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.

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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.

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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

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“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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E9 “Hell is Other Robots”

This episode introduces us to the intricacies of Robot religion, one of the funniest aspects of this show. Given that Robots should never have any of the issues of wondering about who created them or why, you’d think they wouldn’t need to create a religion, but they not only create it, they make an afterlife that is designed to resemble only the most artistic interpretations of hell.

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Okay, maybe not ALL artistic interpretations.

*Note: I don’t have anything against Christianity. I do have things against certain interpretations of Christianity that this episode satirizes without naming. If you belong to one of these sects and don’t have a sense of humor about it, you might want to wait a week and read the review of the Titanic parody.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West), Bender (John DiMaggio), and Leela (Katey Sagal) attend a concert of the disembodied Beastie Boys. Bender goes backstage and tries “jacking on,” which is something robots do to get high by giving themselves huge shots of electricity. Bender becomes addicted to this, hurting his friends and co-workers, until he ends up trying to get high on top of the Temple of the Church of Robotology, then falls through a skylight and ends up seeking salvation from the Preacherbot (Phil LaMarr).

S1E9-2JackingOn
Robot drugs are very much like human ones, but with fewer animation costs.

Bender takes up Robotology, but becomes nearly insufferable to all of his friends. They decide that they prefer him as he was, rather than the ultra-pious person he has become, so they take him to Atlantic City and tempt him repeatedly with hookers, booze, gambling, and theft. He asks them to stop because he has inner peace, but Fry keeps encouraging him until he gives in and returns to his old ways. Unfortunately, it turns out that Robotology is more direct than many religions and, for sinning, Bender is abducted by the Robot Devil (Dan “I’m Homer F*cking Simpson” Castellaneta) and sent to be punished in Robot Hell to a musical number.

S1E9-3HellFirst
Look! Iron Butterflies!

 Fry and Leela make their way to New Jersey, where Robot Hell is located, and descend to rescue Bender. They find out that due to the “Fairness in Hell Act of 2275” anyone can challenge the Robot Devil to a fiddle contest and win back Bender’s soul as well as a golden fiddle. However, if they lose, they only win a silver fiddle and the Robot Devil will kill Fry. The Devil plays excellently, however, rather than play against him, Leela just beats him over the head and the trio escapes.

END SUMMARY

This is truly a textbook three-act structure. The first act is Bender’s addiction which could be a stand-alone story, the second is the rise and fall of his faith, and the last is his escape from perdition. A lot manages to happen in just 22 minutes through the use of a lot of quick dialogue and imagery shortcuts. I know I’ve said that having the “Most Plot” is not the equivalent of having the “Best Plot,” but managing to fit an entire Opera format into a half-hour is damned impressive, particularly since it also has musical numbers.

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Yep, matches the diagram.

Robotology is one of the better digs at some specific churches that I’ve seen in fiction. The church doesn’t actually reflect upon the positive reward aspects promised by the Gospel in Christianity or helping their members aspire to be better people. Instead, it just threatens damnation upon anyone who commits a sin. It’s all stick, no carrot. They even adopt “resistor” as their symbol. Granted, with Robotology, this is actually pretty justified, since many robots can’t actually die (they just download into back-up units or drift around as programs). This means they don’t need a concept of a rewarding afterlife, only a punishment for transgression (though one episode suggests a robot heaven might exist); hence, the Robot Devil doesn’t need to wait for that pesky “dying” thing to collect his victims.

S1E9-5Devil
Instead, it’s just a trip over the Jersey Turnpike.

Bender’s addiction tale is so comically exaggerated, the episode makes a joke about it being over-the-top, then takes it up a notch. However, it doesn’t come off as too disrespectful of addiction, since Bender does seem to recognize that he has a problem. He sees all the trouble it causes himself and others, but he can’t stop jacking on. The fact that he eventually overcomes it by converting to religion is a nod both to the nature of most recovery programs in the US which stress finding a higher power to believe in and also a nod to the fact that Bender’s new obsession with his faith is less a genuine change of belief than just substituting one addiction for another.

