Futurama Fridays – S1 E5 “Fear of a Bot Planet”

I think this is the first episode that doesn’t introduce a major recurring character. However, it does give us Earth’s favorite pastime, Blernsball!

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Baseball: As boring as mom and apple pie. Blernsball: As exciting MILFs and Apple Brandy

Changing up the format. Synopsis here, then analysis, then if you want the annotated summary, click on the link at the bottom.

SYNOPSIS

Bender, Fry, and Leela (John DiMaggio, Billy West, Katey Sagal) are sent to make a delivery on Chapek 9, a planet populated entirely by human-hating robots. Bender is captured by locals for knowing humans, so Fry and Leela go to rescue him. However, Bender has lied to the population and become a hero to the other robots. Fry and Leela are then captured, tried for being human, and sentenced, but it is revealed that their trial was just a show for the people and that the planet is actually controlled by Robot Elders, who use humans as scapegoats for their terrible leadership. The trio escape and complete their delivery, giving precious lug nuts to the robots, presumably ending all of their hatred of humans… until the next time we see the planet.

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Yes, these costumes work.

END SYNOPSIS

This episode is about discrimination. Isn’t that cheerful? I mean, the title is even a parody of Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy, an album that was created to address a very specific version of race theory, involving white supremacy and its potential counterpart black supremacy.

S1E5-3FearOfABlackPlanet
Sorry, “world” supremacy. My mistake.

It’s a pretty clear theme, however, the message is a little more… let’s go with palatably relayed… by having it be human and robot relations. Granted, much like in Zootopia, the analogy starts to fall apart under scrutiny, but at least, within this episode, that’s what they’re going for. From Bender talking about “Robot League Blernsball” to his quoting “Ol’ Man River” to his complaints about robot exploitation, he’s evoking themes of a past discrimination in the real world.

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The actor who sang it in “Show Boat” used the stage name “Stepin Fetchit.” No further comment.

Of course, Bender doesn’t actually care about any of those things. He’s literally just using them as an excuse to avoid doing work under the guise of protest. He even comes up with the holiday of “Robanukah” to take two weeks off, which is, apparently, the third holiday he’s made up since coming to work with Planet Express.

S1E5-5Kwanzaabot
Kwanzaabot did not appreciate creating “Robanzaa.”

However, once they get to Chapek 9, the situation is reversed, with robots now being the ones who are discriminating against humans. The difference is that, while there is actually a justification for why humans might not let robots play Blernsball (like, the part where the pitcher is just a modified howitzer), the robots actually have to come up with completely illogical reasons to hate humans, like having propaganda films where humans eat robots or suck their oil out and turn them into humans. It’s like the insane claims that the Nazis made about the Jews or those made about black people by white supremacists. You’d have to be an idiot to believe them, but, unfortunately, a lot of people believed them.

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Like how human organs digest microchips.

Probably the best part of the episode, and the point they were actually trying to make, comes from the revelation that the robotic discrimination isn’t actually based on robot-human relations, but instead has been cultivated by a ruling class as a way to avoid ever having to be held accountable for their terrible leadership. Which, lets be honest, has been the history of a lot of racism/nationalism/whateverism. It’s really easy to get away with being a shitty leader if you can just tell everyone else it’s the fault of the Jews or the Swiss or Ted Nugent fans. Sure, it’s going to require you to make some stuff up, like that they hoard gold causing inflation or that they eat lug nuts causing a shortage. Sure, you have to suffer, but, in exchange, they’re protecting you from those monstrous humans.

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Oh, and corrupt. Man, you can be corrupt as hell if you have a scapegoat.

By having humans be the cause of dread and anguish for Chapek 9, the episode also drives home the truth that discrimination is derived from fear. Anyone who interacts with humans for an extended period knows that, while some of them are crappy, most of them are harmless. Well, Mostly Harmless. However, since the Robot Elders control all of the media within the planet and eliminate contact with outsiders, there’s almost no way for the robots to understand how foolish their misconceptions sound.

So, it’s not perfect, but its an entertaining way of pointing out that most discrimination is actually used as a deflection by the powerful so that people don’t notice that they usually have a much more immediate cause of their problems.

FAVORITE JOKE:

This billboard.

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Come on, you laughed. Admit it.

Is it complicated? No. Is it dated? Oh yeah. But if you sat through the two decades of those ads being everywhere, then you know this was kind of the response you always wanted. Btw, the first got milk ad, featuring the Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton museum curator, was directed by Michael “I’m not going to try harder if you keep paying me not to” Bay. Not every joke I love in this show requires a long explanation.

