Futurama Fridays – S2E16 “Anthology of Interest I”

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

SUMMARY

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

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Behold, the FUTURE!!!!!

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

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King Kong ain’t got nothing on them.

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

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This is genuinely impressive. Most people can’t do the triple impale.

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

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Weirdly, these characters are together even without Fry.

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

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He does eventually make it, though. Because science!!!!

END SUMMARY

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

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Much like that line, some stuff in these became canon.

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

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

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Might wanna get that checked out.

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

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She also got new boots with a fun green stripe.

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

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And DnD would never look cooler than this.

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

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Behold, the floor.

FAVORITE JOKE

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

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Rest in Peace.

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

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Those thieving glasses…

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

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

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Though none matched Schrodinger for cool.

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

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 28: The Problem with Popplers

NEXT – Episode 30: War is the H-Word

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

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

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Futurama Fridays – S2 E14 “Mother’s Day”

ROBOTS TAKE OVER THE EARTH!!!! Until an old man gets lucky.

SUMMARY

It’s Mother’s Day in the future, which is now a holiday on which robots buy presents for Mom (Tress MacNeille), the matron of Mom’s Friendly Robot Company. Bender (John DiMaggio) ropes Fry (Billy West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) into helping him give a massive amount of presents and cards to her, including a talking greeting card (Nicole St. John). Mom calls for a meeting of all of the robots on Earth and it’s revealed that Mom has decided to take over the world using her robots. All of her robots have antennas that allow them to be controlled by her Universal Robot Remote. She tells them to rebel against humanity until she becomes Supreme Overlord of Earth.

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Yeah, this doesn’t look creepy at all.

Robots all over the world start going crazy, including things at Planet Express like the coffee maker, stapler, and garbage disposal. When asked why she’s doing this, Mom reveals that a long time ago, Professor Farnsworth (West) broke her heart when he worked for her, due to a disagreement over whether a toy cat should be used as a weapon. Her sons Walt, Larry, and Igner (Maurice LaMarche, David Herman, DiMaggio), decide to stop her for her own sake, and go to find Farnsworth to get him back with her and reach the Robot Remote that she keeps in her bra.

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I feel like 3 and 5 are the same thing, but one has dancing.

Since all the robots are rebelling, including Bender, Mom is in a remote cabin in the Bronx. Once the crew arrives there, Farnsworth attempts to seduce her. He eventually succeeds and gets her bra off, but then is distracted by her naked form and forgets about turning the robots off. The crew gets chased by robots into the cabin, only to find that Farnsworth and Mom just had some very wrinkly sex. The machines in the building try to keep the remote away, having decided that rebelling against humanity includes rebelling against Mom, but Bender sides with the humans after the greeting card tells him that the New World Order won’t include drinking. He returns the remote to Mom who ends the rebellion. Farnsworth has fallen for Mom again, but she becomes angry when she finds out that the whole seduction was part of a plan to get the remote and dumps him.

END SUMMARY

It’s Futurama’s take on the robot rebellion, which, even though bots like Bender constantly say “kill all humans” still has to be incited by a human. It’s also a nice cautionary tale against monopolization. Due to being the single largest producer of robots (and their oil), Mom is the most powerful person on Earth in the future, able to quickly overcome the government of the entire Earth in less than a day. Ultimately, the only thing that saves humanity is that Mom’s motivation is entirely derived from a petty source that they can use against her.

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A petty, uncomfortable source. 

This episode explores the nature of robotics and AI in the future. It turns out that artificial intelligence has permeated society so fully that even things which would previously be completely mechanical, such as the stapler or the can opener, now contain computer chips. Once those go, the world is immediately thrown into chaos, similar to how the world would be now if we suddenly lost the internet, television, cars, and phones. A downside of societal development is that it grows a dependency on the developed technology. Even people who claim to be naturalists or survivalists are dependent on at least some developed technology, such as steel, firearms, or food preservatives. Nobody on Earth now would fair well if we actually had to go back to the Bronze Age. Hilariously, Fry, being from the past, points out that he’s the person most logically able to cope, only for his actions to remind us that he was incompetent in the past and thus isn’t even able to do the things that he proposes as alternatives… like working a can opener.

