Rick and Mondays – S1 E10 “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind”

If one Rick and Morty is good, then an entire planet filled with Ricks and Mortys should be great, right?

SUMMARY

The Smith-Sanchez family is having breakfast when a portal opens and a Rick (Justin Roiland) appears, kills Rick, and steals Morty (Roiland). It then shows breakfast the next day featuring another Rick and Morty, revealing that the previous scenario happened in another dimension. Another portal opens and several Ricks enter, this time in uniforms. They freeze Jerry (Chris Parnell), but Rick and Morty (of C-137) agree to go with them.

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He’s evil because he wears black and has a scar.

They are transported to the CITADEL OF RICKS, a trans-dimensional organization of Ricks which has created a form of government overseeing Rick behavior across the multiverse. They bring in Rick C-137 to accuse him of murdering other Ricks across the multiverse, as he is one of the only Ricks who isn’t part of the Citadel. He denies it, but his portal gun is traced to all the murders. Rick and Morty escape the Citadel troops while Rick manages to identify the real murderous Rick. They follow his signature to a building composed of hundreds of Mortys that are being tortured, which apparently shields Evil Rick from detection. Meanwhile, a group of Ricks stays at the Smith house while searching for Rick C-137, including Doofus Rick, who bonds with Jerry.

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Cronenberg Rick and Morty are still kickin’ it.

Rick and Morty get captured by Evil Rick and his Morty. Rick finds out that Evil Rick plans to steal his memories and then kill him. Morty is taken to a room filled with Mortys who worship the coming of the “One True Morty,” which apparently will free them from their bonds. Morty leads them into an uprising to escape and rescue Rick, resulting in Evil Rick being killed by a mob of Mortys.

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Never underestimate the power of a mob of stupid, angry people.

Back on the Citadel, Rick C-137, now exonerated, is given an apology and a coupon for a free Morty. Morty, who has been angry at Rick for the entire episode after Rick told him that Ricks keep Mortys around because Mortys are so stupid they act as psychic barriers, tries to get Rick to show some emotional growth, but Rick refuses. However, he immediately manages to get some in by pointing out that he’s the Rickest Rick, therefore Morty is the Mortyest Morty. It’s then revealed to the audience, but not Rick and Morty C-137, that Evil Rick was actually being controlled by another source… EVIL MORTY!!!

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Dun dun duuuuuuuun. But seriously, this was a great twist.

END SUMMARY

We already knew from “Rick Potion #9” that there were parallel Ricks and Mortys but this episode really drives that idea home. The Citadel of Ricks and the Council of Ricks appears to be derived from the “Council of Reeds” from the Fantastic Four comics, where Mr. Fantastic finds out that there are a ton of versions of him that work together and are mostly evil. Well, not so much evil as just dicks, which I guess makes the parallel a little closer. However, while the Council of Reeds works to, ostensibly, make the multiverse a better place, the Citadel of Ricks appears to just be a place where Ricks are thrown back into mediocrity and ruled over by a group of Ricks that are likely no more qualified to rule than they are. But, we’ll get into that more in Season 3.

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Clearly, position is assigned based on hair.

The multiverse, too, is more thoroughly explored in this episode by showing the viewers, in a very short montage, a man ordering pizza using a phone while sitting on a chair, then essentially every version of that same situation with the nouns swapped, culminating in a chair ordering phones using a pizza while sitting on a man. It drives home the fact that, in a truly infinite multiverse, anything is possible.

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But lamps are always lamps.

The relationship between Rick and Morty is given some more significance as we’re told that Rick actually uses Morty to prevent himself from being found by some of the more threatening intergalactic authorities. Whether these are present in every dimension isn’t mentioned, but apparently the Galactic Federation exists in multiple dimensions, given that their agent Tammy was found in both the original dimension of the show (where she got Cronenberged) and also the new one featured in this episode. They also are revealed to have some level of interdimensional capabilities in the pilot, explaining why Rick can’t just go to another dimension to escape them. So, every Rick needs a Morty to give them peace, even the Rickest Rick.

