Futurama Fridays – S3E5 “The BirdBot of Ice-Catraz”

Bender causes a massive environmental disaster and then loses his mind twice. Comedy!

SUMMARY

The crew are told by the Professor (Billy West) that they are going to have to take a delivery of Colombian dark matter aboard the Juan Valdez tanker. Leela (Katey Sagal) worries about the risk of leaking and ends up refusing to participate when she finds out that it flies through a penguin preserve on Pluto. She goes to join the group protesting the tanker and Bender (John DiMaggio) is made captain, much to Fry’s (West) chagrin.

S3E5 - 1JuanValdez.png
It has 6000 hulls.

Leela joins Free Waterfall, Sr. (Phil Hendrie) in his organization “Penguins Unlimited” and tries to help them in their incompetent efforts to stop the tanker. On the ship, Bender quickly goes mad with power and annoys Fry until he quits. Depressed without Fry, Bender refuses to drink alcohol, resulting in him acting like a drunk, and crashes the tanker into Pluto, flooding the penguin preserve with the dark matter. Bender is sentenced to help clean up the penguins, but quickly decides to escape by putting on a tuxedo, retracting his limbs, and sliding off, but he ends up getting attacked by a killer whale and knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, his system re-defaults to penguin, making him believe he’s actually a penguin. He tries to start a penguin family, with mixed results.

S3E5 - 2PenguinBarf
Not the first picture of a guy in a tux puking on this website.

Back at Penguins Unlimited, it’s revealed that the dark matter has made the penguins ultra-fertile, to the point that they’re laying 420,756 times their previous egg rate (I did the math), and the eggs hatch 136 times faster than normal. I don’t know how all of these eggs are getting fertilized, but… well, let’s just not think about that. To avoid the population boom, the conservationists plan on hunting the penguins, something that Leela finds horrifying, but eventually agrees to do. However, she shoots Bender, resetting him back to normal. Leela tries to convince the conservationists not to hunt, but they refuse. Bender leads the penguins to attack the humans, resulting in them eating Waterfall. His father, Old Man Waterfall (Hendrie) vows to avenge him.

S3E5 - 3HongKong
The overpopulation is a legitimate problem.

The penguins attack the rest of the humans, then Bender and Leela when he takes off his tuxedo. They flee onto an ice floe, but the penguins give chase and surround them. Fry returns in the ship and lands it on part of the ice floe, resulting in the penguins being dropped into a killer whale’s mouth. The trio escape, with Fry and Bender making amends. On Pluto, it’s revealed that the penguins now have guns… but appear to be using them on each other.

END SUMMARY

Two quick thoughts from this re-watch: First, baby penguins are adorable. This episode points that out multiple times and I give it credit for properly cashing in on the magical cuteness of the baby penguin.

S3E5 - 5BabyPenguin

 

Second, Penguin Preserve on Pluto would be a good name for a prog-rock album. I am surprised it’s not been done yet, but Google found nothing. It also bugs me that they call it the penguin preserve, but there are also orcas and puffins on Pluto. If it’s a preserve, why did you import one of their biggest predators? Also, I get that the penguins are the big attraction, but if you’re going to have other things there, why not call it the Polar Preserve on Pluto?

S3E5 - 6Orca.png
That Orca choked to death.

This episode is one of the more ripped-from the history books plotlines in the series, as opposed to a twist on a classic sci-fi trope, because it’s basically just a hilarious take on the Exxon Valdez disaster from 1989. Given that this episode aired in 2001 and when I watched it then I thought it was hilarious, apparently 12 years is the amount of time for an oil spill to move from tragic to comic. Admittedly, that’s because in this version all the penguins were fine and, in fact, improved by the accident, as opposed to the real version, but it’s still impressive that they depict a horrible environmental tragedy and make it hilarious. I think the best crystallization of how it works is when they have Morbo (Maurice LaMarche) and Linda (Tress MacNeille) show the penguins slipping and sliding on the oil with funny sounds added and the caption “Sound Effects Added To Lessen Tragedy.”

S3E5 - 7PenguinSlips
The news we deserve.

Penguins Unlimited is a shot at Ducks Unlimited, a conservation group that preserves wetlands but also advocates population control through hunting. Leela points out that it’s not exactly “natural conservation” if you’re just doing it because you enjoy killing the animals. However, the end of the episode basically points out that everything is kind of pointless because all of the efforts now are just designed to counteract what we’ve already done in the past, so human involvement is implicitly always a very mixed bag.

Overall, I think this episode is fun from start to finish. It’s not particularly insightful and doesn’t have as many gags that I can point to and go “this was great,” but it’s such a goofy and interesting premise that I always enjoy it.

FAVORITE JOKE

Because I’m 12 years old on the inside, I’m going to have to say it’s the following exchange:

Free Waterfall Sr.: Good way to avoid frostbite, folks: Put your hands between your buttocks. That’s nature’s pocket.

Leela: Uh … I think I’ll go check on Bender.

Free Waterfall Sr.: Watch that he doesn’t pick your pocket.

Free Waterfall has a few of these pieces of old-timey wisdom, including rubbing your body with permafrost to keep warm, but this one is definitely the best. He’s literally got his thumb up his ass while he says this, and I can’t think of anything funnier than that.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 36: The Luck of the Fry-rish

NEXT – Episode 38: Bendless Love

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 – S2E18 “The Honking”

Bender becomes the undead… unrobot… unmechanical? Whatever, he’s a were-car.

SUMMARY

Bender’s (John DiMaggio) uncle Vladimir (David Herman) dies and leaves him his castle in the robot country of Thermostadt. It turns out that the castle is haunted by Robot Ghosts, which, it turns out, are real. The Professor (Billy West) determines that the ghosts are hologram projections from the castle’s ethernet connected to the deceased robots. He tries to explain this to Bender, but Bender has run onto the moors where he gets hit by a car.

