Now Watching: “Futurama”

This isn’t on Superversive SF because I don’t have a ton of specific stuff to say about it yet, but after considering the show for awhile I’ve finally decided to try it out.

Here’s the thing: I can’t stand adult cartoons as a rule. Yes, even “The Simpsons”. Yes, even “King of the Hill” (which I’ve tried a couple of times and never found remotely funny). And given the choice between gargling rusty razor blades and watching “Family Guy”, I’d seriously consider the razor blades. With “The Cleveland Show”, I wouldn’t need to consider. Razor blades, please.

But, credit where credit is due. Perhaps once in every three or four episodes I’ll like “American Dad”. Its core problem is that it’s basic premise is “mock conservative America”, which is about as unoriginal as you can get, but when it’s not doing that or making lame sexual jokes (sex jokes being the bane of the adult cartoon’s existence, often functioning a lazy way to signal that kids Should Not Be Watching), it makes me laugh. Like I said, it’s doing those two things most of the time, so it’s not funny a whole lot, but it happens.

Almost all of Adult Swim is, as far as I’m concerned, unwatchably awful (“Aqua Teen Hunger Force”, anyone?).

“Rick and Morty” I’ll have to try one day. It looks like a somehow even more cynical Futurama, but the one episode I watched made me laugh.

And “Bob’s Burgers” is a legitimately good show that occasionally reaches “great” territory (The “Dog Day Afternoon” parody still cracks me up, as does basically anything to do with Tina).

So now “Futurama”. Why “Futurama”? Because I heard some things about it and it sounded interesting. The premise is pretty high concept, for one. And the show’s visuals alone are stunning.

So what do I think of it? Well, first off, I’m doing what every self-respecting millennial does when he binge-watches cancelled shows on Netflix, and looking up the best episodes on Google first before picking which ones to watch, which has been wise. And so far, let me tell you, there have been some CLASSICS.

“Luck of the Fryrish”‘s ending was legitimately moving and unexpected. This was an episode that was entirely unsentimental throughout, but when the reveal came it hit HARD. “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings” started a bit slow, but the climax was PERFECT (“Your music is bad and you should feel bad”).

Outside of that climax, I liked “The Sting” even more. “The Sting” was suitably hilarious while also having a legitimately compelling mystery, a surprisingly crushing and realistic portrayal of grief, and some clever twists (if you didn’t think royal jelly Fry was really Fry when you first watched it, I don’t believe you). And, again, the ending was touching.

“Futurama” does time travel right too. “The Late Philip J. Fry” is a very entertaining time travel episode (the two gags of Farnsworth killing Hitler then later missing and killing Eleanor Roosevelt were pretty funny), while showcasing the general undercurrent of cynicism that runs throughout the series (like in many great comedies). Fry’s joke when he finally meets up with Leela – “That was the old me. He’s dead now.” – is absolutely hysterical but pretty damn dark when you think about it, punctuated by the shot of Bender burying all of the dead bodies.

But I think so far my favorite episode of the series is “Roswell that Ends Well”. It didn’t have any of the touching moments of those other great episodes, but holy shit is it FUNNY. Really, really funny. The plot with Fry and his grandfather is so far the funniest thing I’ve seen the series do. Everything about it worked – Fry tackling his grandfather into a pile of rusty pitch forks, running out into a “bomb testing area/former mine field” to try and keep him safe and the final gag of locking him in a house just before an atomic bomb blows him up.

And Fry sleeping with his grandmother? That was funny, but it his and the rest of the crew’s reactions are absolutely spectacular. The best moment of the episode is this exchange between Fry and Farnsworth:

(After learning that Farnsworth has decided to steal a satellite dish from Roswell’s military base in order to fix their time machine)

Fry: But won’t that change history?

Farnsworth: Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. “I’m My Own Grandpa”! Let’s just steal the damn dish and get out of here! Screw history!

And, of course:

Farnsworth: Well, now everything is back as it was. And if history doesn’t care that our degenerate friend Fry is his own grandfather, then who are we to judge?

Pure gold. And those are just two of a ton of great lines.

I’ll be seeing more of this show. Any suggestions for best episodes?

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18 Responses to Now Watching: “Futurama”

  1. Andy says:

    My recommendations would be:
    Why must I be a Crustacean in Love (overall the most hilarious episode IMO)
    Jurassic Bark (hilarious and touching)
    War is the H-Word
    A Big Piece of Garbage

  2. Cirsova says:

    I can’t remember the name of the episode, but one of the best was one where Bender is left adrift in space and, after being hit by a piece of space debris, ends up with a tiny civilization living on his chest and worshiping him as a god.

    Also, the one where they rescue helium miners from the Sun and an evil fire alien hitches a ride on Bender back to earth.

