer” for the jury, despite the fact that they are actually anything but. Matt Groening apparently hates this character due to the simplicity of the joke (he’s just a chicken and therefore the basis of chicken puns, but there is no actual joke about Chickens and Lawyers), but frankly, I find those jokes Finger-Licking good.

 

S2E2 - 6Chicken
He’s a humble hyper-chicken.

FAVORITE JOKE

Everything the Neutral President says is basically perfect.

S2E2 - 7Neutral.png

When asked to give the opening speech at the DOOP headquarters, he says “I have no strong feelings one way or the other.”

When he is told of Zapp’s suspicious acts, he responds “All I know is my gut says: “Maybe.”

When told of the attack, “If I don’t survive, tell my wife ‘Hello.’”

It’s insane to think of someone being this truly neutral, but it’s more insane to think that this is the guy who runs the planet. You’d think that “President” implies that he ran in a democratic election, something that usually requires a platform (insert laugh track), but apparently his platform is that he doesn’t do anything… something that is itself a platform. Still, I think it’s great that he subverts every opportunity for drama.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 14: I Second That Emotion

NEXT – Episode 16: A Head in the Polls

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

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

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Rick and Mondays – S1 E11 “Rick-sy Business”

We’re at the end of season one; time to get wriggedity wriggedity wrecked, son!

SUMMARY

Jerry (Chris Parnell) and Beth (Sarah Chalke) are heading away to take a cruise on Titanic 2, a ship that reenacts the James Cameron movie Titanic. Jerry threatens Rick (Justin Roiland) with no more trips with Morty (Roiland) if the house suffers any damage. However, the minute they’re gone, Summer (Spencer Grammer) announces that she’s having a party. Rick tells her that she can’t, however, because HE is going to have a party. Morty worries that this is going to be the end of the adventure and objects, but they ignore him.

S1EB - 1JerryAndBeth.png
Jerry doesn’t exactly scream “authority” dressed like a drowned broke artist.

On Titanic 2, Jerry is super enthusiastic about reenacting parts of his favorite movie, but Beth mostly just wants to relax and read. She suggests that Jerry use a maid, Lucy (Alejandra Gollas), as a stand-in. Jerry’s a little disappointed, but Lucy is a huge Titanic fan and they begin to have a good time. However, the ship’s planned collision with an iceberg goes awry, resulting in the ship not sinking. This upsets Jerry, but Beth doesn’t care. Lucy takes Jerry below decks and shows him a version of the car in which Jack and Rose bang in Titanic, then reveals herself to be nude and desperate to reenact a love story like she’s watched so many people do before. Jerry refuses, but she pulls a gun on him and forces him to draw her nude, before threatening to rape him. Fortunately, Beth saves him. Lucy attempts to follow them home, but ends up being run over by their car.

S1EB - 2LucyDraw.png
Yes, just like one of his French Girls.

Back at the ranch, Rick invites a ton of alien friends to his party, including Squanchy (Tom Kenny), Bird Person (Dan Harmon), and Revolio “Gear Head” Clockberg, Jr. (Scott Chernoff), three of his friends from his past travels. Unwilling to pass up her own party opportunity, Summer still invites most of her class over in an attempt to increase her own popularity. The party is interrupted at first by Abradolf Lincler (Maurice LaMarche), a former experiment of Rick’s to combine Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler. Morty initially tries to dissuade them from wrecking the house, but ends up trying to hit on Jessica (Kari Wahlgren). Eventually, he shows her the garage, where the pair accidentally activate an invention that sends the house into another dimension.

S1EB - 3SlowMobius.png
Slow Mobius adds the “Can’t Hardly Wait” effect.

On the new planet, Rick tells Morty he needs to find Collaxion crystals to get them back. Morty, Lincler, and Summer’s uncool friend Nancy (Aislinn Paul) venture out into the planet’s wilderness, eventually recovering the crystals at the cost of Lincler. However, it’s revealed that Rick just wanted to snort the crystals as a drug, before showing that he can take them back at any point. Morty, angry at being deceived, throws the crystals out. However, a talk with Bird Person reveals that Rick is actually a miserable person who is asking for help but is too proud to really ask. Morty ends up deciding he still wants to travel with Rick.