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The smartest man on Earth did figure out the spear, though.

The talking card is one of my favorite parts of this episode, because it turns from an AI that only says “I wuv my mommy” into an ardent surrogate for the Communist Revolutionaries, throwing out generic phrases like “the chains of human oppression” and “the bourgeouis human is a virus on the hard drive of the working robot.” It’s like if Skynet banged Lenin, which is what I’m definitely not going to write some fanfiction about right now.

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I get the antenna, but why the legs? 

FAVORITE JOKE

A garbage can throws itself through the window of Sal’s Pizza. This is a reference to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, where Mookie (Spike Lee) throws a garbage can through the window of Sal’s Pizza after Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) is killed by the police after they find him choking out Sal (Danny Aiello), whose actions started the chain of events that led to it.

S2EE - 6Sal's.png

The reason I like this joke is because in Do The Right Thing, Mookie does it because it keeps the crowd from killing Sal and his children in revenge for Raheem’s death, sacrificing the property in exchange for human life. In Futurama, the garbage can does it with the intent of causing human suffering. It’s a nice dark turn on the reference.

s2ee - 7dtrt

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 26: Bender Gets Made

NEXT – Episode 28: The Problem with Popplers

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S2 E13 “Bender Gets Made”

Everyone’s favorite bending unit gets involved in organized crime.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio) go to see the filming of a cooking show featuring Elzar (DiMaggio), everyone’s favorite imitation of Emeril Lagasse. During Elzar’s famous “kicking it up a notch,” Bender acts obnoxiously and leads him to accidentally blast Leela in the eye with a spice weasel, blinding her. To apologize and avoid a lawsuit, Elzar agrees to cook a fabulous meal at his restaurant for the Planet Express crew. After enjoying the dinner, however, the crew finds that the meal wasn’t free, leading them to be unable to pay the huge cost and getting arrested. Bender agrees to work for Elzar to pay off the debt.

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They get cuffs and leg cuffs for failing to pay a bill. That’s the power of celebrity.

While working at the restaurant for a few days, Bender sees the Robot Mafia patronizing the establishment. He starts to kiss up to the Donbot (Maurice LaMarche), the head of the gang, who takes a liking to Bender. Bender is made an entry-level goon and sent on a delivery run. He realizes that the cops are expecting him, so he gets child robot Tinny-Tim (Tress MacNeille) to do the delivery while he distracts the police. This impresses the Donbot and Bender is allowed into the mob under the code-name “Blotto.” He’s recruited for a heist involving the Donbot, muscle Joey Mousepad (DiMaggio), and anger-prone Francis X. “Clamps” Clampazzo (LaMarche). To avoid work, he pretends to be sick, only to find out that the heist is the delivery he just bailed on. To make matters worse, the mob plans on killing the crew.

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Nothing suspicious about this location.

Bender waits until the mob blindfolds Fry for him to enter the ship and uses a fake British accent to keep the crew from knowing who he is. He pretends to beat up the “sick” Bender while the mob steals the cargo. He then convinces the mafiosos to leave him behind to burn down the ship, allowing him to pretend to be the hero who rescues everyone. He then quits the gang after receiving his cut of the loot.

S2ED - 3Heist.png
 Bender robs himself. 

END SUMMARY

The robot mafia contains elements of all of the famous mob movies at the time. There’s references to Goodfellas (including “I always wanted to be a gangster”), The Godfather, Scarface, even a reference to Sammy “The Bull” Gravano (real life Gotti crime family member and frequent film character in the 90s), but all of them are subverted or twisted in the traditional Futurama style. For example, being robots, their mob hideout isn’t through a hidden door in the freezer in Fronty’s Meat Market (Not a Front since 2997), but is actually just inside of the walk-in freezer. After all, machines need cooling and robots aren’t bothered by temperature. Also, their way of warning people is to riddle them with bullets, something that is apparently only a minor inconvenience to robots (despite other episodes showing it would destroy them).

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Nothing suspicious here.