    “Thank you for your heroism, earth robot. You have saved your planet. from becoming a lifeless ball of fire. You are now the greatest hero in earth’s history.” “Yes! Suck it, Gilgamesh!”

    • I actually saw the God episode (it was on a lot of lists of best episodes). I wasn’t impressed. Bender isn’t awful, and is often funny, but he’s probably my least favorite of the main cast. Centering an episode around him just didn’t appeal to me.

      Also, I found it obnoxiously anti-religious as well. Good old-fashioned nihilism I can get behind, but mockery is another story, and went too far into mockery territory for my case (the same reason the much-acclaimed American Dad episode where the Rapture ocurred underwhelmed me a bit, though it was pretty funny).

      • Cirsova says:

        While I’d agree that it was anti-religious, I didn’t necessarily find it anti-faith or anti-god; to me, the crux of the episode is that man (or in this case robot) is fallible, and it’s that fallibility and focus on worldly things that causes Bender to fail in his brief stint at godhood. Also it posits that god is not fully knowable by human means because as mortals we are insistent on projecting our own hopes and desires onto him, largely because of our failings as material beings.

        The monastery was also, I thought, a fun poke at those who insist on searching for god in a way that is not spiritually meaningful; they want to find and know god in an impossibly material way rather than actually seeking a relationship with him. It also takes the angle that it is through creativity and emulation of the creator that we can better understand god; though he fails and falls short, Bender’s experiences at emulating the creator are what bring him closer to god.

  3. Crude says:

    Almost all of Adult Swim is, as far as I’m concerned, unwatchably awful (“Aqua Teen Hunger Force”, anyone?).

    Heresy. Next you’ll say you’re not a 12 Oz Mouse fan.

    Rick and Morty I like. It’s obnoxiously nihilistic at times, but it’s thrown some surprising curveballs.

    • I think nihilism works best either as comedy or horror (and better as comedy).

      There are a lot of good examples – “Seinfeld”, “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, the best seasons of “The Office”. So I’m sure it can work in “Rick and Morty”.

      (Seriously, rewatch “Dinner Party”. It’s “The Office’s” best episode and one of the all-time great sitcom episodes, but it’s brutally cruel to everybody in the cast).

    • Randy P. says:

      The best Adult Swim show is still Home Movies. Since it has so many people from it working on Bob’s Burger’s now I’m surprised it isn’t more popular.

  4. Jeffrey S. says:

    Early “Simpsons” (say the first ten seasons) is some of the funniest, most clever writing ever done for TV. I’m surprised you don’t like it.

    That said, I can understand that “Aqua Teen” is not for everyone — it is basically Dada in cartoon form. I get a kick out of it, probably because my brain is warped from too much pop culture when I was younger. I like weird.

    • Randy P. says:

      Classic Simpsons is hysterical. I can’t imagine someone watching Last Exit to Springfield and not finding it one of the funniest things ever written.

  5. Personally I don’t think you can go far wrong watching Futurama S1. I don’t think there are any dud episodes there, and some of the episodes (e.g., the “Titanic” parody — “A Flight to Remember”, I think it was called?) have genuinely touching moments.

    In later series, I’ve always enjoyed “The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz” (S4 or 5, I think), not least for its send-up of the environmentalist movement (“Make sure they use every part of my body!”). “Jurassic Bark” is also good, just as long as you don’t mind being left a bawling emotional wreck at the end of it.

  6. Randy P. says:

    Best Futurama is the first 4 seasons. Outside of the first movie, it got pretty bad after that. The Farnsworth Parabox, War is the H Word, The Problem With Popplers, Time Keeps On Slippin’, Where No Fan Has Gone Before, Three Hundred Big Boys, The Deep South, and Raging Bender, are my favorites of what you haven’t yet mentioned.

  7. Syllabus says:

    The series finale, “Meanwhile”, was actually quite good. Reasonably funny (though not the funniest), but quite a good episode overall.

    Also, if you haven’t started watching Archer–well, what’s wrong with you?

    • Just watched “Meanwhile”, like, an hour ago. Pretty good finale. The Opera one was better.

      I watched a couple of episodes of “Archer”. It’s funny. I wasn’t blown away.

      • Syllabus says:

        Did you watch recent seasons, or the first ones? There’s been a bit of a downswing in quality in the last 2 or 3 seasons (though it’s still pretty funny), but season 2 and much of season 3 was pretty damned brilliant.

        But, as with a lot of film/TV, YMMV.

        Also, thoughts on Daredevil Season 02?

      • I’ve been looking up what the best episodes are supposed to be and watching them. My favorite is still “Roswell That ends well”. “Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. “I’m my own grandpa!”

        Of the later seasons “The Late Philip J. Fry was pretty brilliant.

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