S1EB - 4Lincler.png
Technically, he should die by a bullet to the head, either way.

Jerry and Beth return, but Rick freezes time so that they can clean up the house. They goof around in the frozen world and watch Titanic. Morty remarks that Rick seems to be less tortured while spending time with him and Summer. Rick responds by undercutting it and turning on some music while celebrating the end of Season One.

END SUMMARY

Now, one of my favorite things about the episode is that Rick’s party is basically the same as most “wild” parties depicted in media, except filled with insane aliens instead of humans. My favorite is probably Gear Head, who is the epitome of that guy that people don’t want to actually talk to at parties, because they just drone on and on about crap no one wants to hear. Then, later, he’s also the guy who busts out the guitar to play a folk song. If you haven’t been to a party with those guys… well, you’re probably those guys.

S1EB - 5GearHead.png
This is his go-to move. Along with betrayal.

Some of the jokes in this are the most random and also funny in the season. I love most of Abradolf Lincler’s lines, particularly “Prepare to be emancipated from your own inferior genes!” It’s such a crazy line that it fits perfectly for a character who is, explicitly, the result of an insane concept. I also like that Rick takes the high road on Summer for trying to throw a party to get popular, with Rick stating that, like a mature adult, he parties to get wrecked because he doesn’t care about the other people’s opinions.

Beth and Jerry’s B-plot is entertaining, even though it gets a little dark towards the end. The idea that Jerry idolizes the romance of Jack and Rose from Titanic perfectly makes sense of the character, because that’s the kind of relationship that he wants without realizing the inherent flaw there: Jack and Rose only work because Jack dies. Jack and Rose were fiercely in love because Rose hated her life and Jack provided a release from that, while Jack loved Rose for being adventurous. That works for a short time, obviously, but how does a couple like that work when married for 20 years? People change, first of all, but also life has a way of eroding passion like that, which is why marriages and long-term relationships usually have to have something more at their core to sustain them. Jerry and Beth were clearly passionate (enough to get Summer, at least), but much of their story arc so far is them trying to determine if they actually do have something between them that merits keeping their marriage going. It’s like watching Titanic if Jack got his own plank.

S1EB - 6Plank.png
See, he does end up letting go. It’s a metaphor.

This is a solid end to the season because it does show some of the growth that the characters have undergone through the series. Rick is slightly less miserable and self-loathing, having found some value in the time with his family. Morty is more assertive, being willing to stand up to Rick when Rick manipulates him. Is it a huge amount? Not really. But it’s something. Even in a show famous for trying to avert most typical character arcs, some amount of growth is naturally going to occur, if only because the writers themselves have grown during the course of making the show.

Probably the biggest change is Bird Person’s revelation of the real meaning of Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub as “I am in great pain, please help me.” Morty insists that Rick is only saying it ironically, but Bird Person seems confident that Rick is, in fact, in a state of internal agony and begging for help. The end of the episode seems to reinforce that, although the show itself sometimes goes back and forth on it.

JOKER’S THEORY CORNER

One question which seems to come up on the message boards (and the Rick and Morty Wiki) about this episode is why Rick would invite two members of the council of Ricks to the party. They’re only seen in the background throughout the episode, but, given Rick’s general disdain for the council, why would he invite them to his party in the first place? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s because Rick is proud of making it to the end of his first season of television.

S1EB - 7Ricks.png
He’s right next to Daria.

Yes, Rick wanted characters from throughout the season to appear at his party, allowing him to use it as a surrogate celebration of getting through the first 10 episodes despite being an animated show based primarily around nihilism and alcohol. That’s also why he ends the episode by putting on “Shake that Ass Bitch” by Slack Pack and telling everyone that Season One is over. Even better, he ends the season with time frozen so we don’t really have to worry about any changes to the world between the seasons.

LEAVING THE CORNER

While this isn’t quite the level of some of the episodes leading into it, this was still a solid way to end the season. Everything is kind of wrapped up, but we still want more.

Overall, I give this episode a

B+

on the Rick and Morty scale.

Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.

PREVIOUS –  10: Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind

NEXT – 12: A Rickle in Time

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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E12 “When Aliens Attack”

An episode of television about people being obsessed with episodes of television. How meta.