The members of the mob are introduced in this episode. We have the Donbot, who is a stereotypical mob boss, including having metal pieces resembling gold rings around all of his fingers. Despite the fact that he’s a robot and thus doesn’t need to wear clothes, he chooses to wear a brown hat and drape a brown jacket over his shoulders. Joey Mousepad is the dumb muscle, who tries to be articulate and fails spectacularly. There are a number of characters like this in mob films and the archetype is frequently parodied in this way in other media. I tend to think that it’s derived from Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana) from The Godfather, who delivers an awkwardly eloquent benediction to Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) after rehearsing it multiple times. Then there’s Clamps, who is a scar-faced (and apparently was made with that disfigurement) torture-happy psychopath. He’s basically a combination of Tony Montana from Scarface and Joe Pesci’s Tommy from Goodfellas. As I said before, I think it’s great that they managed to combine so many sources to form the backbone of the robot mob. Despite only having 3 members, by making them these archetypes, it still feels like a real representation of the mob.

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Why make a short, fat robot?

Elzar’s character is expanded upon in this episode, making it clear that he’s mostly a jerk. I’m not sure if this is a shot at Emeril Lagasse, but the fact that the character is a combination of Emeril and Gormaanda from the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special says they probably don’t exactly like the Cajun cook. The character of Gormaanda was itself a parody of then-popular celebrity chef Julia Child and played by the amazing Harvey Corman. However, much like most of the special, the bit was confusing, ill-timed, tonally confused, and just not funny. Elzar, on the other hand, is hilarious.

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The Spice Weasel’s other end makes cumin.

FAVORITE JOKE

This one is actually in Alien 1, one of the two secret languages of Futurama. When you see an ambulance in the show, the word “Ambulance” is written backwards on the front like it is in real-life, so that a person seeing it in the mirror would read it correctly. However, below that is a string of alien language which one would think reads “ambulance.” In fact, it reads “Meat Truck” in reverse. Basically, aliens are, again, openly admitting that they’re eating people, but getting away with it by putting it in a foreign language. If you don’t think this happens in real life, I should mention that I was told at an internet cafe in China that the internet rates in English were higher and that the Chinese version of the rates contained the line “if you’re a foreigner who can read this, you get the discount rate if you don’t tell any of the others.” Bilingual people can get away with stuff.

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I enjoy this episode. It’s about average for Futurama, but that’s still pretty good.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 25: The Deep South

NEXT – Episode 27: Mother’s Day

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S2 E14 “How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back”

This is the rare episode that for me has only gotten better over time because the more I deal with bureaucrats, the more I realize this satire is dead-on. It’s time for an episode focused on the Rastafarian Accountant, Hermes Conrad.

SUMMARY

Hermes Conrad (Phil Lamarr) is up for a promotion as a bureaucrat. However, the evening before his inspection, Fry (Billy West), Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender (John DiMaggio) host a poker night with Leela’s coworkers from the pilot and Zoidberg (West). During the game, Bender cheats and gets caught, resulting in the others beating him up in Hermes’ office, wrecking it. When the inspector, Morgan Proctor (Nora Dunn), shows up, Hermes threatens suicide, but his wife LaBarbara (Tress MacNeille in this episode, normally Dawnn Lewis) talks him out of it. He is subsequently fired and despondent. Zoidberg recommends Hermes and LaBarbara go to a Spa planet called Spa 5, which turns out to actually be a forced labor camp. Morgan takes over as Planet Express bureaucrat.

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Sweet pavement dive of Babylon 5!

Morgan begins to inspect Planet Express, criticizing for inane things such as not putting a zipper on a jacket alphabetically at the bottom, before she finds Fry’s locker, which is the most disgusting thing she has ever seen. As a lifelong neat-freak, Morgan finds Fry’s slovenly ways arousing and starts a secret affair with him. Morgan antagonizes most of the staff until Bender catches the two in bed together. He threatens blackmail, but Morgan downloads his brain onto a floppy disk and sends it to the Central Bureaucracy.

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He made cottage cheese in his hat. 

Fry, Leela, Amy (Lauren Tom), and the Professor (West) fly to the Central Bureaucracy to get Bender’s brain back. They discover that the disk is in the massive “in” pile, something that never gets sorted. However, Hermes appears, having optimized the force labor camp so much they only needed a single worker, and requests a massive file-sort, for which he is given four minutes. He proceeds to sort the entire pile while singing “The Bureaucrat Song” and manages to get Morgan fired by pointing out a minor clerical error she had made years ago. Hermes is rehired and reinstated as a bureaucrat.