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The audience wins with three pairs. GET IT? *Applause*

So, why is our Rick the Rickest? Well, he tells us himself: he’s the only one who is completely unafraid to risk himself to maintain his individuality. Or, at least he is now that the Artist Formerly Known as Rick is dead (and, let’s be honest, the Prince version of Rick probably gave zero f*cks). Granted, in the future, this will become obviously untrue, since there are at least one or two other Ricks who also don’t seem to belong to the Citadel (as far as we know). Still, the point is that C-137 Rick’s enough of a rebel to rebel against the rebellion. Most “nonconformists” just buy a Che Guevara shirt and ignore the irony that counterculture tends to directly resemble culture; Rick Sanchez burns down the Hot Topic and the Gap at the same time and makes his own clothes out of the ashes. How does he make clothing from ashes? He’s Rick f*cking Sanchez.

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Granted, he is also the Rickest by virtue of killing the most Ricks. 

I also have to give credit to this episode for having three of my favorite pop-culture references in the show so far: “The Machine of Unspeakable Doom” is a reference to the Asimov story “The Weapon Too Dreadful to Use” but with the very Rick and Morty addition that the machine stabs your balls, the comic promoting Mortyism called “The Good Morty” is a reference to Jack Chick’s famously zealous Chick Tracts, and, my favorite, where a pen, notebook, and coffee cup fly through a portal, having come from a completely different show, Gravity Falls. The latter three objects get lost through an interdimensional portal by “Grunkle” Stan Pines in the Gravity Falls episode “Society of the Blind Eye.”

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The mug even has the Mystery Shack question mark on it!

Doofus Rick and Jerry is also a great B-plot, because Doofus Rick is the only Rick who can empathize with Jerry’s constant feelings of being put down, unimportant, and incompetent. Of course, Doofus Rick is only those things in comparison with other Ricks, whereas Jerry is… well, Jerry. However, Doofus Rick seems to compensate by being nicer to people, while Jerry is usually just kind of a jerk. Regular Rick later says that “being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets,” which suggests that maybe that’s why Doofus Rick does it, realizing that even if he is picked on, by being nice to people he sometimes gets positive connections, like with Jerry. Perhaps the most notable example is when Doofus Rick is shown Jerry’s coin collection and tells him that what matters is that the coins have value to him. Jerry is used to having people crap on all of his stupid ideas, so being told that his actions can be valid just because they made him feel better is a positive reinforcement that Jerry clearly doesn’t get much, and which Doofus Rick probably craves for similar reasons.

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But he can make brownies, so he probably has friends.

JOKER’S THEORY CORNER

So, people had a lot of theories on this episode. Since Evil Morty later comes back, several of them are still very much up in the air. A big one is that Evil Morty is actually Rick C-137’s original Morty, explaining why he wanted to absorb Rick’s memories rather than just killing him like the other Ricks. Rick’s statement about a Morty getting too smart for their own good also indicates that he has dealt with a “smart Morty” before. Also, Rick has been gone for a decade, has only just been back for one year, but apparently needed a Morty to help cloak him during the time which is unaccounted, suggesting he had one previously. But, if you wanted those theories you could just read another Rick and Morty blog. Instead, here’s one of mine on “The Morty Shield.”

S1EA-BMortyShield
This dome of pain. 