SUMMARY

Back in the 90s (I was in a very famous TV show… wait, different series), Fry (Billy West) delivered a pizza to a Fox Network affiliate but spilled beer over the controls, disrupting Fox’s broadcast of Single Female Lawyer. One thousand-ish years later on the planet Omicron Persei 8, the Ruler of the planet, Lrr (Maurice LaMarche), is watching the broadcast when it gets interrupted, enraging him. He proceeds to bring a fleet of flying saucers to destroy many of Earth’s monuments (which are conveniently now located on a beach in New New York, courtesy of a supervillain Governor).

When he demands “McNeal,” the lead character from Single Female Lawyer, Earth President McNeal (West) misunderstands and believes they want him. As such, he orders an army to be drafted into the Earth defense force led by Zapp Brannigan (West). Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and a forcibly-reprogrammed Bender (John DiMaggio) all join the defense force; unfortunately, they are immediately overwhelmed (after they waste their efforts destroying the Hubble telescope). After Zapp kidnaps and delivers President McNeal, Lrr reveals that he means the TV character and threatens to destroy the Earth.

It’s revealed that there are no surviving copies of the series. Fry, being the only person who knows anything about the show, tries to create an ending to the episode he destroyed, using the Planet Express crew as the cast. Unfortunately, Fry only wrote two pages, forcing Leela to improvise by proposing marriage to the “Judge” Professor Farnsworth (West), something that angers Lrrr. Fry correctly tells her that TV audiences just want the same crap they’ve seen a thousand times before, resulting in her finishing the episode with a contrived monologue that puts the series back at its status quo. Lrrr agrees not to destroy the Earth and Fry tells everyone that the key to television is that the show always ends with everything back to normal. The show then pans out to show global destruction… which will be undone before the next episode.

END SUMMARY

Futurama decided to spend an episode mocking people who make and watch formulaic and unchallenging television, like a certain show that was on Fox for 5 years and managed to win 2 Golden Globes and an Emmy for best series. Not that I have anything against formulaic television (I liked House), but Ally McBeal had a lot of problems without even getting into the part where the lead character was an attorney who was terrible at lawyering. Still, it got awards and had a solid audience share, even if a lot of the viewers didn’t seem to remember much about the show but “short skirts” and “Robert Downey, Jr. getting arrested.”

I have to admit I think it’s pretty ballsy for the show to take shots at other shows for being repetitive and unchallenging this early in the run but, for the most part, I think Futurama did at least try not to be overly formulaic or predictable, even if a lot of their material came from loosely parodying other properties.

Lrrr and his wife, Nd-Nd (Tress MacNeille), are among the most frequently recurring aliens, usually representing a stereotypical dysfunctional sitcom marriage combined with the traditional alien invaders. It’s a weird combination that somehow always seems to work, since Lrrr being an overaggressive and insensitive husband always makes it seem more natural that he’s also the kind of being whose first response to a problem is to invade the planet.

Overall, I like this episode okay, even if it didn’t age super well after nearly 20 years of Ally McBeal being off the air. While it’s more common nowadays to lampoon sitcom structure (BoJack Horseman literally runs on it), this episode was a little bit ahead of that particular trend, so… bonus points of that.

FAVORITE JOKE

There aren’t any jokes in this episode that really stand out, although I do like the end of the fake episode of Single Female Lawyer. Hermes (Phil LaMarr) is playing the foreman of the jury in Jenny McNeal’s trial for jury tampering by having an affair with the judge and previous jury. As a cap for the episode, he gives the verdict:

We find the Defendant… vulnerable yet spunky!

That’s probably exactly what the producers wrote as character motivation for Callista Flockheart at the beginning of every episode of Ally McBeal. Because characterization was not a strength on that show.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 11: Mars University

NEXT – Episode 13: Fry and the Slurm Factory

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S1 E10 “A Flight to Remember”

This is where some network stuff kind of starts to screw up the ordering. On the original DVD sets I had, this was part of Season 1. However, on Amazon, this is part of Season 2. This is because this episode was produced as an episode of Season 1, but it was broadcast later. Since going by the broadcast seasons would mean there are 10 seasons of Futurama, I’m just going to stick with the production seasons. At least it’s not Firefly.