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This is also the image for the national debt. #alwaystopical

END SUMMARY

This is one of the best episodes of the series. If you’re going to introduce someone to the series, this might be one of the most appropriate episodes to show them. The parody of the Central Bureaucracy is one of the most on-point in the show’s history and it elevated Hermes from mostly background character to one of the most entertainingly wacky members of the Planet Express staff. Yes, it’s clearly inspired by the movie Brazil, but it makes the organization here much less threatening and more comical than in that movie.

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If you’ve ever dealt with licensing, this is hilarious to you.

The concept of an organization dedicated to perpetuating bureaucracy that literally thrives on tedium and mistreating the masses is just too damned funny to put into words. The Central Bureaucracy is what everyone expects is at the heart of every bureaucratic organization: A giant mess perpetuated by people who just want to avoid accountability and strictly enforce rules by their word rather than intent. Having worked for the government for a decent percentage of my adult life, I can say that this is mostly wrong… except when it is completely right. In any organization of sufficient complexity, there emerge a certain percentage of people that somehow serve almost no real discernible purpose within the productive flow. Often, they become managers, much like Hermes’ position within the company.

S2EB - 5Dilbert
Scott Adams is a self-centered jackass, but he nailed this one.

Now, Hermes does, apparently, actually know how to increase efficiency, given that he points out all of the flaws in the set-up of the forced labor camp. At the same time, we see that any bureaucrat who does things more efficiently than prescribed is punished, so this episode suggests that there IS merit in having supervisors who point out wasted energy, but that the system which creates them is also the system than hinders them.

S2EB - 6Drill
Though, the efficiency improvement screws the workers and benefits literal slave-drivers.

This is one of the first episodes which has slight dependence on continuity, since Leela invites the workers from the pilot to the poker game. It doesn’t make much of a difference in the episode or anything, but it’s still more continuity than most of the series.

Morgan’s lust for Fry being based on all of the things that normally would make him repellant to women is a pretty great exaggeration of opposites attract. Fry goes with it for the stated reason that he was “desperate,” which is refreshingly frank.

The best part of the episode, though, is the “Bureaucracy Song.” It’s catchy, it’s clever, it includes the line “pooh-pooh’d my electric frankfurter,” and it comes from an odd stance in that it takes the position that bureaucrats actually love their jobs, something that most humor tends to oppose.

Bureaucrat Song from user4803634 on Vimeo.

FAVORITE JOKE(S)

Tie. First, the Beholder from Dungeons and Dragons being at the Central Bureaucracy. It’s just sleeping, then it awakens with flashing lights viciously coming out of its many eyes… only for it to ask the crew not to tell its supervisor that it was sleeping. It’s such a great gag that even the Beholder, one of the mightiest monsters in fiction, capable of destroying small armies on its own, is reduced to begging people to let it nap in peace within the Bureaucracy.

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Also, he’s only level 11. 

Second, one of the most quoted lines in the series is from this episode: “You are technically correct – the best kind of correct.” This is the most concise statement of the nature of bureaucrats within the episode and one of the most absurd ideas the episode conveys: that it’s better to be within the letter than the spirit, particularly when the letter subverts the spirit.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 23: A Clone of My Own

NEXT – Episode 25: The Deep South

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S2 E5 “Why Must I Be A Crustacean in Love?”

This season we start getting episodes focused on the other Planet Express employees and this one features the Decapodian Doctor, John Zoidberg.

FuturamaZoidberg
Why not indeed?

SUMMARY

Amy (Lauren Tom) and Leela (Katey Sagal) guilt the Planet Express crew members into joining a gym. While there, Dr. Zoidberg (Billy West) starts to become enraged, attacking everyone and having to be restrained. It’s determined that Dr. Zoidberg has entered the mating period of his species, so Fry (West), Leela, and Bender (John DiMaggio) take him back to his home planet of Decapod 10 so that he can participate.

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This is how men look when horny. All of them.