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Two minutes after being told to go back to vice.

The Robot Devil is amazing. He’s one of my favorite characters. He’s so melodramatic solely for the love of being melodramatic that you just can’t bring yourself to think he’s really that bad. Granted, part of that is that he is probably less objectively harmful to society than Bender, whose long list of sins are enumerated in song in this episode. I also love that the Robot Devil constantly misuses the word “ironic” in the same way people often misunderstand irony when reading Dante’s Inferno, something that even gets brought up repeatedly in one of his future episodes “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings.” Granted, this was after Alanis Morissette decided to make it even more convoluted with an absurdly catchy song.

S1E9-7DevilDrum
He’s not very good at dodging, though.

FAVORITE JOKE

This is kind of a repeat from “I, Roommate,” but I have to go with the Church’s sign that is displayed during Bender’s Baptism.

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The candles are on “resistance” symbols and the lamps are nested diode symbols. Love it.

This is a reference to the BASIC computer language and the command “Goto” which performs a one-way transfer to another line and never returns. The joke here isn’t just that the rules are written in BASIC or that it’s a one-way transfer to hell, but also that there is literally nothing else to their religion. You sin, you go to hell. You don’t sin… you get nothing. There’s no conditional function that says “find salvation” or “find peace” or “get everlasting reward.” Again, it makes some form of sense in the robot religion, but it’s also an occurrence in some human churches.

S1E9-BJesusChurch
Some are more negative than others. Also, they’re shitheads.

Close runner-up, though, is the title of the episode, “Hell is Other Robots.” This is a play on the most common translation of a line from No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre: “Hell is other people.” In No Exit, the true torture of hell is being stuck in a room with other terrible people and being unable to stop valuing yourself through the opinions of others. In Futurama, hell is just other robots torturing you for eternity. Neither version actually requires the demons of traditional Christianity. However, Robot Hell is actually designed to resemble it, making it a subversion of the title’s reference. Whatever, I think it’s funny.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 8: A Big Piece of Garbage

NEXT – Episode 10: A Flight to Remember

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.

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I still can’t figure out what the Number 9 man is doing handing out money.

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

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

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

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

END SYNOPSIS

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

S1E7-4FryPunch
She doesn’t have the most passive form of aggression.

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

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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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E3 “I, Roommate”

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

SUMMARY

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

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Thank you for not drawing a more elaborate ass.

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

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Spacious!

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

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Admittedly, if you can make it work, it’s a great use of space.

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

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Hattie McDoogal makes her what-cha-call-it… Debut!

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

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Blind-Stinking SOBER!

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

S1E3-6BenderCloset
Why indeed?

END SUMMARY

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

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

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Yeah, this is a real timeless gag.

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

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

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If you make this affordable, the question is who wouldn’t I kill for it?

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

Favorite Joke:

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

S1E3-9HomeSweet.jpg

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

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 2: The Series Has Landed

NEXT – 4: Love’s Labours Lost in Space

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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E2 “The Series has Landed”

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

SUMMARY

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

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Giant Birds are just part of the job.

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

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

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The gang is now all here

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

S1E2-7LunaPark

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

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

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

S1E2-8WhalersOnTheMoon

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

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

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

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In fact, forget the park!

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

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

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Never explain this. It’s beautiful just as it is.

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

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Also, the flag is no longer white.

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

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END SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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TiVo killed his joke shortly after this episode debuted.

See you next week, meatbags.

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The Incredibles 2: Great Movie, Pretty Good Message (Spoiler Free)

By the Grouch on the Couch

Well, it’s been 14 years and we finally got the thing that Pixar should have known we’d throw money at, a sequel to Brad Bird’s The Incredibles. I can only assume the delay was because Sam Jackson was busy being in 113 movies in the meantime. Guy’s the only actor who out-films porn stars.