SUMMARY

As a reward for not calling the authorities over all of his horrible business practices, Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) takes the entire Planet Express staff on a trip aboard The Titanic, a space cruise ship. Leela (Katey Sagal) is dismayed to find out that the captain of The Titanic is Zapp Brannigan (West) and decides to pretend that Fry (West, again) is her fiancé so that Zapp won’t try to sleep with her.

S1EA-1Zapp.png
He’s a keeper.

Bender (John DiMaggio) meets a wealthy fembot, the Countess De La Roca (Tress MacNeille), and pretends to be a rich bachelor in order to rob her. However, he ends up confessing the truth after falling for her. She reciprocates and they do a parody of Jack and Rose in Titanic. Amy (Lauren Tom) runs into her parents, Leo and Inez Wong (West and Tom), who want to set her up with a random stranger, so she pretends Fry is her boyfriend. Now burdened with two fake girlfriends, hi-jinks ensue for Fry. Leela gets jealous of Fry pretending to date Amy, leading to Leela and Fry having a romantic moment that leads to them almost kissing.

S1EA-2Bender.png
He’s a fraud. A poor, lazy, sexy fraud. 

Meanwhile, Zapp has decided, for no real reason, to change the cruise route, resulting in The Titanic getting too close to a black hole and being caught in its pull and entering the event horizon. This interrupts Fry and Leela’s moment. The crew starts to evacuate, while Bender heads back to save the countess. The crew gets caught by a bulkhead door which Zoidberg (West) barely keeps from closing. However, Hermes (Phil LaMarr) is revealed to be a professional limbo champion and, with the help of his wife, LaBarbara (Dawnn Lewis), makes it under the door and frees them. Bender and the Countess make it back to the escape pod, but it’s too heavy. The Countess sacrifices herself to save them… and she’ll never be mentioned again.

END SUMMARY

Well, much like “A Big Piece of Garbage,” this was a parody of a then-recent movie. Take a guess which one. It’s mostly a set-up for the first real romantic tension we get between Fry and Leela, but the other character interactions are also pretty fulfilling. Everyone has at least some small side-story.

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So close, and yet, so many seasons to go.

Bender’s romance is pretty much in-character for him. He believes it’s real love but, ten seconds after she’s dead, he tries to pawn the Countess’s necklace. Hermes’ tragic past as a limbo champion is one of the funniest gags in the show that keeps going. The idea that a small child killed himself trying to limbo out of adulation for Hermes is so ridiculous and yet it works perfectly within the episode and for the character. Zapp’s capricious piloting and rampant idiocy is also in character, reminding me why I love him so much and why he would be the first person I would kill if I was on a ship with him. Not that I kill people on boats, but it’s good to have an order just in case. The Professor gets some action from Hattie McDoogal (MacNeille) which will come up a few more times. Zoidberg… well, he’s there and he’s hilarious.

S1EA-4Limbo.png
He has an Olympian’s build.

This episode sets up a few nice character moments that continue through the series. Kif (Maurice LaMarche) and Amy meet, which eventually leads to their romance. Amy’s parents and their constant meddling are introduced. Fry and Leela’s romance starts, albeit roughly. Hermes’ limbo past comes up. Overall, I like the fact that, aside from a few throwaway gags with Bender and the Countess, this episode didn’t really rely on the movie Titanic that much.

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Her parents look way too happy about this.

FAVORITE JOKE

The episode’s lighter on complicated gags, since it’s more a series of vignettes about the characters intertwining. So, here are my top three:

  1. The Buffet

S1EA-6Buffet.png

“All You Can Eat Plus A Whole Chicken.” I mean, I love a buffet, so this one kind of hit home. You can’t beat just dropping an extra chicken on the plate, particularly on a cruise.

     2. Bender’s Drawing

S1EA-7Drawing.png
It was the most e-rotic moment of my life. Yes, that’s a joke.

They replicate the famous drawing scene in Titanic, but with Bender’s finger operating as a Dot Matrix printer. When it’s revealed, it turns out Bender sees her nudity as a circuit diagram. It’s a nice double-joke inside of five seconds.