S2EI - 1Ghosts.png
He looks good for 311. And dead.

After Bender gets back to New New York, he starts to have nightmares about the car and wakes up in an impound lot. He consults the Robot Gypsy (Tress MacNeille) who tells him he is a Were-Car, who will turn into a car each night and run people down, eventually his best friend, Fry (West). He must kill the original Were-Car to get rid of the curse. Bender, Fry, and Leela (Katey Sagal) try to keep Bender from transforming and fail, but Bender attacks Leela instead of Fry, angering the latter.

S2EI - 2WereCar.png
The rubber, it BURNS!!!!

After Bender returns to normal, the trio track down a series of were-cars to find the original, eventually discovering that one of them is Calculon (Maurice LaMarche), the acting robot. It turns out that the original Were-Car is Project Satan (Herman), an evil car made of the most evil parts imaginable. The three go to fight Project Satan, but Bender also transforms and attacks Fry, making Fry happy. Leela manages to get Project Satan to drive into a furnace, causing it to die and upload the anti-curse code. Bender is back to normal, but he tries to kill Fry again when Fry takes his last beer.

END SUMMARY

Futurama’s take on the monster movie is just as original as you would think. This episode combines multiple traditional horror elements: The haunted house, the werewolf story, the possessed car, and the Frankenstein story (Project Satan’s origin). The key is that, rather than have any actual supernatural elements, the story comes up with science-fiction elements to replace them, but each of the replacements is even more ludicrous than the originals would be. Rather than “ghosts exist,” the Professor comes up with a technobabble explanation so ludicrous, that he follows it with “Yes, that sequence of words I said made perfect sense.” Rather than Bender just being cursed, the Gypsy explains it as a Virus beamed to Bender’s operating system through demonic headlights. It’s so perfectly absurd.

S2EI - 3Villager.png
The ignorant and suspicious villagers… who are perfectly logical robots.

Beyond just the horror elements, the episode’s core is about Bender and Fry’s relationship. It’s amusing from our point of view, but it actually does hurt Fry’s feelings when Bender doesn’t attempt to kill him when he first has the chance. This leads Fry to question whether or not Bender is really the dedicated friend that Fry thinks he is. Ultimately, when it turns out Bender actually does consider Fry his best friend, it almost results in Fry’s death.

S2EI - 4Choke.png
Although, Beer > Friendship.

Horror allusions abound in this episode. The were-car that hit Bender in the beginning is clearly designed to be Christine from Stephen King. Bender’s car form is designed to resemble the Car from the film… The Car, which is about a demonically possessed car that came out years before Christine was published. The blood on the walls that only make sense in the mirror is from The Shining. The line “Mumbo, perhaps. Jumbo, perhaps not” is a reference to the classic Bela Lugosi film The Black Cat.

S2EI - 5Satan.jpg
And this is the horror of the electric car.

Overall, I think this is a great episode. It’s one of the best examples of how Futurama can adapt an overused cliche-riddled genre and turn it on its head.

FAVORITE JOKE

It’s the jokes that are made about Windows 98 throughout the episode. The first one that really gets brought up is the opening sound cue that plays when the ghosts arrive. The second follows that immediately, which is the windows logo and the After Dark toaster chasing Bender. The last is the Gypsy reading “The Curse of the Were-Car for Windows 98,” which she refers to as an “ancient read-me file.”

S2EI - 6Windows.png
That book takes a while to load.

It’s tough to remember now, but when this episode aired, Windows 98 had just been replaced by Windows ME. Prior to that, everything computer related had been about Windows 98. After the game-changer that was Windows 95, every company that could was excited to put Windows 98 on their software and instructionals. While a lot of people complained about the perceived flaws in it, including South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut having a scene saying that all of the promises were bullsh*t, most of the problems were actually because, as the focus of much of the Tech world at the time, every program was trying to work with it… even ones that shouldn’t. As such, it became one of the first major sources of crashes, malware, and even viruses. So, it makes perfect sense that the episode would equate one of the guides to a magical tome.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 30: War is the H-Word

NEXT – Episode 32: The Cryonic Woman

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.

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:

S2EG - 1Finglonger.png
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.

S2EG - 2GiantFight.png
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.

S2EG - 3Kills.png
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.

S2EG - 4FryHole.png
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.

S2EG - 5WhatIf.png
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.

S2EG - 6WhatIf.png
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.

S2EG - 8Impaled.png
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.

S2EG - 7SexyTimes
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.

S2EG - 9DnD.png
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.

S2EG - ANoShadow.png
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?”

S2EG - BHawking.png
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.

S2EG - DHawking2.jpg
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.

S2EG - CSchrodinger
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.

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.

S2EE - 1MomsDay.png
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.

S2EE - 2Remote.png
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.

S2EE - 3Calendar.JPG
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.

S2EE - 4Spear.png
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.

s2ee - 5card
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.

S2ED - 1Arrest.png
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.

S2ED - 2Pats.png
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).

S2ED - 4Frontys.png
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.

S2ED - 5Mob.png
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.

S2ED - 6Knock.png
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.

S2ED - 9Ambulance.png

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.

S2EB - 2Kissing.png
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.

S2EB - 3InPile.png
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.

S2EB - 7Beholder.png
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.

S2E5 - 1Pool.png
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.

S2E5 - 2Edna.png
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.

S2E5 - 4PonFarr.jpg
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.

S2E5 - 5Cyrano.png
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.”

S2E5 - 6Crackers.png
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.