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If you didn’t see the first one, here’s a quick summary of the premise: It’s the 1950s. Superheroes exist. Lawsuits for personal injuries also exist. Lawsuits beat superheroes. Congress makes laws. Laws beat superheroes. Superheroes are forced to retire. Two of them get married and have three kids who also have powers. Now it’s the early ‘60s. The family ends up fighting against a supervillain whose plan is to… make himself a superhero, then sell off technology that would allow everyone to be equal to superheroes. The family beats him, the free world is saved, and superheroes are… still illegal.

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The family is basically a twist on the Fantastic Four. The mom stretches, the dad is super-strong and invulnerable, the daughter can become invisible and create forcefields, and the eldest son is superfast because if he had fire-based powers Disney would have sued. As Disney now owns Fantastic Four, but not their movie rights (yet), I guess that’s a good call. Jack-Jack, in the short that was on the DVD for the film and for a few moments in the movie, is revealed to have a huge number of superhuman abilities (later described as “limitless potential”), much like Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman’s son, Franklin Richards, whose powers are basically only outmatched by the One-Above-All, AKA GOD.

SPOILER-FREE SUMMARY

So, the movie picks up shortly after the end of the last film… by like 2 minutes. We immediately see the Parr family trying to resume superheroics and get our quick re-introductions. Bob, AKA Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), is the father whose life is defined by superheroics more than his family or career, though the last movie taught him how much more his family means to him. Helen, AKA Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), is the mother who is the more active parent and, arguably, the more successful superhero, except from a marketing and name-recognition perspective. In the last movie, she learned… nothing. She’s basically perfect, so she doesn’t really get a character arc. Violet, the daughter (Sarah Vowell), is a social outcast who has just started to become more open and outgoing. Dash, the middle son (Huck Milner), is the troublemaker who has learned to be more disciplined. Jack-Jack, the baby, is a baby. Their only real friend is Lucius Best, AKA Frozone (Samuel L. Motherf*cking Jackson).

Incredibles2Frozone

Basically, the premise is that a guy wants to make superheroes legal again, so he has Helen put her costume back on and fight crime, while Bob looks after the family. Now, the general premise here is pretty interesting because, remember, this takes place in the early 1960s. Bob genuinely seems shocked when Helen proposes that she get a job, because he’s “the man of the house.” Throughout much of the movie, he’s struggling to deal with being a stay-at-home parent, something that he cannot use any of his natural superhuman abilities to help with. It gets even worse when the baby starts to show off his superpowers, which include a number of abilities that make him problematic to babysit.

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Meanwhile, Helen… well, she doesn’t really have any problems being a superhero again. Honestly, that’s one of the things I loved most about the movie, that they didn’t try to portray Helen as having trouble being a working woman again in some attempt to add conflict. Instead, she’s portrayed as strong, intelligent, tactically brilliant, and resourceful as hell. The movie’s supervillain nemesis is a little corny, but still provides enough of a contest for Elastigirl to show off how good she is at what she does.

Without really spoiling anything, at the end of the movie, the family comes together, saves the day, roll credits. If you didn’t see that coming, I have to assume you don’t know how childrens’ movies work.

END SUMMARY

First off, everything about this movie, from a technical and storytelling standpoint, was amazing. The characters are well-crafted, the dialogue is amazing, the locations are creative, the villain is pretty well done (see below), and the pacing is basically perfect. I almost think it’s better than the original, honestly. The animation is wonderful, but I found it funny that it really highlights exactly how much Pixar’s animation has improved in the past 14 years, because even the explicitly cartoonish and exaggerated characters from the previous film are now given an extraordinary amount of detail. They’re still less realistic than they could be, but the hair movement and muscle movement in some of the scenes is really elaborate. And the message about the power of family is always good. I loved this film the whole way through, right until something started bugging me on the ride home.