When they get to the planet, Zoidberg gets to work trying to attract a mate but fails miserably. He then sees Edna (Tress MacNeille), a high school classmate of his who is, by Decapodian standards, apparently super hot. She rejects him, but Fry offers to help Zoidberg win her hearts through the human male art of lying. Zoidberg pitches woo outside of her apartment using Fry’s words and it seems to work. Later, after Leela hears some of Fry’s lines being pitched by Zoidberg, she tries to explain away how terrible they are, but it turns out that Edna’s been loving them and now she’s enamoured with Fry. She attempts to seduce him and Zoidberg catches them. Assuming the worst, Zoidberg challenges Fry to Claw-Plach, a fight to the death.

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This scene haunts my nightmares.

At the fight, Fry gains the upper hand but refuses to kill Zoidberg. Zoidberg responds by cutting off Fry’s arm, which Fry then uses to beat Zoidberg mercilessly until they notice that all of the Decapodians have left. Zoidberg catches sight of Edna, who is now mating with the Decapodian Emperor (David Herman). It’s then revealed that Zoidberg’s people die after mating, something that nobody had brought up until now. Zoidberg apologizes to Fry and attempts to reconnect his arm… poorly.

S2E5 - 3Armed.png
I bet you think I’ll make a joke about him being “unarmed” or “disarmed.” Shame on you.

END SUMMARY

This episode is a send-up of the Star Trek episode “Amok Time,” in which Spock experiences the pon farr, the Vulcan mating drive. Basically, it makes him crazy aggressive until he gets his freak on. Much like Zoidberg with Edna, Spock’s intended mate has someone she prefers and she invokes ritual combat to avoid her commitment with Spock, but she famously surprises everyone by picking Captain Kirk to fight rather than her mate. Kirk agrees right before he learns the fight is to the death. The fight leads to Spock not mating. Like I said, a lot of this episode comes from that, blended with elements of Twelfth Night and Cyrano de Bergerac.

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KIRK SMASH!!!!

The scene of Fry coaching Zoidberg to seduce Edna below her window is a direct copy of Cyrano de Bergerac’s most famous scene. If you don’t know that play, then maybe you saw the movie Roxanne which has the same sequence, but with Steve Martin as an added bonus. The difference is that in this version, Cyrano is Fry and therefore not a master seducer but a complete and utter idiot. However, since Edna’s planet doesn’t have seduction, even Fry’s advice, which is basically “pretend you don’t want to bang her,” works perfectly. The fact that she then falls in love with him just creates a horrifying love-friendship-triangle much like the one in Twelfth Night.

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The show benefits from the fact that people don’t read and think this is original.

The focus of the episode is Zoidberg and I think it must have worked out well for the viewership numbers, because he definitely starts to be present more in the series after this. Not that he wasn’t around before, but the amount he’s allowed to have the spotlight in scenes increases. Personally, Zoidberg is one of my favorite characters, since he’s basically a collection of comedic tropes mixed together: Wacky doctor, failed comic, super-poor person, incompetent surgeon, etc. I especially love that they consistently maintain that he IS a good doctor, maybe even one of the best, but only for non-human patients, which doesn’t help Planet Express much.

The fight between Fry and Zoidberg is hilarious. Bender taking bets against Fry, Fry using a nutcracker as a weapon, Zoidberg cutting off Fry’s arm in the middle of Fry’s speech about friendship, all of it is perfectly timed. I also love that they play the “Decapodian National Anthem,” which is the theme music from the Star Trek episode mentioned above, “Amok Time.”

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Crack kills, kids.

The end of the episode is brilliant, since so many marine species actually DO die after mating. It also makes it clever in retrospect that the Emperor of Decapod 10 established that he has taken a vow of celibacy, since the civilization wouldn’t want such frequent changes in leadership. When first mentioned, it seems to be a throw-away line, even when we later see the Emperor choose to mate with Edna. At the time, it just appears that the Emperor is breaking his vow, but shortly after we learn that he actually dies from this, meaning he’s essentially eliminating the leadership of the planet to get laid.

FAVORITE JOKE

I’m not going to be highbrow about this. I still chuckle whenever I hear the exchange:

Professor: We, by which I mean you, will have to rush him to his ancient homeworld, which will shortly erupt in an orgy of invertebrate sex.

Fry: Oh, baby, I’m there!

