Shut up and take my list!
The Top Ten Episodes from Futurama’s Resurgence… Part Two. Read Part One here.
Yes! We have counted down five of the best episodes Futurama’s resurgence has to offer, but good news, everyone – we’ve got five more for you. Concluding our list is the top five episodes from the newest run of the series, making them the creme de la creme of Groening and crew’s last chance to prove FOX is as stupid as we all know they are. These episodes really shone brighter than the rest, enough to weigh in with the classic episodes of the show’s past and ring the bell. I don’t have any money, so shut up and take my list!
5. Reincarnation (Season 6, episode 26):
Doing away with the concept of the What If Machine, “Reincarnation” basically does the exact same thing as previous mash-up episodes without the trappings of the golden, glorious box. That is, give us three strange new ways of seeing Futurama. While sometimes these vignettes run dry quickly like all three on the episode “Naturama,” or push the same joke over and over like the Strawberry Shortcake bit from “Saturday Morning Fun Pit,” each of these re-imaginings totally nail their respective homages to classic animation. With such an extensive variety to the animation and jokes that hit pound for pound with any other episode in its weight class, the staff on Futurama pulled out all the stops on this gem.
Our first short is shot in the style of truly classic animation, completely black and white with early Mickey Mouse era special effects. It revolves around Fry trying to find Leela the biggest diamond ring he can from a passing meteor – and results in the invention of a brand new colour (aka, shade of gray.) The second shot is shot like a 8-bit video game, complete with a complete Midi array of sound effects. It revolves around the Professor solving all of the world’s scientific questions, but is mostly just a MacGuffin to fit in as many game references as possible. The last and best of the shorts is in the style of Japanese anime, complete with flying leaps, gasping faces and untranslatable humour. It revolves around an invasion from dancing aliens who have to be defeated via Dance Dance Revolution and also Zoidberg, the humblest member of the Action Delivery Force.
This episode could have scored higher as it is a perpetual delight, but I have a soft spot for episodes that excel while within the box – and writing an anime Futurama just writes itself. The backbone of the trio is the old-timey segment that packs lots of jokes into a simple premise for Futurama fans and fans of old cartoons alike.”Reincarnation” proves equal to either “Anthology of Interest” episode from the first run and as the season six finale proves Futurama can tamper with success and actually improve upon the formula.
BEST MOMENT: Every moment any member of the anime Planet Express crew is flying through the air with speed lines flying past, particularly Dr. Zoidberg’s “incredibly intricate” final dance move… of standing completely still with passion.
4. The Late Philip J. Fry (Season 6, episode 7):
The first episode since the return to really knock it out of the park, “The Late Philip J. Fry” proved that Futurama was not doomed to merely attempt recreations of the emotional spark found in classic favourites “Luck of the Fryrish” and “Jurassic Bark.” More importantly, it was a very solid, consistent episode for jokes that settled viewers who may have been unsure of up-and-down episodes like “Attack of the Killer App” or “Proposition Infinity.” It cannot be stressed enough how essential the simplicity of the science fiction hook is to grounding this episode – giving the viewer something easily conceivable and having fun with it – once more an advancement on other episodes that strained to fit a complex sci-fi story and twist into 22 minutes (plus jokes!)
The episode revolves around Fry always being late for dates and important moments with Leela, a bad habit he wants to fix. Naturally, the Professor has just completed building a time machine that has one set function: to transport you forward in time. Tragedy strikes when he, Bender and Fry accidentally knock the chronometer all the way forward and send themselves way into the future before they can stop the machine. Thousands of years in the future, any chance at getting home seems impossible.
In typical Futurama form the ending manages to be both touching and funny all rolled into one, particularly whizzing through time to do things like shooting Hitler out the window of the time machine as they zip past (despite stopping to do it cleanly not really costing them anything). It gets to explore a ton of new ‘worlds’, which is always fresh, while never really leaving the one they’ve got, and manages a lot of amazing visuals into one 22-minute episode.
BEST MOMENT: “Just slow down, I’ll shoot Hitler out the window. Darn! I hit Eleanor Roosevelt by mistake!”
3. Decision 3012 (Season 7, episode 3):
While political episodes can be iffy because the material itself is polarizing (unless you’re slandering Nixon, of course – arrroooooooooo!), “Decision 3012” should be great TV no matter what side of the coin you fall on. It is a sterling example of Futurama using a topical subject by adopting it to the futuristic situation – as opposed to simply referencing a moment or event from the 2000s as if people in 1000 years are all up on their ancient history (Seriously, consider how much you know about the years 1000ad-1014ad and you get the idea). Time travel has, obviously, been used before in the show, as well as the movies, but here it is used gently to science-fiction-ify a relatable storyline.
The episode has Leela deciding to get involved in the political process, wherein her passions are immediately squelched by the stupidity of the voting public. Chris Travers, who wins Leela over with his youthful enthusiasm and new ideas, fights his way to the top, only to be targeted by a mudslinging campaign cooked up by Bender: that Travers is not an Earth citizen because of his alienese middle name “Zaxxar.” The crew fight to prove that Travers is as human as apple pie, but the candidate might have a few skeletons in the closet of his own.