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Alright, so, a lot of people had issues with the message of the first movie, since the main family is naturally gifted with superpowers, while the villains are all people who use technology to even the playing field (Bomb Voyage, The Underminer, Syndrome). It gives sort of a “the special are genetically special and trying to change that is evil.” Some people called it reminiscent of Ayn Rand, but those people apparently never read Ayn Rand. While it’s true that Rand believed that society should support the superior people (i.e. the wealthy) at the expense of the lesser peoples (i.e. the working class), the concept of a superhero would have offended her sensibilities, since she claimed altruism was the worst thing in the world in her essay collection The Virtue of Selfishness. Yes, that’s actually its title. Even if Mr. Incredible does enjoy superheroics because of the fame it brings him, he still risks his life constantly to save other people for no reward. When he is stuck at a desk job, he still is trying to help people within the insurance company, to the point that his boss threatens to fire him for it. So, no, not Rand, never Rand. If you’re going to criticize something, read the thing you’re criticizing first (*cough* Everyone on the internet *cough*).

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Still, the idea that people born with gifts are heroes and people who use their minds are villains isn’t stopped during this movie. As far as I can recall, there is no Batman equivalent in this. There is no tech-based superhero like Iron Man. There doesn’t even appear to be someone like the Hulk or the Flash, who has artificially-granted superpowers, although the movie doesn’t really explore this much. My point is, they definitely didn’t shy away from that criticism. And, let’s be honest, when you go into “some people are born genetically superior” territory, you really open up a lot of issues that tend to rhyme with “Race-based Bin-o-slide.” But, the movie does try to at least portray that there are superheroes in every country, from every genetic background, which I think is them trying to equate superheroes not to race or ethnicity, but to people born with natural aptitudes. If you look at it from that lens, the movie’s message is “use your natural talents to the benefit of everyone,” and it’s only people who choose to use them for selfish reasons or out of spite, that are bad. After all, all the villains are naturally superhumanly intelligent in order to make their devices, but they could easily just do what Syndrome suggests in the first movie: Sell all of their gadgets and make everyone super. It’s meant to be villainous in the way that Syndrome is suggesting it, but, seriously, how is that a bad idea?

Well, in this movie, we’re actually given hints that some other people have done exactly that. While the movie still takes place in 1963 (based on The Outer Limits airing in one scene and the fact that the last movie took place over several months), we see some technology which is far ahead of its time, like digital video files and a commercial mag-lev train. So, maybe, there are some people who are using their talents for the betterment of mankind. Granted, you’d think that Syndrome’s patents alone would have moved us forward 50 years, but maybe he just kept most of his stuff secret. Still, the movie series does have a tone of “super-strong = good, super-smart=bad,” which, to be honest, is a common thing in superhero comics (Superman v. Lex Luthor). Without a Batman or a Mr. Terrific or a Tony Stark to counter it, though, it does just stay at “strong good, smart bad.” And I’m not a fan of that message, even if not deliberate.

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A villain… who regularly advances science by decades.

But, all of that aside, I’d like to address another message that really comes up more in this film. The premise of the film is a debate about whether or not we should have superheroes. It’s pretty similar in some ways to the debate in Captain America: Civil War, only in this one every country has a ton of supers, as opposed to Civil War, where there really are only a hundred or so on Earth until the Inhuman spread happens… and even then, it still seems like there are less than a few thousand (I’m not caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).  And that debate is something I’m gonna address more in the future, but for now, let me state how I see both sides, at present.