     3. iZac (Phil LaMarr)

S1EA-8iZac.png

iZac is a great character gag. It’s Isaac Washington from The Love Boat played by Ted Lange, except that this one doesn’t take any crap. When Bender tries to steal drinks, he has him beaten for being a deadbeat. Also, yes, it’s a pun on iMac which only became more relevant as time went on and iPods and iPads came out.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 9: Hell is Other Robots

NEXT – Episode 11: Mars University

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S1 E8 “A Big Piece of Garbage”

This episode wins the award for most direct title. It’s also a wonderful shot at Armageddon, the movie it satirizes a bit. Granted, I am the rare reviewer who kind of enjoys that film, as dumb and terrible and made by Michael Bay as it is, but I still thought turning the focus of the movie into a giant wad of human waste was pretty funny.

SYNOPSIS

Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) attempts to impress his peers at the Academy of Inventors symposium with his new invention, the Death Clock. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the symposium, he is told by his nemesis Dr. Wernstrom (David Herman) that he actually presented the Death Clock last year and was mocked for it. In response, he claims to have designed a Smell-o-scope, a device that lets you smell through a telescope. He is again mocked for this invention. Moreover, after he vows to build it anyway, it’s revealed that, like the Death Clock, he already invented it and forgot about it.

S1E8-1Smelloscope
Amazingly no one noticed before.

Fry (West) begins smelling around the Universe, including Urectum (the new name for Uranus), before he smells something absolutely disgusting. It’s revealed to be a giant ball of garbage that was created by 21st Century New York and launched into space. Farnsworth and the crew try to warn Mayor Poopenmeyer (Herman) but are challenged by Wernstrom until the ball passes Neptune, confirming its existence. Since, much like in Armageddon, nothing can be used to shoot the ball down, Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio) land on the ball and plant a giant bomb. Unfortunately, the Professor put the timer in wrong, resulting in the team having to get rid of it before it destroys the ball.

S1E8-2RightStuff
The Right Stuff walk was just a bonus.

Upon returning, Fry comes up with the plan to launch an identical ball of garbage at the current one, so the entire city pollutes as much as they can to create enough trash to match it. After just under a day, they launch their filth-sphere, deflecting the other one into the Sun. Leela points out that the new ball will just come back, but Fry says nobody cares because that won’t be for 1000 years.

END SYNOPSIS

Since this episode aired in 1999, Armageddon and Deep Impact had both been big films the previous year, making this parody pretty timely, given the pace of animation. Disturbingly, Futurama’s physics aren’t much less ridiculous than either of those films, aside from Farnsworth somehow making a machine that can smell through the vacuum of space. I also appreciate that, rather than just doing the parody all the way through, the third act of this episode consists of them coming up with a different, albeit ridiculous, solution to the impeding impact.

S1E8-3BallOfTrash
Trashy television.

I do have a theory on the Smell-O-Scope, though. Currently, we can use spectrographs and spectrometers to determine the chemical compositions of objects found in space by measuring the intensity of the various spectrums of light emitted from the object. I believe the Smell-O-Scope is just a very high-level spectrograph which also is capable of replicating the chemical compositions in small doses and sending them through the nozzle into the nostrils of the person smelling it. Basically, it sees what you’re pointing at, determines what it would smell like, and lets you smell it. Or it’s magic.

S1E8-4Smelloscope
Apparently there’s a real one.

Aside from the plot, though, this episode should be respected for introducing us to the recurring character of Morbo the newsmonster (Maurice LaMarche). I love this character, because he’s the kind of newscaster that the world really needs, constantly reveling in the fact that humans are weak and doomed. Let’s be honest for a second, that’s already what most news programs are about. The news is rarely about pleasant or hopeful stories, they’re almost always about things indicating some imminent crisis or depicting a horrible event. That’s what makes for ratings. While Morbo isn’t technically celebrating any of these things for those reasons, he’s accompanied by the ever-upbeat Linda (Tress MacNeille), who cheerfully jokes with him about these events. Together, they represent a more-honest version of the news: They love when bad crap happens and they’re open about it.

S1E8-5Morbo

Also, apparently the Professor’s bomb error is a reference to a failed terrorist attack in the ‘90s. The terrorists put the timer on the explosive upside down, resulting in them setting the bomb for two seconds instead of five minutes, killing one of them and wounding the other severely. I would never have thought something like that could be taken from reality, but apparently it is.