The reason why the “Morty Shield” that Evil Morty was using to hide from the Council of Ricks is so poorly constructed is not because Evil Morty couldn’t have come up with Rick’s idea for producing the same effect with five Mortys and a car battery. In fact, the Morty Shield wasn’t actually used for creating a cloaking effect at all (you can’t track Evil Rick’s brainwaves since he was already braindead), but was instead a ruse to get the Council of Ricks to ignore the question of why a Rick would stockpile so many Mortys. If “Evil Rick” had just been capturing a ton of Mortys for no discernable reason, then the Council might have investigated before re-integrating all of those Mortys, which might have exposed Evil Morty. As it happened, Evil Morty was able to blend in and, as we now know, create a massive Morty surplus that caused dissent within the Citadel, allowing him to seize power. I think he originally was planning on doing it through rebellion and sedition, but Rick’s actions in the beginning of Season 3 gave him an easier path through election.

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Instead of drawing attention, he just becomes a face in a crowd.

LEAVING THE CORNER

Yet another great episode in a row. This part of the season is really a hell of a high point.

Overall, I give this episode an

A

on the Rick and Morty scale.

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

PREVIOUS – 9: Something Rick-ed This Way Comes

NEXT – 11: Ricksy Business

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

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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E11 “Mars University”

We’re getting to the end of Season One. Time to go see Mars.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio), take a package to Professor Farnsworth’s (West) office at Mars University. It’s a University on Mars. While there, Fry is informed that being a 20th Century college dropout is now less than being a high-school graduate, so he resolves to enroll and drop-out of college. Bender visits his old frat, only to find it filled with nerds: Gearshift, Oily, and Fat-bot (West, DiMaggio, David Herman). They ask him to teach them to be cool, so he stays on campus.

S1EB-1MarsU
Admittedly, best motto.

Fry finds out that he’s roommates with a super-smart monkey named Guenter (Tress MacNeille), who he feuds with. After a run-in with his regular monkey parents, Guenter realizes he’s not happy. Fry tells him to just go be an animal, so he throws off his hat (the source of his intelligence) and heads into the Martian jungle, but is followed by Leela, Fry, and the Professor. Bender and his fraternity enter a rafting contest that goes through the same jungle. Eventually, the trio find Guenter, but are knocked into the water by Bender’s boat and have to be saved by Guenter. Guenter’s hat is damaged in the process, making him only moderately intelligent, which renders him the perfect candidate for business school.

S1EB-2Guenter
The monkey ends up running the FOX Network. No, really, that’s canon.

END SUMMARY

This is probably my pick for the worst episode of Season One. It’s a parody of college movies, but since people have been parodying them since the beginning, and frat films are so absurd they almost inherently are self-parodies, this one just didn’t have that much originality except for “set on Mars.” It’s a funny half-hour of television, but it’s more like they just used “future” words for jokes that already existed. Oddly, I appear to be alone in this, as several sites list this as one of the best episodes of the show. Different strokes, I guess. Update: The lists that put it highly no longer appear to exist, so… I win.

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I mean, “Snooty House” is both lazy and funny, but more lazy.

Fry and Guenter’s feud is fun, but it’s also extremely stupid and shallow. It’s literally just there so the roommate conflict tropes can play out. Bender’s fraternity simultaneously is filled with nerds who don’t do anything but also is on super-secret probation, a la Animal House, just so they can do jokes from both of those college-movie subgenres. On the one hand, I appreciate that they took a shortcut for the set-ups so they could focus on the jokes. On the other hand, the jokes are all a little too easy, since it’s just a series of parodies of other films.

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Is the panty raid joke better if they’re spying on a computer? Maybe.

I do appreciate that the episode really does try to address the concept of whether or not intelligence is inherently isolating, but the joke resolution kind of undercuts it. Admittedly, I think it’s a funny joke. Aside from that, most of the episode isn’t really the level of cleverness I expect from Futurama. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just very safe.

FAVORITE JOKE

When thinking about his college days, Fry flashes back to his time at Coney Island Community College, which, as the name suggests, is located on Coney Island. It has a carnival barker out front who asks people who wants to learn physics. The college itself is apparently located on a ride of some kind. But the best part for me is when he says that their mascot was the “Whitefish.”

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It’s no ITT Tech, but it’ll do.