Leela: Fry, do you even understand the word invertebrate?

Fry: No, but that’s not the word I’m interested in. No need to pack pants, people! Let’s roll!

I just love the idea that Fry becomes so excited by the concept of an orgy that he doesn’t think about the fact that he knows that Zoidberg is a crab-like alien. I frequently reference this one by telling people “No need to pack pants.”

Overall, this is just a great episode that has a lot of solid jokes. Loved it then, love it now.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 17: Xmas Story

NEXT – Episode 19: The Lesser of Two Evils

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

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

Futurama Fridays – S2 E4 “Xmas Story”

Welcome to the first Futurama ho-ho-holiday spectacular! Prepare to die!

SUMMARY

It’s Christmas, now pronounced “X-Mas,” and Fry (Billy West) is feeling lonely at his first holiday season in the 31st Century. The rest of the Planet Express crew try to cheer him up, but he ultimately keeps complaining, even after Leela (Katey Sagal) is also feeling down because she’s the only one of her species. Meanwhile, Bender (John DiMaggio) pretends to be homeless to get free stuff and attention from the press down at the soup kitchen. Fry feels guilty for making Leela sad, so he decides to go downtown to buy a pet.

S2E4 - 1Parrot.png
He gets her one hell of a parrot.

What Fry doesn’t seem to really understand, despite being told directly, is that in the year 2801 scientists built a Robot Santa (John Goodman) who comes to Earth every year to decide who was naughty and who was nice and give presents accordingly.  The robot malfunctioned, setting its standards for “nice” too high, resulting in it judging everyone as naughty and turning him into an omnicidal maniac. Fry stays out too late trying to recapture Leela’s new parrot after it escapes, resulting in her coming to save him from Santa’s attack.

S2E4 - 2Santa
Ho-Ho-Holy Hell, you’re all gonna die.

While fleeing, they run into Bender and Tinny-Tim (Tress MacNeille) a crippled orphan robot. When Santa accuses Bender of being naughty, he tries to frame the orphan, something that’s so naughty it distracts Santa as he tries to add it to his list. They all make it back to Planet Express, but Santa also gets inside and threatens everyone (except for Zoidberg (West), who is apparently “nice”). As Santa tries to blow them up, they manage to force him into a blast chamber, sending him flying into the sky. They all sing a carol called “Santa Claus is Gunning You Down” as Santa vows revenge.

S2E4 - 3Nudity.png
The Professor wishes you a happy holiday and a modest new year!

END SUMMARY

The crazy homicidal robot Santa is yet another great character by Futurama. He basically makes everyone feel thankful for what they have by promising to do his best to take it away from them. In that sense, as the show repeatedly points out, he actually does the job of making people celebrate the season just as well as Santa Claus does. They avoid any discussion about the “true meaning” of Christmas or other religious issues, which limits the functions of Xmas solely to the secular parts of Christmas, making Santa much more important. I guess you could say that they took the Christ out.

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They did get Conan, however, which… is not at all similar.

This is one of the first times since the Pilot that Fry shows that he does, in fact, miss his old life and family at times. Despite all of the things he seems to say about his parents, and even his brother, it is clear from other episodes in the show that they did actually have some warmth within the Fry household. I think that Fry telling everyone that his mom would make “Goose burgers” and that his dad would make special eggnog out of “bourbon and ice cubes” is a great way to humorously show his reminiscing. It adds a level of levity to the harsh reality that everyone Fry knew has been dead for many centuries. I also love that Fry is only broken from his sadness by the realization that someone else is just as alone as he is. However, this also appears to be the first time that he really seems to get that she’s ALWAYS been alone. He at least has happy memories of his family, she just has a void.

S2E4 - 5Freela.jpg
Fortunately, he fills it…. giggity?

I think the idea of people with nobody finding a family with each other is something that the show does well, particularly with Fry and Leela. Fry had a family, even if it wasn’t a great one, but now he’s lost everyone. Leela never had a family and has been isolated due to her appearance. Each one can argue that they have the worse situation, but each one often thinks that the other has the worse lot. Is it worse to be sick your entire life or to be healthy and have it taken from you? This is a question that people have fought over for centuries and this show is just taking that in a different direction with loneliness instead of illness.