FAVORITE JOKE

The video for the background of the garbage ball is hilarious. First, it has Rudy Giuliani putting all of New York’s garbage on a barge and just kicking it out to sea. This was before 9/11, meaning that everyone still thought that Giuliani was kind of shady. The garbage barge then floats around the world, somehow, before coming back to New York. New York then launches it into space using its mob connections, rather than any official channels.

S1E8-6Rudy.png

Now, this is kind of a clever set-up, but it’s the last part that really sets the joke apart. Farnsworth mentions that he got the video off of the internet, which Fry says was just for pornography back in the 20th century. However, it turns out that this video is a porno. The terrible music that’s been playing over the documentary is actually the muzak we find in erotic films, which, in retrospect, makes perfect sense. And it has my favorite porn exchange, even if it’s fake:

Girl: Now that the garbage is in space, doctor, perhaps you can help me with my sexual inhibitions.

Guy: With gusto!

It’s so perfectly bad.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 7: My Three Suns

NEXT – Episode 9: Hell is Other Robots

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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E7 “My Three Suns”

This is the episode that has Bender (John DiMaggio) singing a parody of Rose Royce’s “Car Wash” as “Bot Wash.” This is simultaneously an extremely lazy joke and also hilarious, proving that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I appreciate that, since all of my jokes are lazy.

SYNOPSIS

Bender is watching a cooking show featuring Elzar (DiMaggio), a parody of some chef who says “BAM!” a lot and expresses a desire to be a chef. Hermes (Phil LaMarr) points out that Bender doesn’t technically do anything at his job, so Bender agrees to be the chef’s cook. While buying ingredients in Little Neptune, a neighborhood near Little Uranus and Little Italy, Fry (Billy West) wanders off and almost sells his lungs to an organ dealer. Leela (Katey Sagal) saves him, but he’s ungrateful.

S1E7-1LittleNeptune.png
I still can’t figure out what the Number 9 man is doing handing out money.

Back at the Planet Express building, the Professor (West) sends the usual trio, along with Amy (Lauren Tom) and Dr. Zoidberg (West), on a delivery to the planet Trisol. Along the way, Bender serves a dish that’s made almost entirely of salt, causing everyone to be thirsty. When they land on the planet, Fry heads off to make the delivery, but becomes delirious with thirst walking through the desert of the planet with three suns. He eventually reaches a castle and drinks a bottle of blue liquid to quench his thirst, which turns out to be the Emperor Bont (Maurice LaMarche).

S1E7-2Sign
To be fair to Fry, there wasn’t a sign telling him not to.

Surprisingly, Fry is made Emperor of the Trisolian people. It turns out that the Trisolian Emperor is whoever slew the previous one. Leela finds this alarming, but when she discloses it to Fry, he thinks she’s worrying for nothing and insults her. However, when Fry takes the oath of coronation, the suns of Trisol go down and reveal that Bont is still alive inside Fry’s stomach. The Emperor orders the population to cut Fry open and release him, leading Fry to lock himself and the crew inside the castle. The crew decide to have Fry cry out Bont, but he can’t cry. Bender calls Leela for help, then claims she’s killed, making Fry cry two drops. Leela then shows up unharmed and presents her own plan: Beating Fry physically until he cries. Bont ends up free, but also takes a turn kicking Fry’s ass.

S1E7-3Bont
Also, there’s a Homer on Bender’s sash.

END SYNOPSIS

So, the emotional core of this episode is the distance between Fry and Leela caused by Fry’s irresponsibility and Leela’s frustration towards him. A lot of why it bothers Leela so much is because she cares so much about Fry, including having romantic feelings for him, but she knows that his behavior keeps them from ever being together. That’s why it’s so much sweeter of a moment when Leela does agree to save him and when Fry’s feelings of sadness at the thought of losing her prove to be the only thing that can make him cry. It’s an episode giving them circumstances to exacerbate the problems in the relationship, but also giving them an opportunity to recognize that their feelings haven’t changed since the tender moment in the pilot.

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She doesn’t have the most passive form of aggression.