But, since it was short, back-up joke: When Fry and Leela are identified, we hear two robots say “Intruder Alert! Intruder Alert!” and “Get the Humanoid! Get the Intruder!” These are from the game Berzerk. This game is famous for three reasons: First for having speech, all the way back in 1980, despite each word costing developers $1000. Second is Evil Otto, the villain who took the form of a smiley face, famous for being literally unkillable. Third is that in October 1982, Peter Burkowski played Berzerk for 15 minutes, made the high score list twice, then dropped dead of a heart attack at 18 years old. This is one of the only games to have ever been claimed as a cause of death to a human. Thus, it’s perfect for dialogue on a planet filled with human-killing robots.

S1E5-9Berzerk
Still a fun game, honestly.

See you next week, Meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 4: Love’s Labours Lost in Space

NEXT – 6: A Fishful of Dollars

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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Continue reading Futurama Fridays – S1 E5 “Fear of a Bot Planet”

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E4 “Love’s Labours Lost In Space”

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

SUMMARY

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

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If your standards can’t incorporate a long, prehensile tongue, get better standards.

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

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It’s a happy little doomed planet.

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

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He’s showing off the medal he won for sacrificing waves of men.

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

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When pity sex is just too pitiful.

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

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And, yes, he does call himself candy.

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

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

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

END SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Because here you go!

Favorite Joke:

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

S1E4-ABigBookOfWar

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

See you next week, Meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 3: I, Roommate

NEXT – 5: Fear of a Bot Planet

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S1 E3 “I, Roommate”

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

SUMMARY

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

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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.

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

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 2: The Series Has Landed

NEXT – 4: Love’s Labours Lost in Space

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S1 E2 “The Series has Landed”

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

SUMMARY

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

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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).

S1E2-1ThreeDaughters.png

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

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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.”

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

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

S1E2-BEnding.png

END SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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TiVo killed his joke shortly after this episode debuted.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 1: Space Pilot 3000

NEXT – 3: I, Roommate

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S1 E1 “Space Pilot 3000”

Welcome to Futurama Fridays, a celebration of one of the most interesting and, at times, insightful shows ever animated. To start us off, let’s watch the pilot from the magical year of 1999. Much like Prince told us it would be, it was a year of much celebration, and this series was a worthy impetus for at least some of it.

Just up front: I’m going to go by DVD order, not broadcast order, just like I did with Firefly.

SUMMARY

Space. It seems to go on and on forever. But then you get to the end and the gorilla starts throwing barrels at you.

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The show starts on December 31, 1999 with pizza delivery boy Philip J. Fry (Billy West) getting what is later revealed to be the all-time low score on the videogame “Monkey Fracas, Jr.” The audience is quickly shown that Fry is a loser as he is yelled at by his boss, dumped by his girlfriend, has his bike stolen, repeatedly chants “I hate my life,” and finds out that his delivery to an “I.C. Wiener” at a cryogenic storage facility was apparently a prank. Fry kicks his feet up and leans his chair back as the world (yes, even the countries in other time zones) counts down to a new millennium, but at the count of 1, he tumbles back into a cryogenic tube and is flash-frozen for 1000 years. During this sequence, there’s a strange shadow in one shot which gained fame because on the DVD commentary, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen both shouted “SECRET!” when it showed up. However, we wouldn’t learn the secret for many years.

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Spoiler alert: It was a decent twist

Fry wakes up in the year 2999 on December 31st. He quickly realizes he’ll never see his friends or family again, but then celebrates because f*ck those guys. Fry is taken to meet Turanga Leela (Katey “I have persevered” Sagal), a beautiful woman, except for being a cyclops. She informs Fry that he has only one living relative (somehow), Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth (West). She also informs him that, in the future, people are assigned the job to which they are best suited, summarized as “you gotta do what you gotta do.” Unfortunately, Fry’s assigned job is as a delivery boy, something that horrifies him, causing him to flee. Leela tries to chase him, but Fry freezes her in a cryo-tube for long enough to escape.

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1000 years from now, even the guy making posters is clearly depressed.

While wandering around New New York, Fry decides to call Farnsworth. He gets in line for what appears to be a phonebooth and meets the robot Bender Bending Rodriguez (John DiMaggio) who greets him with his catchphrase: “Bite my shiny metal ass.” Yes, that’s the first thing Bender ever says on-screen and it is amazing. Fry and Bender go into the booth together, only for it to be revealed (to Fry, at least) to be a suicide booth. They manage to survive the booth at which point Bender decides not to kill himself immediately and instead invites Fry to get drunk.

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The alien language in the back says “Drink.” Sadly, not enough “They Live” references.