Aside from all of the species of fish that are called “whitefish,” none of which are located anywhere near Coney Island, whitefish is a term used by fisheries to describe cheap, easily marketable, mass produced fish meat. In other words, the students are literally represented as being cheap, mass-produced, and low-quality. If only other schools were so honest.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 10: A Flight to Remember

NEXT – Episode 12: When Aliens Attack

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S1 E10 “A Flight to Remember”

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

SUMMARY

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

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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

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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)

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

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 9: Hell is Other Robots

NEXT – Episode 11: Mars University

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

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

Rick and Mondays – S1 E9 “Something Ricked This Way Comes”

Starring a prick who has two thumbs, here’s “Something Ricked This Way Comes.”

S1E9-1TwoThumbs
Wait, those aren’t thumbs…

SUMMARY

Summer (Spencer Grammer) asks Rick (Justin Roiland) for a ride to work at her new job at the store “Needful Things.” It turns out Summer’s boss, Mr. Needful (Alfred Molina), is the Devil and the store “sells” cursed objects to people for no money. Needful tries to give Rick a microscope that would make him mentally handicapped, but Rick turns the tables and develops a device that can determine the curse on any object. Deciding to f*ck with the Devil, Rick starts a store called “Curse Purge Plus,” where he removes parts of the curses on the items to make them incredibly valuable. The Devil, realizing Rick is better at evil than he is, tries to kill himself, but Summer saves him and gets him to re-make the store into an internet site, before he double crosses her. To get revenge, she and Rick work out, become muscled giants, then beat the hell out of the Devil, as well as some neo-nazi and a member of the Westboro Baptist church.

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Summer, parting a being of pure evil and a being of pure dontgiveaf*ck.

In the B-Plot, Morty (Roiland) asks Jerry (Chris Parnell) to help him with his science fair project, a model of the solar system. Jerry becomes irate when Morty mentions that Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. He refuses to accept this, something that leads a group of Plutonians to use him as a source of propaganda to fight against accusations that Pluto has been shrinking. Despite the fact that he has absolutely no scientific credibility and is being bankrolled by the people that would most benefit from what he’s saying, Jerry becomes a star scientist and is beloved by the population. A real scientist, Scroopy Noopers (Nolan North), tells Morty that the Plutonian corporations have actually mined the planet so much it shrank, which Morty tries to tell Jerry. Jerry refuses to listen, but eventually realizes he’s an idiot and tries to tell the truth to Pluto before reconciling with Morty.

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King Flippy Nips (Rich Fulcher) is not the most utilitarian leader.

END SUMMARY

This makes the second episode where Rick and Morty are in separate plots, after “Raising Gazorpazorp,” but the plots in this one are a huge improvement over that episode.

S1E9-4ButterBot
Even ButterBot is a massive step-up.

Rick and Summer’s plot is a subversion of the traditional “Deal with the Devil” trope right from the beginning, because Rick immediately recognizes who Needful really is. Usually, finding out that the mystery salesman is the Devil is a major plot point, but to Rick it’s just an observation to make in passing. He even lists all the shows (including Friday the 13th: The Series) that the Devil is ripping off (though Rick avoids pointing out that Needful Things is itself a Steven King book and movie about this exact plot). After the Devil tries to outsmart Rick, which fails miserably, Rick decides to mess with the Devil by using science to render him powerless. The Devil even says of Rick:

People like Rick are making me obsolete. I mean seriously, I may be the Devil but your grandpa is the Devil! I just want to go back to hell where everybody thinks I’m smart and funny.

That’s the beauty of Rick Sanchez. Since he believes that everything is meaningless, even good and evil can be rendered pointless. In this episode, the Devil’s items’ punishments, while cruel, teach people lessons about their own personal faults. Rick doesn’t give a crap about human morality or ethics, believing that science is more powerful. Mr. Goldenfold (Brandon Johnson), the first victim we see, even has the traditional breakdown from the end of a normal story, only for Rick to give him an injection which removes any consequence and causes Goldenfold to shout “I haven’t learned a thing!” Even at the end of the episode, after Summer has been betrayed by the Devil, she and Rick ponder whether or not there’s something they could learn from this experience, but then instead decide to beat the Devil up.