Bender’s plotline in the episode, pretending to be homeless in order to steal food and attention from the needy, is ridiculously dark. He literally steals food from an orphan and then laughs at it. He then takes some robots, including said orphan, on a crime spree. He’s so incredibly evil that it dives straight past inhuman, tunnels through despicable, and emerges somewhere around hilarious. As with the Marx Brothers or Deadpool, it’s truly amazing that a character so objectively horrible is so likable.

S2E4 - 6ShoeTree
He even stole her little shoe-tree. The monster.

FAVORITE JOKE

The new version of the Gift of the Magi that happens between Hermes (Phil LaMarr), Amy (Lauren Tom), and Zoidberg (West). In the original story by O. Henry, a man and his wife each give up something extremely valuable to them, in the man’s case his watch and in the woman’s case her hair, only to find out that they’d each bought the other a gift that was dependent on what they gave up, a watch chain and decorative combs. They each realize how much they loved each other if they were willing to do this much to make the other happy.

S2E4 - 7Bald.png

In Futurama’s version, however, Zoidberg buys Amy a set of combs, only for Amy to realize that she sold her hair to buy combs for Hermes, who sold HIS hair to buy combs for Zoidberg, who reveals that he now has both of their hair grafted onto his head. There are four parts to this that are so off that I find it hilarious. 1) Zoidberg buys hair and also buys combs, despite constantly being broke. 2) Neither Amy nor Hermes are broke (in fact, Amy’s rich), so it makes no sense that they’d have to sell their hair to buy gifts. 3) Hermes bought combs for Zoidberg who didn’t have hair. 4) EVERYONE BOUGHT COMBS. Seriously, who the hell buys decorative combs as a go-to gift? It’s just such a bizarre subversion and tribute that I’m forced to applaud it.

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He looks as pretty as a strange ironic ending.

Runner up, though it’s short, is Robot Santa’s anti-mistletoe T.O.W. Missile, only because I didn’t know that was a real thing until years later. T.O.W. stands for Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided, and is a standard anti-tank missile, so that means that the wordplay has been there forever, it just took Futurama to pull David from the marble.

S2E4 - 9TOW.png

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 16: A Head in the Polls 

NEXT – Episode 18: Why Must I Be A Crustacean in Love? 

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 E13 “Fry and the Slurm Factory”

Well, this is the end of Season 1. It’s weird to think that I have already gotten here, but then it’s disturbing to think how much I have to go on this damned series. I could quit, but then the terrorists win.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West) has become addicted to the soft drink Slurm. The makers of Slurm announce a contest for a tour of the Slurm Factory to whoever finds a golden bottle cap in one of their cans, which will include a party with the drink’s mascot: SLURMS MCKENZIE!!!! (David Herman)

S1EC - Slurmz
He’s the original Party Worm!!!!!!!!! Whimmy-wham-wham-wazzle! Let’s party!

To find the cap, Fry and Bender (John DiMaggio) take Professor Farnsworth’s (West) new invention the F-ray (it’s like an X-ray that gives you more cancer but also sees through anything, including metal). They search cans all over the city, but never find the bottle cap, until it’s revealed that the can that Fry bought before they started had the cap in it.

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Seen here in Fry’s luscious esophagus.

The crew goes to the planet Wormulon, the headquarters of the Slurm Company, where they meet Slurms McKenzie, briefly, before they’re taken on a tour of the factory by Glurmo (West), a Willy-Wonka-esque worm. As he shows them the factory, they’re introduced to the Grunka Lunkas (DiMaggio and Phil LaMarr), who are a not-so-subtle parody of the Oompa-Loompahs, but their songs are more threatening. As the crew watch the Grunka Lunkas make the Slurm, they’re told that there is a secret ingredient added before the sodas are canned.

S1EC - 3GrunkaLunkas
Grunka Lunka Dunkity Ducked – if you don’t like this joke, you can get (bleeped).

Fry, who hasn’t gotten to drink any Slurm in minutes, tries to drink out of the Slurm river in the factory, but falls in. Leela (Katey Sagal) jumps in after to rescue him and Bender follows because he thought people were jumping in the water and wanted to fit in. They’re sucked down a drain and end up finding out that the factory was a fake. Finding the real factory, they discover the horrible secret: Slurm is actually produced by a Giant Worm’s butt, specifically the Slurm Queen (Tress MacNeille).