Aside from that core, we also have an episode that deals with an interesting society, similar to episodes of Star Trek and its progeny. The Trisolians and their Emperor succession are examples of the Sword of Damocles principle taken to a huge extreme. If you’re the Emperor, you are literally always a target and, due to the nature of the Trisolians, you’re really easy to kill. Rather then deal with elections or parties or ruling houses, the Trisolians just let whoever is sitting on the throne be the leader. Weirdly, it doesn’t seem to be hurting much of their society, probably because it seems like the Prime Ministers carry on between all the administrations and the Emperor doesn’t appear to actually run the country aside from appointing the Prime Minister. It’s possible that, in the past, the Emperors have all nominated or maintained the Prime Minister that best administered the planet. Or maybe their planet just sucks a lot, but not as much as you’d think for a society where the leadership is changing, on average, every week.

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Granted, they’ve adapted well.

I should pick this as the episode to discuss Alien Language 1, because this is the episode that really made it easy to figure out. Apparently, a bunch of people had figured it out from the pilot, but I don’t think they’d actually shown all of the symbols until this episode. The language is pretty easy, it’s just a substitution cipher for English. It’s found all throughout this episode in easily translatable messages. I appreciate that the writers went as far as to include something like this, but, they got ticked off that too many people figured it out too fast and made the much more complicated Alien Language 2, which I’ll address later when it shows up. Apparently, they also designed an Alien Language 3 and it is even crazier.

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I mean, I still appreciate the effort.

As another note, I have to point out that in the commentary for this episode, Matt Groening makes the startling admission that he never has seen an episode of Star Trek. However, David X Cohen, the show’s co-creator, states that he is basically never NOT watching Star Trek, so it evens out. I just find it funny that a show so filled with Star Trek references has a creator who wasn’t familiar with the series.

Oh, and this is the first episode where Professor Farnsworth says “Good news, everyone!” which will be his catchphrase. Prior to this, he’d said variations on it, much like Scotty in the original Star Trek. Not that Groening would get that.

FAVORITE JOKE

I’m gonna pick Fry’s telling of “The Grasshopper and the Ant.” See, in the original Aesop version, the grasshopper is foolish and doesn’t store up for the winter, then comes to beg for food from the ant and is refused, killing her. They’re both girls because the words for the animals are feminine in most languages. However, as Christianity started to take over Europe, most of the revised versions changed the story so that, even though the grasshopper was foolish, the ant still gave her food out of a sense of charity or goodwill. That was even further revised by at least one author to having the ant give her food out of an appreciation for the grasshopper’s music. Another version, weirdly, portrays the ant as being in the wrong and in that one the ant is a thief, but I’m now way off track.

S1E7-7AntGrasshopper
Until you get to the American versions, where all the characters have to be boys.

Fry’s version, entitled “The Grasshopper and the Octopus,” is insane. He tells it to Leela thus:

It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long the grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came and the grasshopper died and the octopus ate all his acorns and also he got a racecar.

So, Fry, rather than taking the original story that would criticize his behavior or the version that would encourage Leela to help him despite it, instead crafts a version in which he can behave badly and he will not only be rewarded but Leela will be punished. However, the rest of the episode plays out both the original and the revised versions. At first, Leela refuses to help Fry after he tells her off, but then she realizes that, even though Fry has done nothing to deserve it, she’s going to help him anyway. That’s why I think it’s funny that, rather than lampshade either of those as the outcomes, they instead have Fry turn the fable into an insane rant.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 6: A Fishful of Dollars

NEXT – Episode 8: A Big Piece of Garbage

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S1 E6 “A Fishful of Dollars”

Welcome to the only episode of Futurama that I have repeatedly used to teach a math lesson.

SYNOPSIS

Fry (Billy West) is sick of being broke after he can’t afford a nice pair of underwear. At the same time, Bender (John DiMaggio) gets arrested. To pay his bail, Fry decides to see if his bank account is still open, remembering that he had almost a dollar in it. After entering his PIN, Fry finds out that, over the last millennium, his $0.93 has grown to $4.3 Billion. Now that he’s rich, Fry goes on a spending spree trying to acquire as much nostalgia from his home millennium as possible, but ends up driving his friends away.

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He’s Top Hat Rich, bordering on Monocle Rich.

During an auction, Fry buys the last known container of anchovies on Earth, something that angers evil industrialist Mom (Tress MacNeille) because she believes it to be part of a clever plan to corner the robot oil industry. She sends her three Stooge sons Walt, Larry, and Igner (Maurice LaMarche, David Herman, DiMaggio) to steal either the anchovies or his money. They convince Fry he’s still in 1999, causing him to reveal his PIN. Now broke again, Fry reveals he still has the anchovies. However, he refuses Mom’s offer to buy them, instead choosing to share them with his friends. Naturally, everyone hates them except Zoidberg (West).