On the one side, the supers, who want the freedom to do good works and help people without the government getting in the way. On the other, the government, who see supers as a giant problem since they’re basically destructive vigilantes who are not held accountable for most of their actions. Since the focus of the movie is on the supers, who do you think seems more reasonable in the narrative? Hell, at one point, a government agent says that politicians don’t like altruism, because they don’t understand it. That’s mostly true, if a cheap generalization that reflects poorly upon the American people, but that’s not why you wouldn’t want superheroes fighting in your cities. You don’t want supers because they cause a ton of collateral damage. The movie even acknowledges this when they state that A) when Mr. Incredible tries to thwart crime, he causes a huge amount of the city to be destroyed and B) when it’s revealed that his cost/benefit analysis to the city is not good. That’s actually why they choose his wife, who can avoid collateral damage and casualties, to be the face of superheroics. And that’s where we kind of run into an issue.

Incredibles2Superman

See, no one should have a problem with Elastigirl being a superhero. She’s well-trained, she prioritizes minimizing casualties and collateral damage, and she tries to avoid conflict when possible. In an age of Man of Steel, this is a reminder of the right way to do things. But what about Mr. Incredible? He’s done nothing to earn being a superhero besides being born super-strong and deciding to help people. His attempts to stop one of the villains takes out several buildings. In the first film, failing to effectively dispose of a bomb (like, by throwing it upwards?) results in him having to stop an elevated train, causing massive injuries onboard. While a good Samaritan law would probably protect him when he saves a suicidal jumper, this one is probably a lot more ambiguous and might actually have cost him his immunity from liability, since he’s saving them from what could be considered his own reckless actions.

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Oh, and supers can wreck your livelihood for petty reasons.

And what about all the public works? The movie actually points out that it’s easier to just let some of the villains get away with insured funds than to risk destroying significantly greater amounts in property by fighting them. It actually reminded me of an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, where the girls blow up a multi-million dollar bridge to stop robbers from stealing a few hundred dollars. It’s pretty reasonable for this to piss off city managers. Since supers have been illegal for like 12 years at this point, clearly the authorities actually have ways of dealing with supervillains that’s worked pretty well. It’s not like supers are shown to have a positive effect on crime rates, the world seems more peaceful in the present, if anything.

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Look, if you can do good, you should, but doing good recklessly can often result in a net bad. And “good” is so nebulous in the real world that it can be a troublesome to even determine it in the first place unless you have both a strong moral compass and a keen mind to direct it. So, is the government in the right? Well, no. In both Civil War and here, the responses to superheroes are too extreme (and moreso in the Marvel Comics “Civil War”). Some superheroes like Elastigirl and Captain America are a net positive that are only slowed down by government control. Superheroes like Tony “I create all of my own villains” Stark, the Hulk, and Mr. Incredib-ly Destructive are not, unless they’re in a situation where the alternative to their involvement is mass devastation. The key here is that your solution doesn’t have to be either “all supers are relatively free from consequences” or “no supers can exist.” There are a ton of fictional worlds that figure out a reasonable middle ground. While they don’t elaborate, hopefully, the movie has found one in the new superhero laws.

Then there’s the villain’s monologue justification for why they hate supers. Basically, it’s that relying on supers prevents people from being able to grow and take care of themselves. This basically suggests that humanity should be more Darwinian, with the weak dying off so that the strong can continue, and only those who become strong deserve to. This doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but the movie does make a point that relying solely on help from others does cause issues. Just like with the other issue above, this one is presented as a bit of a binary, with the good guys saying “you can count on others.” Again, the truth is, you can’t always, but most of the time you can. However, since we seem to have an outbreak of mistrust in our fellow man running throughout the world, I do support a movie saying that you can count on other people to help you.

So, basically, the messages in the movie might not always be the clearest, but I think overall it’s not that bad. It’s a kids’ movie, after all, and it hints at some debates about the balance between government regulation and personal liberty that have been going on since the dawn of time. That’s pretty ambitious. Overall, the general message of the movie is “just be a good person and do good things for others,” so I really can’t get down on it too much, and it’s such a great film in general that it’s hard to criticize it. Just see it for yourself.

JOKER’S REBUTTAL

Just see the movie, guys.

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 want more from the Grouch on the Couch, check out his rants here, and wait a few weeks for another big entry.

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.