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Devil plays a good fiddle, but he should’ve learned MMA.

Meanwhile, Jerry and Morty basically go through a thinly-veiled metaphor for how companies can manipulate science reporting. Jerry is reported by the media to be a scientist and is even awarded the Plutobel Prize, despite the fact that all he does is say that all of the other scientists are wrong. He never provides a case for why they’re wrong, nor does he actually listen to the explanations for why Pluto isn’t a planet. He just stubbornly states his opinion over and over again, but because the opinion is profitable to the wealthy, they promote it as a fact. Most people seem to say this episode is a metaphor for Climate Change, but it could just as easily be one for smoking causing cancer or heliocentricity, if you replace “company” with “church.” The Plutonians could easily be a metaphor for any kind of group that’s easily manipulated by the media.

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Jerry Smith: Master of All Science. That’s what big companies want.

So, the episode’s about how science can be abused. Rick abuses it to eliminate people having to learn from their mistakes while Jerry and the Plutonian elite abuse it to promote an agenda that they can benefit from. These might seem to be connected, but the message from each one is actually pretty different. As Rick says in another episode, it’s just a “cosmetic connection our mind mistakes for thematic.”

JOKER’S THEORY CORNER

I think Rick particularly has it out for the Devil, because the existence of a Devil suggests, although it does not necessarily require, the existence of a God. In other words, this would make Rick wrong about his grand pronouncement that “there is no God” and call into question his belief that everything is meaningless. After all, if there is a higher power that created the multiverse, then it’s probable that life actually inherently does have meaning.

While Rick usually dispatches people who try to one-up him fairly quickly, he goes to extraordinary lengths to make the Devil suffer, lengths that even he later realizes he didn’t really want to reach. So, Rick got insecure about maybe being completely wrong about one of his bigger postulates, and overreacted, causing the Devil to almost kill himself.

S1E9-7Hanging
Keep hanging in there, Beelzebub.

See, it’s sentences like that that remind me how much I love this show.

LEAVING THE CORNER

This is a great episode, even by Rick and Morty standards. It’s right up at the top of my list of best episodes, particularly because listening to Alfred Molina say “I’m the Devil, beeyotch!” is basically crack for my ears.

Overall, I give this episode an

A

on the Rick and Morty scale.

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

PREVIOUS – 8: Rixty Minutes

NEXT – 10: Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind

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.

S1E9-6Strip.png
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.

S1E9-AChurchSign.jpg
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

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

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

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

SYNOPSIS

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

S1E8-1Smelloscope
Amazingly no one noticed before.

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

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

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

END SYNOPSIS

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

S1E8-3BallOfTrash
Trashy television.

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

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

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

S1E8-5Morbo

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

FAVORITE JOKE

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

S1E8-6Rudy.png

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

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

Guy: With gusto!

It’s so perfectly bad.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 7: My Three Suns

NEXT – Episode 9: Hell is Other Robots

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S1 E6 “A Fishful of Dollars”

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

SYNOPSIS

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

S1E6-1aParty.png
He’s Top Hat Rich, bordering on Monocle Rich.

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

S1E6-2Anchovies.png
Billions of dollars are in that can.

END SYNOPSIS

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

S1E6-3PamelaAnderson.png
With a cameo of Academy Award-Winning actress Pamela Anderson.

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

S1E6-4Hallucination.png

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

S1E6-5aMomStooges.png

Mom and her Stooge sons

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

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

S1E6-6Interest

FAVORITE JOKE

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

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

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

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

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 5: Fear of a Bot Planet

NEXT – Episode 7: My Three Suns

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

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