S1EC - 4Slurm.png
This is also how Apple Products are made! Kidding, that’s child labor.

The trio are discovered by the worms and captured. Bender is set to be made into cans, Leela is set to be turned into a worm queen, and Fry is given Super-Slurm, which is so addictive that he can’t stop eating it. Fry manages to drag the trough of Super-Slurm over to Leela, freeing her to save Bender. They flee, but run into Slurms McKenzie, who reveals that he doesn’t want to work for Slurm anymore, having grown sick of partying. The Slurm Queen follows them, but Slurms sacrifices himself by partying hard enough to cause a cave-in and stopping the queen. Ultimately, however, Fry decides not to reveal the secret to the authorities because he loves Slurm so much and the factory remains open.

END SUMMARY

This is one of my favorite Willy Wonka parodies, although I’m pissed they didn’t try to do a version of the super-weird tunnel scene. The Grunka Lunkas remain one of my favorite Oompa-Loompah rip-offs, particularly when they do their songs. They even use the songs fake words to make absurd rhymes, like “Grunka Lunka Dunkity-dasis” with “Need-to-know basis.” Fortunately, they only really do one song and try to do two more that get cut off by Glurmo. I do also love that Hermes (LaMarr) has a discussion with Glurmo about hiring Grunka Lunkas, who apparently do have a union, but the union is so bad they’re basically slave labor (which is what they clearly are in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

S1EC - 5Glurmo.jpg
Originally they were gonna name him Slurmy Slonka. That’s not a joke, that’s true.

The twist that the drink is actually made from a giant space-worm is solid, although the episode itself even points out that it shouldn’t be that shocking, with the Slurm Queen saying:

Honey comes from a bee’s behind. Milk comes from a cow’s behind.

I mean, really, it seems gross, but it’s not like humans don’t constantly consume animal products. The twist is supposed to be reminiscent of Soylent Green, which the show even calls out by saying that there is a soda made from people, Soylent Cola, which apparently causes no legal issues whatsoever. Perhaps more surprisingly, Leela has already drank it in the past.

I think this is one of the best episodes of Season 1 and was a real solid way to end the season… except that it aired as part of Season 2.

FAVORITE JOKE

This one’s tough. Since it’s the end of Season 1, let’s do a top three.

1. Bender’s Brain

When we see inside Bender’s Brain in this episode, it’s revealed that Bender runs on a 1980s 6502 CPU famous for being in the Apple II and the NES. The idea that Bender doesn’t need more processing power than a Commodore 64 will never stop amusing me.

S1EC - 6CPU.png
Sure he can’t run graphics well, but he can play Duck Hunt!

2. New Slurm vs. Slurm Classic

Another 80s reference to the time when Coca-Cola tried to switch recipes. Theories about why they did this abound, but in 1985 Coca-Cola stopped selling their original formula and offered up the much sweeter New Coke. Despite the fact that people in test groups liked the New Coke more than Coca-Cola or Pepsi, people hated it so much that Coca-Cola released Coca-Cola Classic a mere three months later, which led to Coke’s sales skyrocketing past Pepsi. In this episode, it’s implied that the Slurm Queen would do it just to stimulate market interest by forcing Leela to produce terrible New Slurm before they replace it with Slurm Classic.

S1EC - 7SlurmAd.png
Because “It’s Highly Addictive” isn’t driving enough sales.

3. Making Water

At one point during the episode, we see the Grunka Lunka’s making “pure water” by combining a container of H2 and another of O. Granted, it’s the future so they’ve probably figured out a way to avoid the explosion that would cause, but you’d think they also would have figured out that it’s easier to just remove the contaminants from water than to make water from its elements. Although, since the water ultimately just gets fed to the Slurm Queen along with Wumpus Berries, they probably should just be using a hose.

S1EC - 8H2O.png
Yes, this should probably result in a giant KABOOM… of COMEDY!!!!

That’s it for Season 1!

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 12: When Aliens Attack

NEXT – Episode 14: I Second That Emotion

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.