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Billions of dollars are in that can.

END SYNOPSIS

Okay, this is another example of Futurama taking a traditional premise and messing around with it within their unique setting. This is the rags-to-riches-to-rags story where the nouveau riche character suddenly loses interest in everything in their prior life, realizes how terrible it would be to lose their past friends, then loses their money to reset the status quo. It’s a sitcom standard. Hell, I remember a Gilligan’s Island episode that has that same arc, except with imagined wealth. But, kudos to the math-loving writers of Futurama (something that will come up again), they found a semi-practical way to give Fry the money and a completely ridiculous way for him to lose it.

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With a cameo of Academy Award-Winning actress Pamela Anderson.

Fry even makes the lesson explicit when he says that he finally found what he needs to be happy and “it’s not friends, it’s things.” Bender even humorously points out that he IS a thing. But, rather than it being the loss of his money that makes Fry realize he was wrong, it’s actually thinking he’s back in the 20th Century and that Leela (Katey Sagal) and Bender were never real in the first place. It’s a nice twist, because it means that Fry probably would have learned the lesson even if he’d kept the money. If it was just that he was forced back into his old life and learned it, then it’d feel disingenuous, because he didn’t have other options.

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The idea that a renewable resource could threaten an industrialist’s monopoly is also not exactly new, but this one is pretty damned funny. I love that Mom already has figured out that the easiest way to harvest anchovy oil isn’t by recreating anchovies, but by putting the oil-making gene in a bunch of third-world kids. However, she doesn’t intend to do that, because it would stop her from being able to constantly sell her own oil. It’s like the argument people give for why there’s not a cure for diabetes: It’s not that it can’t be made, it’s that companies don’t want to cure something they can sell tons of treatments for. This idea is actually stupid, of course, since the first company to come up with the cure could patent it and make insurmountable profits selling the cure, which they would do because, otherwise, someone else could develop it and do the same. However, since Mom is the only robot oil manufacturer, the plan actually makes sense for her.

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Mom and her Stooge sons

For the record, I’m not criticizing them for re-using old ideas, I’m giving them credit for making old ideas work in original ways.

Btw, if you care about doing the math on Fry’s money using the compound interest equation, you find out that the numbers actually do work out if Fry’s account compounded annually. In fact, when I’ve taught compound interest, this is my go-to example to work through, since people tend to like pop-culture-based lessons more. I’ve also had to watch a lot of students get disappointed when I inform them that banks have safeguards in place to prevent people or businesses from doing this kind of thing. As if a lot of them were going to be cryogenically frozen. In any case, I appreciate that they at least made the numbers work. However, I cruelly have made students calculate the purchasing power of that $4.3 Billion if inflation is 3%, something that makes it worth much less than a penny, because inflation ruins everything.

S1E6-6Interest

FAVORITE JOKE

It’s pretty easy in this one. It’s the Petridge Farm ad. It’s short, and it’s a play on Pepperidge Farm, and I think this joke was just the right amount of ahead of its time. It’s not shown, but you hear the ad as:

Do you remember a time when chocolate chip cookies came fresh from the oven? Petridge Farm remembers.

Do you remember a time when women couldn’t vote and certain folk weren’t allowed on golf courses? Petridge Farm remembers.

At the time this aired, there wasn’t as much of a cultural recognition of how much we whitewash our past, because it was the ‘90s and it felt like everything was going up. But, in the last few years, we’ve really had a lot of discussion about how much the US, and people in general, tend to romanticize the past or forget about all the people that were getting the short-end of the stick back then, instead idealizing it as a time where everything was just magical and people were better, despite all of the statistics. Well, this joke just cuts out all the pretense and reminds us that what people who want the past really want is a time when other people were suppressed. It’s not that life was easier, it’s that life was easier for some people, because it was harder for others. And the companies that market to that nostalgia are contributing to that. South Park would later do this idea in a more complex way with their Memberberries in Season 20.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 5: Fear of a Bot Planet

NEXT – Episode 7: My Three Suns

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.