Bender reveals that he is a robot designed to bend girders but decided to kill himself after finding out that the girders were used for suicide booths. Fry talks him out of killing himself by saying they’re friends. Leela then finds the pair and chases after them along with police officers Smitty and URL the robot (West and DiMaggio). They end up at the Head Museum, which is exactly what it sounds like: A museum filled with disembodied, preserved, and still-living heads. They are greeted by the head of Leonard Nimoy, in one of the greatest cameos in animated history. Leela comes in behind them, startling Fry into knocking over the head of Richard Nixon (West), who bites him. Smitty and URL try to brutalize Fry, but they insult Leela in the process and she beats the crap out of them.

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He also was in Marge vs. The Monorail.

Fry and Bender run into a barred window and Fry tells Bender to bend the bars. Bender says at first that he isn’t programmed to do that, but Fry tells him that he can do anything. Bender says that’s crap, then is immediately electrocuted by a light socket and changes his mind. He bends the bars, proving that he can break his programming. They escape the Museum and go into the sewer, finding the remains of Old New York. Fry reminisces about the past and for the first time it really hits him that he’s lost everyone he ever knew. Leela finally catches up with them, but she admits that she also knows how it feels to have no one, since she’s an orphan alien.

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“Venusians Go Home.” Yep, in 1000 years, we still have racism.

Fry finally surrenders, but instead of giving him a job chip to make him a delivery boy, Leela removes her own chip. The trio, out of options, go to find Professor Farnsworth at his business Planet Express Delivery. After confirming their blood relation, Farnsworth shows the three his spaceship. The police show up, now led by Richard Nixon’s head, and try to arrest the group. They get into the spaceship to escape, but the police are prepared to shoot them down. Fortunately, they escape as the world counts down to the year 3000 and the police miss them in the fireworks display. The three contemplate what to do about the future, but Farnsworth offers to hire them as package deliverers using his former crew’s career chips (found in a space wasp’s stomach). Fry realizes that he’s now going to be a delivery boy again, but, since it’s on a spaceship, he’s happy.

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Counting down to the new millennium with a floating pyramid. Egypt nailed it.

END SUMMARY

This episode debuted just before my 12th Birthday. I was already a huge fan of The Simpsons at this point and I was eager to watch Matt Groening’s new series. It did not disappoint. In addition to the characters being entertaining and well-crafted, the show is chock-full of references and sight gags, most of which are freaking hilarious and clever.

This episode set the tone for the rest of the series. It has a certain ridiculous nature most of the time, but when it is necessary to bring on the quiet emotional moments, they can hit hard. When Fry breaks down and gives up, that’s an actual touching scene in an episode that’s basically just a madcap chase with sci-fi elements. When Leela responds that she’s actually just as alone as Fry, it sets up the first hints of their romance that will carry on throughout the series.

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Smart references abound.

It also set the rules for the level of suspension of disbelief that the show will ask of the audience: Sometimes stuff is just going to be subject to the rule of funny. If something is funny enough, it can violate an established continuity of the show. Most notably, Bender’s “programming” is overturned based on him spontaneously getting electrocuted and his arms, though strong enough to bend steel girders, fall off from the effort of bending some iron bars. It’s fine because it’s funny, even if it doesn’t really make sense. It’s similar to The Simpsons in that way, though Futurama doesn’t have the same floating continuity.

The premise isn’t particularly original, but it’s just a way to create an environment filled with fantastic levels of technology and strange creatures so that they can conflict with Fry, who is a contemporary failure. The opening sequence even drives that home, presenting the future as a crazy blend of ridiculous architecture with dense urban population. The sequence famously has over ten times the number of layers of any contemporary cartoon, something that gives it a more futuristic and complex feel which really matches the show.

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“Tasty Human Burgers.” Yeah, that sign doesn’t need to be in English.

On a personal level, I should probably say that I might have been influenced somewhat by this episode, as I later got a physics degree in college specializing in cryogenics. Not saying it’s because I want to freeze myself for the future, just saying that I was really sad when I found out how primitive the technology to do so is at present.

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We can’t store beer for that long, yet.

Well, that’s it for the first episode. Overall, I give it a solid B as a Futurama episode. It’s not as good as the show will get, but it has a lot of laughs, a lot of references, and even a moment of emotional honesty.

Favorite joke: When Fry is woken in the future, Terry, the cryogenicist (David Herman), says “Welcome to the world of tomorrow!” in a dramatic voice. Aside from the fact that he admits to doing it when waking anyone up, it’s a reference to the 1939 World’s Fair “Futurama” Ride, whose tag line was “welcome to the world of tomorrow.” It was also parodied in the film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, which had the “World of the Future Fair,” which was a combination of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. If you put a thing I can connect to Batman in an episode, that’s automatically plus 5 to the score.

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See you next week, Meatbags.

NEXT – Episode 2: The Series has Landed

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.