The episode rolls along quick and smooth, even starting early by having Bender’s love of beer interrupting the art of the title. Whether it is the ridiculous notion of One-Hour Hotdog or the antics of the various animals in Africa, there is never a dull moment – and when it reaches the moment Travers’s own birth is broadcast across the world in real time (you heard me) it reminds the viewer of one of Futurama’s most unique selling features: you can’t find this stuff on any other show.
BEST MOMENT: Nixon watching a squirrel cross a wire: “Fall. Fall, damn you!”
2. Law and Oracle (Season 6, episode 16):
Perhaps surprising to some, I think “Law and Oracle” is the second best episode of Futurama’s resurgence and I’ll tell you why. There is a certain elegance and skill to crafting a new episode into something fans would slot in with the old. One could argue it is an even more challenging feat to accomplish than the quality of the original run since everything and everyone was on the same page then and the show was ripe with ideas. Now, 6 seasons and 4 movies into its tenure, to create an episode that plays so well as to be an excellent “regular” episode is something special. At moments like this, writers and showrunners often think they have to ramp things up to get anywhere – or pile the show high with emotional endings and impressive visuals. “Law and Oracle” is the equivalent of that ever-daunting task: a respectable sequel to a Hollywood film. It is consistently hilarious without trying to hard to change things or impress. It does its job like a classic episode – that job being to make you laugh for 22 minutes without making one false step.
The episode revolves around Fry deciding to join the police force after watching Smitty and URL make an arrest. Riffing off the science fiction flick Minority Report, Fry is promoted to work for the future crimes division where a telepathic robot named Pickles predicts crimes not yet to happen. However, his position comes back to haunt him when he foresees Bender’s involvement in a future booze heist.
URL has always been a great side character, and he really boosts the episode, as does the new character Police Chief O’Mannahan – an inverted stereotype of male chiefs from TV and movies – who pots her fair share of memorable lines. What is best about the episode, however, is the clever twisting of the ending that snags the viewer into working to solve the mystery as well (seeing as we all know Fry’s not going to actually arrest Bender), and its punchline – which is as classic Futurama as you can get. “Law and Oracle” hits all its marks without stretching too far to be special. It’s as if they foresaw that it would be great before they even made it.
BEST MOMENT: Fry: “You showed Bender sharing the deadly booze with our friends. Bender would never share!” BENDER: “The very idea!”
1. The Prisoner of Benda (Season 6, episode 10):
Futurama has many episodes that stand out because of their encompassing science fiction premises, and “The Prisoner of Benda” is the very best. “The Farnsworth Parabox” saw the crew hanging out with alternate versions of themselves, “Time Keeps on Slipping” saw them survive lurching randomly forward in time… such ordeals provide unique situations for comedy, as does the Professor’s brain swapping machine on display here. Keeping up with the switches is enjoyable enough in itself – especially when the voices continually throw you for a loop despite recognizing the situation – but the episode is also a well-written succession of intertwined events that must have been murder to write (and indeed in DVD commentaries David X. Cohen remarks that the scripts each had to list who spoke and in which body). Add to this the Hedoismbot-level of ridiculousness that only a Robo-Hungarian prince can attain via caviar-powered yaught, and you’re in for a treat.
This time the Professor has outdone himself and created a body/brain swapping machine, which – while functional in helping Amy and the Professor swap bodies for to act on separate cravings – unfortunately has the side-effect of not allowing two people to switch back once swapped. Immediately who’s who at Planet Express becomes a mixed-up mess as crew members use the machine without considering the consequences – effectively creating a complicated math problem that will require the mathamatical genius of Globetrotter Planet’s finest – Ethan “Bubblegum” Tate and “Sweet” Clyde Dixon – to solve.
This episode is very popular and for good reason. It does everything a good Futurama episode should do and could easily fit alongside classic episodes from seasons past. It features a prominent love-that-could-never-be between a janitor and his wash bucket, taking the nuts premise to even more ridiculous heights mid-episode, and plenty of laughs from Bender’s turn as “Nonchalanto.” Respect must also be given to the animators, who manage to capture the physical traits of characters while being animated in completely new bodies (for example, Bender in Amy’s body still sits, schemes and smirks like Bender would) Interestingly, Futurama performed a TV first with this episode as writer Ken Keeler’s mathematical proof explaining how two other bodies were required to revert the body/brain swap process back to normal was, in fact, a mathematical first. And here I met someone once who thought Big Bang Theory was “smarter” than Futurama. Life can be hilariously cruel.
BEST MOMENT: SCRUFFY: “It’s wrong, wash bucket. Oh, it would be sweet for a while, but in the back of our minds, we’d know that I’m a man and you’re janitorial equipment.”
So there you go – the best ten episodes of Futurama’s resurgence, courtesy of me, the list-maker. Now stay tuned for what is quite possibly Futurama’s final kick of the can (among many) this November when FOX airs its Simpsons-Futurama crossover episode – which will certainly fit into the canon of at least one of the two shows.