Futurama Fridays – S2 E2 “Brannigan, Begin Again”

This is an episode that I basically forgot existed, despite it being one of the funniest episodes in the series. It focuses on the fall and somehow rise of Zapp Brannigan (Billy West)

SUMMARY

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Bender (John DiMaggio) and Fry (West) are playing futuristic holo-chess, which Bender wins by having his pieces attack Fry. Later, the Professor (West) sends Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender on a delivery to the headquarters of the Democratic Order of Planets (DOOP), a futuristic United Nations that orbits the Neutral Planet. The crew tries to deliver the oversized ribbon-cutting scissors, but Zapp Brannigan intercepts and arrests them for being part of a plot organized by the Neutral Planet, which Zapp hates for increasingly stupid reasons. However, since Zapp was supposed to use those scissors to cut the ribbon, he decides to improvise with the ship’s laser, which destroys the station. Zapp is then court-martialed, but so is the innocent Kif Kroker (Maurice LaMarche) due to Zapp being a jerk.

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In his defense, Hyperdeath DOES cut ribbons.

The pair are now homeless and briefly replicate scenes from Midnight Cowboy before showing up at Planet Express begging Leela for a job. Leela refuses, but the Professor overhears and hires them to distract from their horrible safety record. While Kif immediately proves to be extremely competent, he won’t stop complaining about Zapp to Leela’s constant irritation. Zapp, meanwhile, is even less competent than Fry and Bender, while also feeding into their laziness. Soon, Zapp convinces the pair to mutiny against Leela so that they can get drunk in their underwear.

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We also find out the limits of a Shatner-class Girdle

This works until Zapp resumes his plans to attack the Neutral Planet, choosing a suicide bombing will result in everyone dying but him. Zapp takes Kif with him, after Leela forces Kif to go. Leela works with Fry and Bender to prevent the crash. At the hearing, Zapp tells the DOOP that he heroically prevented the attack, something that Leela confirms, even “the parts that made no sense,” just to get rid of him. Zapp and Kif are reinstated and the crew returns to the status quo.

END SUMMARY

I love this episode for the amount of time they spend on the complete idiocy of Zapp Brannigan. It’s basically comedy gold, including his wonderful accusation that the safety scissors could be used to attack the Yarn people of Nylar 4. It’s a perfect example of Futurama absurdity.

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Also, they wear sandals to a fancy dinner. They deserve to die.

Zapp in this episode is shown to not only be incompetent and lazy, but also to have an insidious nature that manages to save him. He has no qualms about leading a mutiny against Leela and lies blatantly to get the others to support it, but then complains when a completely reasonable mutiny is held in response to him trying to kill the crew and millions of innocents. He hates the Neutral Planet more than his enemies because he’s paranoid about what they’re up to and completely unfamiliar with the concept of Neutrality. When he is confronted at the end with his attempted attack, he responds by concocting such an over-the-top lie that most of the people seem to buy it out of belief that no one would make such a stupid lie and then Leela supports it solely because she doesn’t want to deal with Zapp anymore. If you haven’t met someone who tries the “Big Lie” technique… you’re probably the one doing the lie.

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Also, he blames Kif for his failures and is a poor loser.

This episode is also the debut of the Hyper-Chicken (LaMarche), who is another of the best characters in the series. He’s a completely incompetent pastiche of a Southern Matlock-esque lawyer… although apparently he’s supposed to be Jimmy Stewart from Anatomy of a Murder, which predates Matlock. Having been a lawyer in Florida, I can tell you that there are indeed lawyers who play up being the “humble country lawyer” for the jury, despite the fact that they are actually anything but. Matt Groening apparently hates this character due to the simplicity of the joke (he’s just a chicken and therefore the basis of chicken puns, but there is no actual joke about Chickens and Lawyers), but frankly, I find those jokes Finger-Licking good.

 

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He’s a humble hyper-chicken.

FAVORITE JOKE

Everything the Neutral President says is basically perfect.

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When asked to give the opening speech at the DOOP headquarters, he says “I have no strong feelings one way or the other.”

When he is told of Zapp’s suspicious acts, he responds “All I know is my gut says: “Maybe.”

When told of the attack, “If I don’t survive, tell my wife ‘Hello.’”

It’s insane to think of someone being this truly neutral, but it’s more insane to think that this is the guy who runs the planet. You’d think that “President” implies that he ran in a democratic election, something that usually requires a platform (insert laugh track), but apparently his platform is that he doesn’t do anything… something that is itself a platform. Still, I think it’s great that he subverts every opportunity for drama.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 14: I Second That Emotion

NEXT – Episode 16: A Head in the Polls

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

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

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

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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It’s a happy little doomed planet.

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

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

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

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When pity sex is just too pitiful.

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

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And, yes, he does call himself candy.

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

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Nibbler and the Hermaphlamingos could totally be a band.

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

END SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Because here you go!

Favorite Joke:

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

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

See you next week, Meatbags.

PREVIOUS – 3: I, Roommate

NEXT – 5: Fear of a Bot Planet

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

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