The Simpsons-Futurama crossover episode ran last night, to the joy and dismay of many. While it will undoubtedly be compared to the Family Guy-Simpsons crossover from a month or so ago, it is already unique by being a) A Simpsons episode as opposed to a Family Guy episode, and b) a regular half-hour episode. To me this already painted the two crossovers as different in their intent: Seth Macfarlane, no doubt a massive fan of The Simpsons, paid a lengthy homage of snarky reverence with all the trimmings and seemed very proud to have achieved the opportunity – while David X. Cohen and Groening, plus their staffs, are already so wrapped up in Planet Simpson that this latest affair feels less a prostration and more of a group hug.
I imagine two camps are already emerging on this episode, the still-loyal Simpsons fans and the nostalgic Futurama fans, which points to another distinct difference between “Simpsorama” and “The Simpsons Guy.” Where “The Simpsons Guy” pitted two fandoms against each other (classically Simpsons fans have always seen Family Guy as a knock off, while Family Guy fans point out that, humour-wise, it’s the modern Simpsons who are trying to copy Family Guy), Futurama fans almost exclusively are Simpsons fans (if one ignores its Family Guy-style leanings, of course). The result is that the Futurama faithful should welcome the victory (defeat?) lap with an aforementioned group hug, while the Simpsons throngs will simply endure yet another madcap twist to get their Homer fix. Can’t be that crazy compared to regular episodes at this point. The whole thing had a Halloween segment feel to it, topped off by a last-minute visit from Kang & Kodos, but to be fair – based on either show’s satirical premises – a Simpsons-Futurama crossover would always have worked better as a Futurama episode. Almost as well as the Futurama-Rick and Morty crossover I salivate over in my dreams.
As per the episode itself, it revolves around a Springfield Elementary time capsule that accidentally wreaks havoc on an unsuspecting year 3000 when over time Bart’s boogers, old baloney and smart alec classroom antics combine with Milhouse’s rabbit’s foot. The result is disgusting rabbits that eventually turn into Bart-like versions of the gremlin on the side of bus from Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror IV.” Much like in Bender’s Big Score, Bender travels back in time to terminate the provider of the DNA-infused boogers. Hi-jinx ensue, casting the Simpson family into the dismal future and the Planet Express crew back into the dismal past. Apparently Springfield is in New York State. Who knew? That’s what you get for not being on the inside scoop, “The Simpsons Guy”!
The ending of the episode reinforces the affection with which this crossover was created. Futurama is well-known for occasionally hitting a serious level of emotional poignancy – sometimes to a fault (See: “Futurama: Not Sure if New Episode or Old Favourite”???) – and here we see Bender settling down to get back to the future “the old fashioned way” – by turning himself off and waiting. After kicking his inanimate body into the basement, we catch Homer popping in to offer Bender booze to ease the passage of time. The sweetness to the ending is no coincidence, and in its own way is a nice gesture towards Futurama as a whole. A big brother putting an arm around a little brother to protect him while he sleeps.
High points include a solid couch gag, making fun of Milhouse, and the final scene with Lrrr and Ndnd. Some funnies with Zoidberg using his only air time to announce that it appears he has just this one bit of air time; Homer being most scared of the boxing glove in Bender’s arsenal; and Fry concluding, once they put the time machine back together, that the instructions were in English after all.
Low points stem mostly from this apparent need crossover episodes have to break the fourth wall and point out details about the shows themselves and the people who make them… although Simpsons has been doing that for so long perhaps I am just out of the loop. The episode is also extremely rushed, packing two worlds and lots of frantic plot into 22 minutes. One thing Family Guy certainly did right was give their episode some room to breathe at 44 minutes. Consider just how many jokes you could throw in having the Simpson family in 31st Century New New York (like, say, Homer getting attacked by a robot pimp and falling down a manhole to deal with the C.H.U.D.s – aka, the sewer mutants – or connections to episodes like “Lisa’s Wedding” that also look into the future) and you realize how many opportunities a full hour could have yielded. That’s not even considering the Planet Express gang in 2014 Springfield. Finally, the Seymour cameo was a pointless attempt to include that dog that non-Futurama fans might have heard about from the show.
With crossover episodes, really, to each their own. They are outside-the-box experiments made all the more hyped and spectacle-like by social media, and they work to soothe nerdy excitement at the sake of cohesion and sense. Their goals are to celebrate the shows they involve and try to have some fun along the way, goals that will never stand up to the heavy scrutiny of comparison to the ‘best episodes.’ If you’re a Futurama fan, enjoy it because it was a far stretch better than, say, a live-action Futurama Holiday Special with a bunch of Ewoks – and if you’re a Simpsons fan, whether you enjoyed it or contest it, get over it. There’s plenty of other Simpsons, past and present, to go around. Like that Simpsons-Rick and Morty crossover nobody salivates over in their dreams but will probably happen anyway.